Collaboration is critical in today’s complex construction world. The Utah State Capitol Restoration and Base Isolation project was a very complex and difficult project. I required that all worked closely, communicated with one another, and respected each other’s decisions. Developing a structure that allowed for an open, honest, and trusting collaborative relationship was critical to the overall success of the project.
The first step in the development of a collaborative relationship is taken by the owner. The owner or owner project representative must be open to working in a new environment, one where all communication is valued. The owner must understand that knowledge does not just exist in one location but is located throughout the construction industry. The trick is to get the knowledge as well as the best and the brightest people working on your side of the table. For this to occur, trust must be developed. It all starts in the contract. Too often, owners will say they want an open working relationship, but then they force the contractor and architect to accept contract provisions that are adversarial.
Recognizing the need for collaboration as the executive director for the Capitol Preservation Board, I took the following steps to ensure that all contributions were valued and that we were all working on the same side.
1. Selecting all major players—architect, engineers, and construction manager—through a qualifications-based selection process.
2. Each contract was discussed, reviewed, and agreed upon in a collaborative environment from the start. There was no sending it to the attorney for review because the attorney and all decisions makers were in the meetings, and resolution to issues were determined together with the goal of developing a collaborative agreement that would last throughout the job.
3. Each discipline leader of the team participated in the selection of next team member. For example, the CM was the first team member selected. They joined with the owner in selecting the architects. Then the CM, architects, and the owner joined together to select the structural engineers, and so on. Each team member in that regard relied upon the other to join the team, which developed instant respect and a desire to work together.
4. As the owner, we felt it important that everyone have the same understanding and opportunity for input. We developed workshops around the established design guidelines that we, the owner, had developed. Everyone from the architect and CM to trade subcontractors, installers, fabricators, and engineers participated. Each was allowed—in fact, encouraged—to question and find solutions to problems. Everyone was encouraged to respect each individual’s contribution.
In the end, these four simple steps saved many hours of disagreement that could have infected the project. As it was, for more than five years, the team worked as a team to solve very difficult and challenging problem, all in the spirit of keeping the project focused on what became known as “Capitol Quality” while staying on time and within the budget.