Facility Homework

In the short run, you gain a perspective to help you select the best architect for the job; and in the long run, what you might learn from other camp business owners could save you money, frustration, and produce a better facility.

Here are a few ideas that came from other camp business owners who have been through design and construction of facilities:

• Separating the traffic flow of business deliveries from the flow of campers walking to activity spaces to enhance safety and expedite deliveries.

• Planning for where the construction vehicles can park while your camp is in operation can prevent many problems.

• Adding a private staff dining area in the dining hall to ensure confidentiality, which could also be used as a hospitality area for fundraising and smaller group use in the off-season.

Select from the Best

How can you attract the best architects to interview for your project? Keeping the selection process open might require a larger investment of your time, but it also ensures healthy competition, a chance for you to hear opinions from design experts about the viability of your project, and it gives you a chance to compare and contrast the architects’ listening skills and the amount of preparation they would give to an interview.

It usually doesn’t take long for the word to get out, but you might want to identify the local architects in the area via a listing on the Internet. Then you can add to that list all of the architects who were raved about in your visits to other camp businesses.

The next step would be to mail all the architects on your list an RFP (request for proposal). The RFP should contain a cover letter from you, briefly stating the purpose of the project, your optimal timeline for your architect’s selection process, and reference to the attached case statement that details the scope of your project.

Most architects will send a prospectus of the architectural services that they can offer and express their interest in meeting you to discuss your project in greater detail.

Unless you are willing to pay a fee to several architects for a design competition, you should not expect to receive any renderings, design development documents, or a detailed budget specific to your facility.

However, when you invite them for interviews, there are questions you can send to them before they come into interview that can help you to gauge their dedication to preparation, their transferable experience, and their ability to respond to your ideas about what you would like this facility to do for your camp business.

Sample Questions for the Architect’s Interview:

1. What experience do you bring to this project that will influence the quality and satisfaction with the finished facility?

2. Given our master plan, walk us through your thought process in advising us on the best site for this facility.

3. What new technologies and design strategies have you used in the past that have:

a. Saved time in planning and construction?

b. Saved money in the total project cost?

c. Solved a major problem in the process?

d. Made the facility more energy efficient?

e. Made the building maintenance more efficient?

4. How would you determine your fee structure for all architectural services required for this facility’s completion?

5. Given the size and importance of this project, how often could we expect you on-site, and how do you handle daily communication with the construction company’s project manager and us?

Consider it an Investment

Completing this kind of homework before the architect is selected can be bypassed if you decide to go with the heir apparent by rehiring the architect from your last project, or contracting with the architect who approaches you first, or accepting an architect who is handed to you by someone you trust.

However, there is something very valuable gained by doing your homework: input from your staff members who know the camp programming and who might develop into strong stakeholders because they were consulted. You also have developed a relationship with an architect who knows that you are thorough and committed to the project’s success.

Dr. Susan Langlois has more than 25 years of experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sport facilities consultant. She is currently the Dean of Sports Science at Endicott College.

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