Lorenzo Vascotto discussing general contractors v. project managers during "Leading Architecture in a Changing World: Digital Strategies for Architects and Our Clients"
Lorenzo Vascotto discussing general contractors v. project managers during "Leading Architecture in a Changing World: Digital Strategies for Architects and Our Clients"

Project Management New York Style: It is about how, not what, you buy

At the Center for Architecture by • 05/01

The relationship between architect and project manager can be fraught with complexity; many anecdotes suggest that projects run smoothly when both are in place, while almost everyone also has a war-story or two about the time that the two were at odds and disaster ensued. While project managers may argue that costs increase due to “design creep,” architects are fending off a wide variety of other client service providers. In other words, one might argue that costs are rising instead from “consultant creep.”

Lorenzo Vascotto, a founding partner currently serving as managing director at VVA Project Managers & Consultants, was game to take on this topic and many others during the Professional Practice Committee’s fourth program of the “Leading Architecture in a Changing World” series, which culminates on 06.17.13 with “Entrepreneurship in Architecture and Beyond.”

Vascotto presented an honest look at the differences between general contractor (GC) and construction management (GM), specifically focusing on the impacts of their decisions on, among others, design quality, cost to deliver, reliability of cost, and use of change orders.

VVA, is a leading independent project management firm founded in New York City over 19 years ago, is best known for offering a full range of advisory and technical project management services in the real estate and construction arenas. Vascotto brings a technical and financial approach to his work that was honed during the 13 years before founding VVA. He served as an engineer at Syska & Hennessy, which laid the technical and mechanical foundation for his career. He further expanded his knowledge of real estate, facilities management, and finance, during his seven year tenure at Goldman Sachs.

The first portion of Vascotto’s presentation focused on the practical differences between general contractor and construction management for project delivery. From his experience, he’s found that design delivery with a GC may be 10-15% cheaper due to a number of drivers including competition, business experience, risk absorption, and actual services delivered. There was then some conversation about the value of those services, and the kinds of projects and clients that benefit from each.

The opinions of both Vascotto and the audience revealed that our industry still seems to have a significant amount of cost volatility. Relaying recent experience in comparing construction bids, Vascotto saw budgets/fees/proposals with 15-20% price differentiation. He explained that, unlike in Europe, where quantity surveying is a licensed profession, cost estimators are less prominent in the United States marketplace and their level of expertise is more varied; this is one of many roles that project managers are supporting.

One of Vascotto’s key points: it is all about “how you buy, not just what you buy.” He emphasized that asking the right questions during the bid and negotiation process is essential to mitigating risk and making sure that expectations are met later on. He generally aims to require that the final selected delivery team commits to the design intent, not the letter of the drawing. At the end of a bid sequence, he often goes back and negotiates a Guaranteed Maximum Price. He advocates clear and open communications to reduce “change order mania.”

Vascotto finally described ways to achieve price control throughout the process, including pre-purchase pricing of carpet, walls, furniture, lighting, doors and hardware, and other items, locking in the cheaper – and often better – option.

Audience member Peter Matthews of Matthews Moya Architects offered a keen observation and potential solution, explaining that “the perception of the creative architect is a double-edged sword, that as design costs increase, we often appear to be part of the problem, contributing to the cost, rather than helping to control it.”  He said that one way his practice has mitigated that perception and limited cost increases, while preserving design quality, is by locking in prices on premium items early on, sometimes through purchase, other times just by getting a bid and price commitment.

For better or worse, there also seems to be power in being big. Vascotto’s presentation emphasized the role of social, political, and industry prominence as way to access better results in the construction and design-delivery worlds, particularly in New York City. He mentioned revenue volume and potential for repeat business as one of the key reasons contractors deliver services on time, as well as leverage in negotiations.

At event’s end, the conversation shifted to a debate on several topics including those that cut to the quick of architectural fees, from value engineering to a constant barrage of new players, and challenges around who is closest to the client – when and for what purpose. Further conversations will surely be required.

Melissa Marsh is a workplace strategy and change management consultant with an architectural education. She recently founded her own company, Plastarc. She is new contributor to e-Oculus, and can be reached at melissa@plastarc.com.

