Transparent & Collaborative Preconstruction Fuels Project Success

May 03, 2016
We have been building iconic and pioneering projects in the Bay Area for four decades, and our footprint in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest has never been bigger. From our offices in San Francisco and Seattle, our team is building a nearly $2.5 billion portfolio of diverse work that includes the New Stanford Adult Hospital, Transbay Tower, Sea-Tac’s International Arrivals Facility, and San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. While significantly different in scope and size, the common denominator of these projects, and a catalyst to our recent growth, is that each went through Clark’s extensive front-end preconstruction process.
Our transparent, consistent, and collaborative approach to preconstruction enables us to work with our clients and design partners to align budgets, schedules, and goals, forges the path to a successful project delivery, and provides the ultimate level of certainty of outcome for our clients. 
“One of the hallmarks of Clark’s preconstruction process is that we step back and work with our clients to understand what they need — the whole process — and factor all of that into our planning,” says Peter Bryan, Vice President and leader of our front-end efforts for the Northern California/Pacific Northwest group. For example, Bryan notes,  depending on the client’s needs, a schedule may start well before construction to plan for permitting, entitlements, and other pre-groundbreaking milestones. “Taking a broader view of the process,” Bryan believes, “is what you need to do to collaborate.”
This holistic process is more transparent and effective than the common construction budgeting approach. Our teams prepare a master schedule and detailed logistics options for every project and include our clients’ pre-development steps, detailed design schedules, and permitting timetables in addition to the construction phase activities. We also work with our clients to develop strategies that address market capacity, lead time considerations, small business inclusion, and key decision milestones to aid in the permitting process and design. 
Our process also includes active subcontractor participation that culminates with an extensive bidding and interview process to ensure comprehensive scope inclusion and project familiarity. Our clients often participate in the subcontractor bidding process, providing feedback along the way. The interaction gives subcontractors a better understanding of project goals, while generating an open-book atmosphere. This up-front collaboration and transparency fosters trust among all project stakeholders, a positive relationship that transfers into the field during construction.
In the Pacific Northwest, where the market expects a contractor to provide strong preconstruction services, Gary Oelsner, Clark’s Director of Preconstruction Services,  provides a well-balanced focus among client, designer, and subcontractor relationships. 
“When we looked to expand our presence in  the Pacific Northwest, we really concentrated on a handful of target projects so we could understand each individual client’s needs. We also put a lot of effort into meeting and working with the local subcontracting community. Building these relationships and knowledge base gave us a deeper understanding of the local market and, as a result, we put together more accurate and better informed budgets and schedules in our pursuits.” Those early efforts led to the acquisition of more than $650 million of work in the past two years. 
Forming a strong relationship centered on trust and expertise among our team, the designer, and the client, was a critical factor in earning the Digital Classroom Building project at Washington State University (WSU). 
“Preconstruction was heavy during the pursuit of the project,” says Oelsner. “We worked hand-in-hand with subcontractors and co-located with the architect, all so we could better meet the target budget. Through the process, we developed a clear and dynamic relationship with our partners, as well as the client.” 
The effort, “is what collaboration should look like,” says Taka Soga, principal of ZGF Architects, the design partner on the WSU project, “bringing together talented people who challenge assumptions and each other so that innovation and quality can shine. It is rare to find a partner like Clark where this process works so naturally to elevate design and optimize value.”
This relationship helped the team work through unanticipated site conditions. During the design phase, the team discovered a significant amount of rock at higher than anticipated elevations on the project site, and developed a plan to modify the foundation support system and reposition the building on the site, mitigating the situation in the most cost-effective way. “Clark, along with their entire design-build team, has been a collaborative partner with WSU on our Digital Classroom project. They have experienced, professional staff and do not hesitate to apply the necessary resources to meet our needs. Through this commitment, WSU believes we are an important client and we trust Clark will deliver great results,” said Louise Sweeney, Project Manager Lead at Washington State University.
At the core, our preconstruction efforts are driven by experienced industry veterans. Bryan and Oelsner have nearly 50 years of experience between them, and many of Clark’s front-end professionals boast similar resumes. This provides the basis for another tenet of Clark’s preconstruction process — consistency and certainty of outcome.
“We have established with our clients an expectation of our brand and our product,” says Oelsner. “This is something consistent across the company. If we have worked with a client before, they know what to expect from us. We share resources internally, including preconstruction professionals, so that our work remains consistent, and we deliver it through a transparent and open process.”
This commitment to transparency and collaboration is even evident in our physical spaces. We work in a completely open space that promotes teamwork and close coordination, and with in-house technology at everyone’s fingertips, our Northern California and Pacific Northwest offices have become the first choice of locations to serve as a hub to planning for exciting and diverse projects.