June 21, 2019

Working with a Formula for Success

Proven Design-Build Process + Industry Leading Expertise = Successful Clients

The first part of our formula for success includes our proven process.  Cambridge Companies has worked throughout the years to build a process that is easy to follow by our staff as well as our clients.  Our detailed processes lay out the steps the assigned team member works to complete from the start of a project to close-out including feasibility study/scoping, design, permitting, procurement, pre-construction/construction, close-out, follow-up, warranty (if necessary), and our customer care process.  These help to make our processes transparent while we work with our clients to help make sure that they know what is happening at each part of their project.  Our proven process also provides clients with a summary of the items that will be necessary from them in order to continue to move the project forward in a time-efficient manner.  A condensed version of our proven process can be viewed by downloading our  Infographic on our website or by viewing our Processes page.

The second part of our formula for success includes our expertise.  Cambridge has been working within the solid waste industry completing design-build projects for over 30 years.  Our staff has extensive experience in working with our clients to help them meet their project needs.  We have dedicated project managers for the design and construction phases.  Both of these individuals are involved in both the design and construction phases as they both bring different viewpoints to the project.  By working together in this manner, our design team benefits from the construction team’s options for a “better mouse trap” and the construction team benefits from the design team’s opportunity to assist in troubleshooting any issues that can arise during the physical construction of the facility.  The expertise of our team doesn’t begin with our designers/architects though.  We bring the expertise of our staff from the very beginning with our business development/marketing team to make sure that Cambridge is the best fit for your project from the very first conversation our future clients have with us.  Our experience has taught us that partnering with clients on a project is better than simply being a vendor to them.  Creating this partnership ensures that we both are equally invested in the project’s success.

Our goal at Cambridge is to work in making our client’s project successful.  This is what our formula is to accomplish.  We have defined it as the following to our team so they can understand it’s full meaning as well: “Our team has extensive experience in the commercial, heavy commercial, and light industrial markets.  We use this expertise to help our clients define the right project for them up front that will be cost-effective to build, efficient to operate, durable to their needs, while also meeting all necessary local and national code requirements.  This formula for success, combined with years of building conceptual budgets, allows us to provide accurate layouts, budgets and schedule that lead to a construction project set up for success rather than failure from Day 1.  Our design-build process is time tested and proven over the last 30 years.”  So if you are looking for the right partner to work with on your next project, reach out to Cambridge to see if we would be the best fit to work with you!

Did you enjoy reading this blog?  Take a look at our other blogs from 2018 and 2017.  You can also check out more on our website dedicated to the waste industry to see all the services that we have to offer.

Carrie Schutzius – Marketing Manager

Cambridge Companies is a design-build firm based in Northwest Indiana specializing in solid waste facilities and a lot of experience with commercial projects.  Click here to see current projects and our portfolio of commercial and solid waste projects nationwide such as transfer stations and hauling companies.  We also offer a variety of architectural and design services to facilitate your project from conceptual design through the use of the facility.

www.cambridgecoinc.com

(219) 972-1155

     

June 4, 2019

Troubleshooting On-the-Go

I’m willing to wager that there hasn’t been a construction project in the history of construction that hasn’t had an unexpected issue of one kind or another occur.  One of the things Construction Project Managers (CPM), Assistant Project Managers (APM), and Field Managers (FM) need to learn to do throughout their experience managing job sites, is how to troubleshoot any issues or challenges that can and do occur.  Their biggest challenge is maintaining progress while working through the issue or challenge.  So how do we accomplish this?  Generally speaking, how the team moves forward would depend on the nature of the problem.  Most issues are relatively common and non-catastrophic and we can employ a few tried and true approaches.  The more uncommon issue solutions may depend on who you ask for assistance.  I want to use a problem of encountering water at a site as an example throughout my blog as this can be a very common issue that is easily resolved but can also lead to much bigger thinking and collaboration to solve the problem.

First, there’s the common-sense approach.  Is the answer obvious even though the issue wasn’t expected?   For example, while digging for building footings, you encounter water.  The common solution would be based on recent factors that occurred at the job site or due to weather.  Did it recently rain?  Can the water be resolved easily by pumping it out for 15 mins?

