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<p>There are many ways to build a building, but all of them are not equal. Without apology, I am partial to the single source design-build process and I strongly recommend it to any financial professional planning a new facility. The team approach of the design-build method maximizes the cooperation of architects, engineers, construction managers and interior designers. Design-build firms also offer more comprehensive services and provide one point of communication for the client, which is a big time saver for busy financial professionals. It makes good business sense to seek one source to serve all of your facility planning and construction needs. After all, your primary concern is running a financial institution. In a recent study of popular construction methods conducted by Penn State University, design-build outperformed traditional architect/general contractor and construction management at-risk methods on the three most important indicators of construction success – time, cost and quality. Saving time is key in the construction of a financial facility, especially when it expedites your ability to open your doors and start serving members. The overlapping phases of design-build allow parts of the work to be contracted as soon as those portions have been designed and approved, and these time savings result in financial savings as well. Design-build is also more cost effective, and many financial institutions are benefiting from design-build facility providers that offer guaranteed budgets. With technological advances and electronic record keeping, it is easy for many firms to record construction costs for each job and then use that information as a basis for the cost projection of future jobs. Budget guarantees protect clients from costly overruns, and in the design-build process, everyone from architects to interior designers are equally responsible for sticking to a predetermined budget. In terms of quality, design-build promotes cooperation among all players early in the process, resulting in smarter, informed decision making along the way. The step-by-step process guarantees success because it requires close communication with the client and is based on the client’s expectations – including the design’s appearance, cost and functionality. The participation of the contractor early in the process combined with team cooperation and a highly detailed scope of work results in high-quality programs with fewer callbacks. Design-build firms offer similar services, so it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the companies and the services they offer. Here is a simple and straightforward method for selecting the right facility provider for your next building project: Make a prioritized list of criteria, including pre-design needs like comparative site plan analysis. Select an executive building committee of three to five representatives, headed by your president or chairman. Don’t lose momentum or invite internal strife by trying to make a decision with a 20-member committee. Have the building committee gather and digest information on various facility providers by visiting their Web sites, reading their collateral materials, talking to their recent references and running a credit history to make sure they are financially sound. Develop a short list of providers who best meet your criteria and invite these companies to make a presentation to your building committee. Allow about two hours for the presentation and some question and answer time. It is a good idea to send them a description of your needs ahead of time so they can focus their presentation on your specific requirements. Narrow your list to the top three candidates and give each a second opportunity to answer your individual questions and concerns about their services. Set a date to come together with your committee for a final discussion and decision-making meeting. Take time to think about the three providers, the total content of each presentation and the responses of their references. Evaluate and select a provider as you would any other business service. Don’t get carried away and make an impulsive or emotional decision based on one architect’s renderings, a high-tech presentation or any other single feature of a company. Make a decision based on the all of the information you are gathering, especially references. When making your decision, it is most important to pursue value. Value will be determined by business acumen, references, strength of commitment and cost. Price is the key factor in the buying process, only when value is not an important consideration. Experience counts in any business, and that includes designing and constructing financial facilities. I strongly recommend that credit unions planning a new facility choose a facility provider who has significant experience in financial facility development. I frequently observe job sites of others that do not specialize in financial facilities and see poorly designed site plans and wasted interior spaces. Choose a provider who knows your business functions and can guide you to sound solutions. Credit unions who take the time to complete a thorough search for a facility provider will reap great rewards. Finding the right facility provider can result in a lasting relationship with a trusted and strategic partner. Much like your own business, facility development is a service and relationship business, so ultimately seek a firm that has people you like, respect and enjoy. With their help, your facility can become a platform to support your products and services, not just a building to house your functions.</p>

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