By Kevin Sullivan, Vice President, Shawmut Design and Construction
As published in Banker & Tradesman


The Key to Successful Building? Start at the End

Want to make sure your next project gets off to a great start? Start at the end.

By thinking every phase of a project out before a single shovel hits the ground, you’re eliminating the one thing all of us in construction hate the most—surprises.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with managing some of our region’s premier higher educational and institutional clients for nearly 30 years. And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s how sound planning, team alignment, collaboration, respect, and a great deal of creativity can make all the difference between a good project and a great one.

But there are no shortcuts. A comprehensive, no-stone-left-unturned preconstruction phase led by experienced, dedicated professionals is needed in order for a project to be successful. When all team members’ goals and interests are aligned and the commitment is decidedly to one another and delivering the best end product, powerful solutions and high-value approaches for the client emerge.

In today’s complex construction environment, project goals reach far beyond the traditional delivery of quality, on-time performance. At Shawmut, our multi-disciplinary team’s plan for an array of sophisticated and very specific facility, end user, larger business, community, and social objectives for owners. From the very beginning, we plan for the very final stages. And by that I mean we carefully consider commissioning, maintenance, sustainability, utility incentives, and all matters of facilities integration and long-term operation.

Shawmut recently engaged in an extensive preconstruction process for our renovation and preservation project at Boston University’s Myles Standish Hall and Annex. Originally built in 1926, the 204,275-square-foot building underwent extensive exploratory work inside and out—including the masonry façade. Part of the preconstruction phase was the construction of a full-scale model suite to address the university’s dormitory needs. This “try it before you buy it” approach provided the project team with invaluable insights and learning before proceeding on a larger scale.

The most important element of the project’s success, though, was the use of Virtual Construction (VC). On a wide variety of project types, including this one, the immersive experience of VC gives us the ability to “walk” job sites before construction has even begun. This virtual environment mitigates risk prior to construction and highlights areas where potential savings could occur. All system clashes are resolved virtually—allowing owners to spend money on what’s really important to them.

Shawmut has its own Virtual Studio where we can develop high-quality 3D graphics and BIM of an entire project or a component within a particular project. It is an engaging and cost-effective way to make sure everything is worked out well before construction begins—and it’s one of the best investments in technology we’ve ever made.

Once all of the complex planning, virtual, and physical construction work is complete, Shawmut’s Enhanced Turnover Initiative allows us to stay with clients long after project completion—offering comprehensive owner training on all systems, providing clients with the tools and support they need to feel confident using and maintaining their new facilities.

We all know the pressures of trying to get a job done as quickly as possible. But by taking the time to properly and thoroughly evaluate a project early, and at its most flexible stages, you will facilitate change, create team alignment, develop true partnership, and maximize value for everyone touched by the building for decades to come. Even better? You’ll avoid surprises.