Second, nothing can replace experience.  Most people who are given the trusted position of managing a project in the field or from the office have usually earned their position by putting their time in and gaining the experience.    Sometimes, the lesson is learned the hard way and sometimes the experience was gained by learning from another.  No matter how a particular experience was gained, it will not be exactly like another’s.  There is great advantage to this fact.  Members of the same team should be able to reach out to one another and ask for insight.  Let’s go back to the water in the footing issue.  If the pumping has been going on for 30 minutes and has only resulted in moving many gallons of water from one place to another, it shouldn’t take your team long (or a lot of experience) to determine that there is a larger issue and it’s not just a by-product of recent rain in the soils.

Third, some research may help to understand what is causing the issue.  Using the same rain example as above, the FM should be able to revisit the geotechnical report, which reveals that there are some expected patches of clay layers in the area.  The water table for this project isn’t very high and shouldn’t be the cause of this water issue.  At this time, a call between the FM and CPM should occur to discuss the geotechnical report.  The conversation determines that this may be what is called “perched water” or water trapped in the ground by clay that has been broken into by the excavation.  This specific area will need to continue to “run out” the trapped water before things will get better.  This will require keeping the pumps running (usually overnight) to remove all the water.

Fourth, some creative problem-solving skills may need to be employed.  Let’s say the next morning, the pump is still going, the water level keeps returning to where they were first discovered, and the situation doesn’t seem much better.  The FM is scratching his head and the CPM isn’t sure why this situation hasn’t cleared up by now.  At this point, we would need to start talking with other parties to determine a possible solution.  The CPM and FM contact the Geotechnical Engineer, who comes out to the site and refers back to his previous report.  Based on his previous findings, he isn’t able to come up with a solution either.

Fifth, sometimes it takes a little luck and a lot of hard work.  During a phone call to the main office, a coworker overhears the situation and the current issues.  He requests some additional details, says he has an idea, and heads out to the site to view the issue in person.  The coworker arrives at the project to see the CPM, FM, Geotechnical Engineer, and excavating contractor all discussing their ideas for the best solution.  The excavator wants to get a change order to dig well-points, the Geotechnical Engineer thinks more investigation is in order, while the FM is directing the crews to move to another location.  They all watch as the coworker walks past, looks in the trench, gets in the trench, scoops up a handful of the water, smells it, and puts the tip of his tongue on the water in his hand.  The newly involved coworker looks around and starts walking towards a road.  He gets to the edge of the road and looks all over, occasionally scraping some dirt away looking for something.

The entire problem-solving team walks to where the newest team member was standing, and he asks them if they see the water valve.  “It needs to be shut off,” he says, “the water line is broken somewhere and that’s causing the problem down there.”  He walks back to his truck and heads back to the office.

About an hour after shutting the valve, the water problem in the footing excavation stopped and the pump was removed.  The FM was still scratching his head so he called his coworker and ask how he knew what was going on when three experienced people hadn’t figured it out.  He said, “Well, I remember my father had a similar situation when I was younger. It drove him crazy for weeks.  It wasn’t until they tested the water to find it had chlorine and fluoride in it, that clued them in to find a broken water line.  When the CPM explained that clay layers can cause water to travel from one place to another as a constant flow, it was just a matter of confirming that the water you had on site still had a little taste of chlorine to it to know it was from a treated source.  You know the rest.”   The FM smiled on the other end of the phone and said, “Welcome to the Team.”

So when the solution to the problem isn’t always obvious, defies common sense, and/or exhausts your own experience or even other experienced team members, asking around will most likely find someone within a few degrees of you that has seen or heard of something similar to help you stay on track.

Did you enjoy reading this blog?  Take a look at our other blogs from 2018 and 2017.  You can also view the Cambridge Infographic to learn more about the process we utilize from initial contact with potential and existing clients.   You can also check out more on our website dedicated to the waste industry to see all the services that we have to offer.

Bill Barry – Construction Project Manager

Cambridge Companies is a design-build firm based in Northwest Indiana specializing in solid waste facilities and a lot of experience with commercial projects.  Click here to see current projects and our portfolio of commercial and solid waste projects nationwide such as transfer stations and hauling companies.  We also offer a variety of architectural and design services to facilitate your project from conceptual design through the use of the facility.

www.cambridgecoinc.com

(219) 972-1155

     

April 30, 2019

Design Review Process

Ensuring drawings are without major errors and align with the project scope is a critical element of the project delivery process. That is why a design review process needs to be incorporated in the project development to enable the owner and Cambridge team members to participate.

Roles and Goals

When developing the project schedule, time should be set aside for defined design reviews. That way, the actual schedule will reflect what is needed for a good end-product.  Typically, reviews should occur at the 50%/90% or 30%/60%/90% timelines, which relies on the project size, duration, and complexity.  Depending on the client, you should plan on the reviews to be concurrent between the owner and Cambridge teams or run sequential, with the Cambridge reviews occurring first and then being distributed to the owner.  The advantage of the sequential review is that the owner can see what has been noted by the Cambridge team, which may help them come up with better questions upon their own review. The Design Project Manager (DPM) should generate review guidance for every reviewer role [Owner, DPM, Estimator, Construction Project Manager (CPM), etc.] for what the parameters of their review should be.  For example, the owner would not necessarily need to perform a detailed constructability review but should weigh in on the finished schedule as well as the furniture plan.  The more detailed and specific the reviewer parameters are, the more detailed the reviews can be.  In addition to the reviewer parameters, there should be goals set for each review milestone.  The 50% (or 30%/60%) review(s) would need to be more general in nature and focused on drawing concepts, while the 90% can be more technical in nature and focused on details and drawing execution. The primary take-away should be that the reviews should be an integral part of the design process and that by clearly defining the roles and goals for each review, more valuable and focused feedback will be generated.

Execution

There are many ways to gather design review information including hand notes and in-person page turns.  While there is no objectively right or wrong way to execute drawing reviews, Cambridge has utilized the process of distributing PDF’s to each reviewer with instructions for them to red line (or mark-up) the document and return it when complete; allowing a week for the drawing review.  Upon receipt of the feedback from all the reviewers, the comments are combined into one master review document.  This document is then reviewed for clarity and sent on to the design sub-consultants to make the necessary and discussed changes.  The final reviewed feedback document can be distributed to all the reviewers for their reference or stored on a network/shared drive.  Prior to the next set of drawings being issued or the next meeting for drawing review being set up with the Owners, the DPM should perform a review to confirm all comments from the reviewers are incorporated into the updated plan set, where appropriate.

Conclusion

There is (unfortunately) no such a thing as a perfect set of drawings.  The main goal with this process is to get as much meaningful feedback returned to the designers and included in the plan sets. By incorporating design reviews into the project delivery process, defining who should be performing the reviews, and what they should be looking for, we can improve the final product as much as is practical. The team approach is what is critical to making the design review process work toward a better final construction project.

Did you enjoy reading this blog?  Take a look at our other blogs from 2018 and 2017.  You can also view the Cambridge Infographic to learn more about the process we utilize from initial contact with potential and existing clients.   You can also check out more on our website dedicated to the waste industry to see all the services that we have to offer.

Evan Williams – Design Project Manager

Cambridge Companies is a design-build firm based in Northwest Indiana specializing in solid waste facilities and a lot of experience with commercial projects.  Click here to see current projects and our portfolio of commercial and solid waste projects nationwide such as transfer stations and hauling companies.  We also offer a variety of architectural and design services to facilitate your project from conceptual design through the use of the facility.

www.cambridgecoinc.com

(219) 972-1155

     

March 29, 2019
Conceptual Budget Development

Many people have the impression that developing a construction budget is as simple as taking the square footage of a proposed building and multiplying by standard cost per square foot rates, which are available in publications such as RSMeans.  While technically that is one method that can be utilized for construction budgeting, Cambridge Companies prefers to perform a deeper dive based on the needs of our customers and our experience in the waste industry.

