The role of an estimator is not an easy one, especially in the conceptual design stage. Traditionally, the design is near-complete and specifications are already set by the time the General Contractor gets a chance to evaluate costs. And, if you’re lucky, hopefully the design team has considered efficient, cost-effective designs without running amok on scopes of work. Enter the Mosaic Centre—with project requirements like a net-zero commercial building, LEED Platinum certification, a 100% laminated lumber post and beam structure with laminated floor deck and especially: “let’s make this happen with a conventional building budget—and suddenly, traditional just doesn’t cut it.
Given the “are you crazy?” requests, the team knew that the only way to boldly go where no Edmonton office building had gone before was to adopt a model that could harness the power of collaboration and maximize efficiencies. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) was a model that was completely alien to us and required the onboarding of the major trades all the way from the design process through to construction so we could get crucial input on constructability, cost knowledge, alternate options, and recommendations on all aspects of the build to help hit our targets. The trades jumped at this opportunity to make smart decisions from the get-go. Finally—no more: “If only they’d designed it this way or let us use this product.”
In addition to things being different in terms of design process, things were different in cost delivery as well. An IPD model also means that costs need to be finalized prior to issuance of final construction documents. The way to achieve this is to spend as much time with the designers and owner(s) as possible so that everyone is watching the same movie in the same theatre and knows exactly how the story goes—oh—and no cost contingencies allowed either!
The journey definitely hasn’t been easy. So often we would fall into the trap of “I don’t know how much it will cost because I don’t know what the details will look like!” Easy solution: tell the design team what details make sense, what’s most cost-effective, all while not threatening the performance or the project requirements. The motto in our heads was “design to the cost”— not the other way around.
Being a part of the Mosaic Centre has been enlightening. Digging deeper with a budget that essentially lives and breathes with every out-of-the-box discussion made me realize that to build something truly unique, the approach to the process has to be innovative too. I see now that there is great potential for extraordinary projects of this type not only in Edmonton but throughout the industry.