Event: Leading Architecture in a Changing World: Digital Strategies for Architects and Our Clients
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.22.13
Speaker: Lorenzo Vascotto, Founding Partner and Managing Director, VVA Project Managers & Consultants
Organizers: AIANY Chapter Professional Practice Committee and AIANY staff

Comments are closed.

"BxW NYC" opens at the Center for Architecture on 03.02.15
Designed by Women: Architecture for All Editor's Soapbox
Zdeněk Lukeš, curator of “Prague Functionalism: Tradition and Contemporary Echoes,” led visitors on a tour of the exhibition.
Inside “Prague Functionalism” At the Center for Architecture
Jordan L. Gruzen, FAIA; Julian Zugazagoitia, former Director, El Museo Del Barrio; William M. Singer, AIA, Ronnette Riley Architect; David Burney, FAIA, former Commissioner NYC Department of Design + Construction at the groundbreaking ceremony for El Museo del Barrio
Thoughts on an 80-Year Life – Jordan L. Gruzen, FAIA (1934-2015), IBI Group ▪ Gruzen Samton In Memoriam
The NYC Department of City Planning released a series of proposed changes to the Zoning Resolution that would remove barriers that constrain housing production, encourage better quality buildings, promote senior housing, and reduce unnecessary parking requirements.
Citizen Architect: Getting Your Voice Heard Policy Pulse
Dan Graham, Artist; Mieko Meguro, Artist; Jessica Russell, Architect; and Rick Bell, FAIA, Executive Director, AIANY.
Oculus Book Review: Architecture/Astrology Book Reviews
William Wheeler, Director of Planning, MTA; Vincent Chang, MA DipArch (Cantab) RIBA, AIA, Partner, Grimshaw Architects; Eve Michel, AIA, Vice President of Development & Chief Architect, MTA Capital Construction Company; Sandra Bloodworth, Director, MTA Arts & Design; Uday Durg, Fulton Project Executive, MTA Capital Construction Company; Robert Eisenstat, AIA, Chief Architect, Design Division, Engineering Department, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and Craig Covil, Principal and Infrastructure Leader, ARUP
Fulton Center…A Vision Realized At the Center for Architecture
Hive (Bleecker Street) (2012) © Leo Villareal, NYCT Bleecker Street/Lafayette Street Station. Commissioned by Metropolitan Transportation Authority Arts & Design.
The Art Under-World: the MTA Arts for Transit Program Reports from the Field
Speakers of "Smart Cities: Delivering Sustainable Urbanism."
Infrastructure IQ At the Center for Architecture
1 - A Modern Classic Makes a Good Neighbor to Adjacent Historic District
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
04.17.15: Call for Entries: AIANY 2015 Housing Awards
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Prague Functionalism: Tradition and Contemporary Echoes” through 05.23.15
On View About Town
02.05.15: Mark Strauss, FAIA, AICP, Senior Partner, FXFOWLE; AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA; Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, Founding Principal, and and Alfreda Radzicki, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, FXFOWLE, celebrated the launch of the firm’s new monograph, Reveal Filter Revolve Effect, and the opening of “REVEALing Architecture” at the National Academy Museum & School.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
"Prague Functionalism" opens on 02.12.15 at the Center for Architecture.
New York Meets Prague Functionalism Editor's Note
02.03.15: Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his State of the City Address in Baruch College's Mason Hall.
Statement of the City Rhetorically Speaking
Jeffrey Brown, Jeffrey M. Brown Associates; James Garrison, AIA, RA, NCARB, Garrison Architects; David Wallance, AIA, FXFOWLE Architects; Stephen Kieran, FAIA, KieranTimberlake; Chris Sharples, AIA, SHoP
The Mod Moment: Nearly Ready to Rock the Construction Industry? At the Center for Architecture
KPF's One Vanderbilt and Grand Central Station.
Overheard at Hearings Policy Pulse
AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance CEO Roland Lewis gave remarks at the opening of the WEDG exhibition at the Center for Architecture.
Embracing the Waterfront, from New York to Copenhagen At the Center for Architecture
