Future University – Edge Zones
February 5, 2013 – 6:47 pm | No Comment

I’ve been thinking a bit about the future of the university, and it seems to me that a new model may be emerging, one that has something of the traditional sanctuary of a place of learning, but that innovatively engages communities, both local and international. There will, of course, have to be those preserves where students and teachers can contemplate their experience and learn together, but there must also be what, for the moment, one might think of as an edge zone where interactions of many kinds might take place.

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Home » Lean-Design

Shaping Practice to the Client

Submitted by on September 28, 2010 – 9:30 pmNo Comment

In our work we shape our approach to the particular needs and circumstances of each individual client.  We introduce lean design ideas in every case to the extent we can.  The result is to increase the value of our design services to the client. Lean Design, as applied to the architectural design and construction industry, we have adopted from Lean Manufacturing and Lean Construction. It shares such ideas as focusing on client value, eliminating waste, striving for continuous improvement, and systematizing the project cycle from concept to commissioning. Over the years, and through a variety of models of practice, we have incorporated a lean design approach in projects of many scales.

Full Service Models

In another project, our firm had to step in as construction supervisor and liaison amongst the sub-trades after the general contractor quit; we created a bridge to a new condition where a new contractor took over.  The building was completed within budget and schedule, and it has won awards for preservation excellence.  This project demonstrates our commitment to quality, our flexibility to enter into new and needed patterns of service.  The design was closely coordinated with the means of production, having worked with contractors fro the beginning of the project, with the result that we could create alternative implementation procedures. Staying current with all aspects of the implementation process and working in parallel with client and contractors we regard as essential features of lean design.

A high security vehicle inspection building presented a high level of complexity, and demanded close coordination among all participants. It was difficult, for example, to find room for the concrete in a floor filled with electronic and electric infrastructure. In this case we created a project management team that shared information, anticipating problems before they arose, and creating a dependable linkage between project budget and scope. This is a straightforward example of the advantages and, in this case, the necessity for concurrent design among consultants and contractors.

In an “extended service” model we provided design services as an extension of our client’s capabilities. In one major project, for example, the client wished to work incrementally. They made requests, and we developed the program with those who actually used or would use the places, based the design on respect for and understanding of the character and even spirit of the place, then worked with the grounds crew and selected contractors to implement the work.  There were many building, renovation, and landscape projects done in this way. The total was over $3 million over a 3-4 year period. One major advantage of this approach was that each project had the benefit of the experience of the previous ones; and the costs could be taken out the operating budget, strategically augmented by generous donors from time to time. This model highlights the continuous learning aspect of lean design.

In proposing services for a local Boston institution, two factors combined to demand an innovative model.  Their project scope was much larger than their proposed budget.  To bring these in line would require working intensively at the start of the project, programming the spaces in detail, bringing as much information about project implementation to the table early in the process, and projecting design and cost possibilities.  Secondly, we noticed several opportunities for innovation, including enlarging window openings to increase natural light, and introducing a displacement air system in the to-be-remodeled theater. These and others could result in significant energy savings. Lean design would require that these innovative ideas be tested and evaluated in the light of client objectives from the outset of the project by all those qualified to do so, that the contracts and other agreements among the professional participants, the client and the contractors be appropriately formulated in the light of the specifics of the design challenges, and that an effective process be designed to plan, coordinate, and continuously learn over the duration of the project.

Limited Services Models

A technical services model was in response to a request from an architect in a foreign country that we augment his office in order to bring technical knowledge specific to this locale to inform his design. In this way he could have a more effective dialog with the local architect of record. The result was to keep the project budget in line with the project scope while at the same time respecting the design objectives set by the design architect.  It was our intermediating role in which we were able to stand above as well as in the project that made this possible, again an important aspect of lean design.

For small business owners in downtown Boston and Cambridge, there were advantages and savings that resulted from working directly with the sub-trades.  In this modified construction manager model, design services could be more precisely related to owners’ objectives. They receive greater value as a result. Lean design requires an early examination and, if necessary, re-crafting of the processes of programming, design and construction, and re-specification of who should be involved and when.

In addition to providing a wide range of programming and design services, we have also provided design advisory services and consulting over the entire cycle of the project providing such specific services as problem formulation, description of professional services required, designer selection, architectural and site programming, initial site and architectural concepts, and post occupancy evaluation.

We believe that predetermined models of service are generally insufficient. Instead both full and limited service models should grow out of a client’s specific needs and preferences, the technical requirements of the work, and the available resources. The model and professional services provided should optimize the elements of the project with respect to the client’s values to be obtained.