Tasks required for construction budget development begin long before any numbers are crunched for a potential client.   Prior to any pricing activities, there must first be preliminary scoping and programming activities performed to ensure that the proper scope is developed from the onset.  During the scoping phase, our VP of Business Development and Scoping Manager will work with the client to define the programmatic requirements.  During this phase we will work with the client to gather initial information, perform a needs assessment, and prepare preliminary site and floor plan options for the client.  Once the site and floor plans are reviewed and refined to meet the needs and desires of the client, the conceptual budgeting process can begin.

As a nationwide design-build contractor, Cambridge has dozens of completed projects throughout the country to refer to while preparing preliminary conceptual budgets.   As a result, Cambridge has the ability to review previously engineered details and incorporate the appropriate information into conceptual budgeting.  We perform takeoffs on the conceptual site and floor plans and apply the quantity information in conjunction with previous project details against relevant historical pricing to identify line item pricing by construction CSI divisions.  This allows our conceptual budgets to be more robust than a simple $/SF calculation and ensures that the conceptual budgeting is as realistic in nature as possible with current cost information applied.

However, conceptual budgets are not only limited to the building construction and projected site development costs.  Cambridge must also consider and properly budget the following items:

  • Project Schedule – accurately projecting the project schedule is imperative in order to include proper projections for field and office labor as well as soft costs and temporary items that will be required during construction.
  • Design Development Fees – accurate projection of design costs is crucial as this will be the first project related expenditure. Costs must be properly conceptualized for architecture, MPE-FP Engineering, civil engineering, geotechnical engineering and any specialized engineering that may be required for the project.
  • Contingency Fund – the contingency fund that is included during the conceptual budgeting phase should be based on the comfort level developed during the scoping/programming phase. The conceptual contingency fund will be used to cover unexpected costs that may arise during design development, material and labor escalations and other unknowns or budget misses that may occur prior to preparing of the final construction budget.

Upon completion of the conceptual budget, it is beneficial to all parties involved for Cambridge to further clarify what has been specifically included.  This is accomplished by preparing a conceptual Scope of Work and a conceptual Exclusions and Clarifications document for the potential client.  These documents, used in conjunction with the conceptual budget and floor/site plan, allow for clarity in what has been included in the preliminary budget, detecting unknowns and specifically identifying scope exclusions.

Although our preferred method of conceptual budget development is not performed as quickly as standard $/SF pricing, we believe the method laid out above leads to a more complete and more accurate preliminary budget that potential clients can utilize for their internal evaluations and decision-making processes.

Did you enjoy reading this blog?  Take a look at our other blogs from 2018 and 2017.  You can also view the Cambridge Infographic to learn more about the process we utilize from initial contact with potential and existing clients.   You can also check out more on our website dedicated to the waste industry to see all the services that we have to offer.

Lenny Zelms – Pre-Construction Services

Cambridge Companies is a design-build firm based in Northwest Indiana specializing in solid waste facilities and a lot of experience with commercial projects.  Click here to see current projects and our portfolio of commercial and solid waste projects nationwide such as transfer stations and hauling companies.  We also offer a variety of architectural and design services to facilitate your project from conceptual design through the use of the facility.

www.cambridgecoinc.com

(219) 972-1155

     

February 29, 2019
Living with an Invisible Illness

A Journey of Pain, Fear, and … Thankfulness

As you can see by the title, we are deviating from our normal business blogs this month to share a more personal side, because as we all know, it can’t always just be about business.  It also needs to be about the people that put their time in every day to help keep businesses around the world running.  Employees are the lifeblood of every business, so we wanted to share one employee’s struggles and how we dealt with them as a company.  Even though what they are dealing with isn’t visible, everyone has their own struggles. Hopefully this helps everyone to understand that sometimes you need to take a step back and try and see things and understand things from the other persons perspective before jumping to conclusions. We hope you enjoy it!

“I’m not a person that wears their emotions on their sleeve… or a sharer.  In fact, I’m more of the type to bury emotions and ignore them because tomorrow they are going to change and I learned a long time ago, you either control your emotions or they control you. I know that burying my emotions isn’t the best coping mechanism, but it’s one that has suited me throughout my life.  The reality is, that it’s getting harder and harder for me to cope in this manner.  Presently, I have a hard time not emotionally reacting to situations, even when I do everything I can to not; in fact, I cry a lot, a lot more than I ever have.  It’s not been easy to deal with and it gets harder every day to realize that I probably can’t solve all my problems on my own, especially having always been a self-reliant person.  But let me back up and tell you the story of how this has become a major issue in my life.  

About six months ago, I started having episodes or attacks, of what my initial doctor visit concluded, were panic attacks.  Unfortunately, the medication I was given didn’t help, nor did the relaxation exercises that I was taught to do.  In fact, over the next three months, the issues worsened and became more and more debilitating.  I began feeling dizzy; light headed to the point of feeling like I was going to pass out; experiencing heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats and having my heart pound in my chest as though it was trying to jump out; inability to control my body temperature; numbing/tingling in my arms/legs; blurry vision and even loss of vision at times as well as other symptoms that I have probably left out.  Needless to say, these were scary episodes and nearly every time I was brought to tears, just to cope with the stress of what I was experiencing.  In early November, I was supposed to go on a business trip to Arizona for a meeting.  I had to call my boss five hours before the flight to tell him there was no way I could get on a plane as I had just spent three hours laying on my couch, trying to stop my heart from pounding out of my chest.  He understood and told me we would work out my attendance to the meeting via video conferencing and how to handle my work schedule moving forward.  I visited doctors, saw specialists, underwent multiple tests and blood work, ended up in emergency rooms and urgent cares and had limited my time going anywhere without assistance.  I was dizzy 90% of the day so I couldn’t drive myself anywhere, including to work.  I relied on my significant other and family to help me do anything related to leaving the house.  I had begun feeling exhausted nearly all day, every day.  It was hard to get up in the morning, which I would try to do multiple times throughout the morning, and even harder to concentrate when out of nowhere another episode would occur.  Even though I understood my work didn’t want people working from home, this was an exceptional situation and they allowed me to do what work I could, when I could from home.  After going to a company holiday party in early December, I was encouraged by the owner to go to a highly reputable research hospital nearby since I wasn’t getting answers from the doctors I was currently seeing.  I ended up going to this emergency room the next day.  I was admitted to the hospital for observation and testing to determine what the health issues were.  I began seeing specialists for a number of things at this hospital and am still doing that to this day.  A number of my symptoms have been resolved, no longer only managed, and they are working to treat the underlying illnesses that were discovered to be causing all of the issues I had been experiencing.  I have more energy now than I did four months ago and I’m hopeful that every day I get a little more energy and feel a little better.

I was able to return to work full time in mid-January after being out of the office and working from home for nearly 2.5 months.  I’m still not 100% but am doing everything I can to get back to a relatively decent manner of living as I was barely surviving for a while there.  I do a lot of things beyond seeing doctors, taking medicine and having tests or blood work done.  I see a chiropractor, massage therapist, and acupuncturist as well as take supplements daily to maintain a decent balance and am working on changing my diet.  I’ve started talking to someone to help deal with the emotional roller-coaster and grief of being wrecked by illness and having your life turned upside down so quickly.  This journey has been long, painful, emotional… I know it’s not over and I’m scared, I’m scared every day that something else is going to happen and that my life is going to change in more ways than it already has.  It’s sometimes harder to manage because I look healthy on the outside but am not so much on the inside.  Allowing people to not understand and being okay with them not understanding is part of this journey.

Perhaps at this point, you think I’m just rambling or that it’s time to hop down off my soap box and stop sharing so much.  Your sympathy and empathy for my situation is welcomed but not expected.  I know there are thousands of other people out there going through much more than I am and fighting battles that most of us will probably never know anything about. 

I wrote this because I want to thank all those that were there and understood, that checked in on me, that made me leave the house even when I didn’t want to, that worked with me through my erratic emotions (even if they thought I was being irrational) or helped me get somewhere when I couldn’t get there myself.  I want to thank those that let me alter my way of living for a time and heal rather than constantly worrying if I was going to have a paycheck or be able to pay the bills next week, those that allowed me to take time when I needed it and understood that my intentions were to be thankful, appreciative and not intended to take advantage of them or the situation and that if the choice was in my hands, that this is not the road I would have chosen.  I want to thank those that didn’t ask questions when I looked like I might not be able to handle it and those that reached out from far and wide, who I hadn’t interacted with in awhile or hadn’t even spoken with in months or years, and especially those that were going through their own hell and dealing with their own tragedy that still gave when they didn’t have much to give.  I would even thank those that stayed away and didn’t ask questions because maybe they didn’t know how or weren’t sure if they should because sometimes, I just didn’t want to talk about it and constantly telling the story was emotionally draining as well. 

