On July 2, 2014 I posted a blog article with the same title. This is an update to that article. Now that the construction boom is the new normal, we have noticed several other factors that are slowing down the design and construction process.
New permitting requirements. Over the past few years, cities and counties have become very risk-averse. They are requiring more of what one might call “due diligence” before approving projects. Information such as a site survey conducted by a professional surveyor, soil information provided by a geotechnical engineer, and site drainage designed by a civil engineer are required more frequently than they used to be. Contacting, getting estimates, signing agreements, and scheduling these other professionals for the project takes time. If these engineering professionals are in high demand in your area, it will delay the project.
New laws and building codes. Of course, the building code is revised regularly. In addition, new laws sometimes have a big impact on construction, such as SB1069 which relaxed restrictions for Accessory Dwelling Units built in California. Whenever changes occur at the state level, all Planning and Building departments must update their local ordinances and procedures to comply with the changes. They must train and educate their staff about the new requirements. That rollout can sometimes add to the permitting time.
Supply shortages. High-demand products may be in short supply and require more time between the ordering and the receipt of goods.
There are, however, positive trends that are reducing the time it takes to complete projects. Let’s look at some of the ways we can speed up the process.
Electronic (soft) documents. More and more jurisdictions are allowing us to submit documents in electronic format, such as on a flash drive. This allows updates and resubmittals to be handled much more quickly. We are also sending contract documents to clients by email, and by using digital signature software, the turnaround time for a response is vastly reduced from the old days of ink-signed paper contracts and agreements.
Improved Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) software. The innovation in CADD software is fantastic, and 3-D drawings are more and more common, leading to more accurate understanding and interaction between the architectural design team, client, permitting agencies and contractors. The time to create multiple iterations or design schemes is reduced.
Cloud computing. Uploading and downloading large files used to be a problem. It isn’t anymore. Most offices have switched to cloud storage of their drawings to make it easier and faster to access them in the field.
Electronic tools and equipment. Devices such as electronic laser measurement tools, tablet computers and smartphones are all adding to the speed and efficiency of work at job sites. (Not to mention 3D printers and other fabrication tools that can speed up construction.)
The bottom line is that there are a lot of variables in play when you begin a construction project. Some are within the control of the architect, but many are not. So, asking when you can “get the plans” doesn’t really indicate how fast your project will get started. We will continually try to give you our best estimate of the timeline as we move through the process, taking into account all of these other factors. As always, we are Designing for Your Reality.
Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects