No Need to Spec-Ulate (Part Three)


Over the past two weeks, we’ve talked about some of the most commonly asked questions architects face out in the field. We’ve discussed office culture and design, how to work well within a team and now, for this final installment, we’ll delve into four more topics of great interest to landlords and tenants. This column will tackle some hot button issues: money, time, branding and (one of the absolute most frequently posed questions) if we can recommend a consultant for your project.

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What’s the best way to keep my budget in check?

This is one of my favorite topics to address… so much so that I once dedicated an entire column to it. Here are my short and sweet recommendations for combining savings and success:

Start by working closely with the project team — brokers, contractors, the owner’s representative, architect and specialty trades — to come up with a realistic budget and timeline. Spell out all projections in detail so you are beginning with a proper cost estimate and schedule. Then, check those numbers and plans again and again as the project progresses. Due diligence is essential, as is planning for a realistic contingency up front.

Next, get the team together and agree on a plan of attack. Make sure all are on board before a project begins, as rushing to select a vendor at the last minute wastes time and can lead to mistakes. Communication is key! Spell out the chain of command so everyone knows what to expect (and when and from whom). Last, but certainly not least, trust the professionals you have in place to provide counsel along the way.

How can I prevent unnecessary delays?

Being on schedule is a primary concern for everyone: us, the subcontractors and, naturally, our clients. Have a clear vision and detailed cost estimate early on and you’ll limit last-minute changes and maximize your chances for sticking to the plan. Flesh out roles and responsibilities so each party can act swiftly.

Utilizing Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) technology — a topic I talked about in depth a few weeks back — may help automate that process, though the most important part is having and agreeing upon an ongoing method of communication throughout the project, so all parties know what the other one is up to. Have common goals and expectations. And, as stated above, be realistic and allow some room for flexibility. All construction projects involves a bit of give and take.

Should my office have a theme? 

In one word: perhaps. Office themes work well when inspired by a firm’s logo, tag line or core mission. For instance, for email intelligence company Return Path, we created a creative “pixel-themed interior” through the use of carpet patterns, colors and ceiling materials. Arrows throughout the space aided in way-finding and tied nicely to the tech firm’s brand.

Similarly, our work with spirits leader Pernod Ricard is an example of a theme well done. It involved the use of raw materials, such as reclaimed wood and exposed concrete, to gently evoke a “distillery feel.” When it comes to themes, they don’t have to be in your face; subtle is often best. You want to create a vibe, not a billboard. As Coco Chanel once famously advised, it’s always better to take one thing off.

Can you recommend a….?

There’s no one correct answer to this question. Some outside consultants come as part of an all-in-one package; other times, there’s an opportunity to customize your team. When it makes sense — and when we have true knowledge to share — we’re happy to refer our clients to other experts, whether it be an art consultant, lighting designer, furniture dealer or IT professional. What better way to find out who is great to work with than to ask others who have had that kind of firsthand experience (often many times over)?

Then, don’t just take our word for it. Do your homework by interviewing them thoroughly, asking for detailed references and, most critical of all, making sure the personalities on their team click with yours.

Scott E. Spector, AIA, is a principal at Spector Group, one of New York’s premier architecture and interior design firms and a leader in corporate tenant and building owner-based design. The award-winning company has affiliate offices nationally and internationally. To date, it has completed more than 2,000 projects.