Dr. Alan Blumberg,  Stevens Institute of Technology’s Center for Maritime Systems; Jonie Fu, AIA, Fu Wilmers Design|Architecture + Urbanism; Anthony Ciorra, Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Sandy Recovery Program for the New York District; Joan Capelin, Hon. AIA, AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee; Tomas Rossant, AIA, AIANY; Donna Walcavage, FASLA, AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee; Walter Meyer, ASLA, Local Office Landscape Architecture; Jennifer Nitzky, ASLA NY; Alexandros Washburn,  Stevens Institute of Technology's Center for Coastal Resiliency and Urban eXcellence (CRUX)
Thwarting the Perfect Storm At the Center for Architecture
Campbell Hyers, CEO and Co-founder, Control Group
Tap into Digital Space At the Center for Architecture
AIANY Nominating Committee Seeks Candidates for Board and Elective Positions AIA News You Can Use
1 - Derelict Public School Has New Life as a Live/Work Space for Artists
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
02.13.15: Call for Entries: AIANY Design Awards 2015
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines (WEDG)” through 02.21.15
On View About Town
02.09.15: Sara Valente and Marcelo Ertoteguy of Stereotank pose in front of HeartBeat, the winner of this year’s annual Times Square Valentine Heart competition.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
bannerleftj
Designing on the Edge Editor's Note
01.20.15: Governor Cuomo presents his 2015 Infrastructure and Transportation Agenda at a Breakfast Meeting of the Association for a Better New York.
2015 Opportunity Agenda: Restoring Economic Opportunity Policy Pulse
Architecture for Humanity Chapters Stand United Reports from the Field
During the first Oculus Book Talk of 2015, Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, MD, author of Urban Alchemy, was joined by William Morrish, Professor of Urban Ecologies at Parsons The New School for Design.
Oculus Book Review: Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities Book Reviews
"Architecture and Theater – Redefining the Performance Experience" brought together stage director Jack O’Brien and director of space David Rockwell, AIA, in a conversation moderated by monograph editor Chee Pearlman.
Build Me a Story At the Center for Architecture
Organizers and speakers of "Inclusionary/Integrated Housing (2 of 2): Building Development" gathered at the Center for Architecture.
Mandatory Inclusionary Housing: The Developer’s Perspective At the Center for Architecture
Cynthia Kracauer, AIA, LEED AP, Center for Architecture Managing Director, and Jerry Maltz, AIA, talked with UASDC senior Cynida Drepaul about her portfolio and playground design project.
Design Professionals Share Their Expertise with Aspiring High School Students at the Center Learning by Design
Gerald I. Schiff, AIA Emeritus
In Memoriam: Gerald I. Schiff, AIA Emeritus In Memoriam
1 - YO! TEL! Williamsburg
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
02.13.15: Call for Entries: AIANY Design Awards 2015
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Prague Functionalism: Tradition and Contemporary Echoes” opening 02.12.15
On View About Town
01.13.15: Oculus Editor-in-Chief Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA, celebrated her birthday at 2015’s first Oculus meeting.
Sighted Sighted
picture1
Classifieds Classifieds
"New Practices New York 2014" is on view at the Center for Architecture through 01.17.15
Happy New Year! Editor's Note
Tomas Rossant, AIA, and Joseph Tortorella hold the keys to the Center for Architecture.
From the Desk of the President From the Desk of the President
Via Verde
Examining the Gauntlet In Response
Constadino (Gus) Sirakis, PE, Gina L. Bocra, AIA, LEED AP BD+C/ID+C, and Emily Hoffman, PE, CEM, LEED AP, CPMP, from the NYC Department of Buildings presented on the updated energy code to a packed house on 1.12.15.
Environmentalism at the Forefront Policy Pulse
12.08.14: A panel of experts discussed issues in the Far West Side following a presentation of New York’s New Edge: Contemporary Art, the Highline, and Urban Megaprojects on the Far West Side at the December 2014 Oculus Book Talk.
Oculus Book Review: “New York’s New Edge: Contemporary Art, the High Line, and Urban Megaprojects on the Far West Side” At the Center for Architecture
"New York’s New Edge: Contemporary Art, the High Line, and Urban Megaprojects on the Far West Side"
Oculus Quick Take: “New York’s New Edge: Contemporary Art, the High Line, and Urban Megaprojects on the Far West Side” Podcast
Villa E.1027 by Eileen Gray is one of the houses Greben will visit on her trip.
Announcing the Winners of the 2014 Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant Center News
1 - Local or Global? FIGMENT Chooses Both!
In the News In The News