My experience has made me realize that having family, friends, coworkers, bosses and anyone else show the amount of compassion that I have experienced… it makes a difference.  It makes the burden easier to carry.  It makes the emotional roller coaster easier to navigate.  And it makes being forced to wear your emotions on your sleeve, after a lifetime of burying them, easier to handle. “

While this is only one story, which we greatly appreciate our employee sharing, we must all understand that many people out there are dealing with personal issues in their own way. As owners, leaders and managers it is our job to reach out to them and understand and help them in any way we can. On a personal level, it’s our job as humans but from a company level its our duty. Employees are every company’s greatest asset and need to be cared for as such.

Did you enjoy reading this blog? Take a look at our other blogs from 2018 and 2017. You can also view the Cambridge Infographic to learn more about the process we utilize from initial contact with potential and existing clients. You can also check out more on our website dedicated to the waste industry to see all the services that we have to offer.

Jeff Eriks – Vice President, Business Development & Marketing

Cambridge Companies is a design-build firm based in Northwest Indiana specializing in solid waste facilities and a lot of experience with commercial projects.  Click here to see current projects and our portfolio of commercial and solid waste projects nationwide such as transfer stations and hauling companies.  We also offer a variety of architectural and design services to facilitate your project from conceptual design through the use of the facility.

www.cambridgecoinc.com

(219) 972-1155

      

January 29, 2019
Annual Project Planning

Figure 1 – Project Planning

It’s this time of year when customers begin to reach out to us regarding projects they want to get completed in this calendar year. However, as many of you may realize, it’s about impossible to design, permit and construct a project in 11 months. The reason most people try to accomplish this is because accounting principles and capital budgeting often require that projects that are approved get completed within a fiscal year. While some smaller projects like remodels and such can be done in this time-frame, most ground-up projects need 14-18 months to complete the entire process, depending on the scope and complexity. What we typically recommend to clients is to budget design and permitting for one fiscal year and construction for the next fiscal year. This helps to spread out the funding needed for the project over two years and allows for the proper planning and contingency time needed to complete the design and permitting process. To be clear, you still want to start this process in May or so, and not wait until September, otherwise you will still have a time crunch in the next fiscal year.

Our process layout is pretty simply:

  • Step One: Scoping phase; work with the client to determine the parameters for the project, set up the basis of design, prepare conceptual drawings and finalize a budget and schedule. Typical time frame is 4-8 weeks depending on type of project.

  • Step Two: Design phase; prepare total design package per the scope and budget defined in step one. Typical time frame is 7-12 weeks.

  • Step Three: Permitting and Procurement; these run concurrently. Permitting can take anywhere from a couple weeks to several months, depending on where you are at. Procurement (bidding) takes about 4 weeks to complete.

  • Step Four: Construction Phase; as you can imagine this is a large window of time due to the various natures of construction projects. But assume 4-12 months.

As you can see, not including any internal client approvals, the schedule balloons to 12 – 20 months of total project timeline. You definitely need to make sure you plan projects accordingly.

For more information on our process and how we can help you, feel free to reach out to me directly!

Did you enjoy reading this blog? Take a look at our other blogs from 2018 and 2017. You can also view the Cambridge Infographic to learn more about the process we utilize from initial contact with potential and existing clients. You can also check out more on our website dedicated to the waste industry to see all the services that we have to offer.

Jeff Eriks – Vice President, Business Development & Marketing

Cambridge Companies is a design-build firm based in Northwest Indiana specializing in solid waste facilities and a lot of experience with commercial projects.  Click here to see current projects and our portfolio of commercial and solid waste projects nationwide such as transfer stations and hauling companies.  We also offer a variety of architectural and design services to facilitate your project from conceptual design through the use of the facility.

www.cambridgecoinc.com

(219) 972-1155

      

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