Planning and programming at Payette is integrated into our practice. Even though it is part of our design DNA there are specific individuals, and I include myself among them, who dedicate their skills to those early planning and programming phases of a project. In terms of Payette’s work, designing for university and corporate scientific research as well as healthcare projects, it’s easy to understand the need for those skill sets. As our clients conduct complicated research often with various environmental requirements and technologies there are a lot of “moving parts” to consider in the early project phases. We consider components such as; options for the site, varying use typologies, growth scenarios, phasing, desired architectural expression and client goals. All these elements require attention when organizing an early design approach that will best serve a client.
Focusing on the client drives planning and programming and it’s important to know how a client or institution works in order to best deliver a tailored response. With Payette’s deep experience in those early phases comes the understanding that many of those we seek to engage – the end-users – rarely have the opportunity to work directly with an architecture firm. They have little experience in the process. To ensure information flows smoothly it is important to communicate in the early meetings, and throughout the process, the project plan.
Key concepts to address include:
- The nature of designing a building. Describe the project timelines and typical milestones that can be expected.
- The importance of end user involvement. A more detailed description of design and construction phases is required, along with communication of the importance of their (the end-users) role.
- The design team. An introduction of those with whom the end-users will be meeting is essential. Draw a clear picture of the project team structure – this structure should include the client’s own decision making framework as well. Provide detailed descriptions of the roles of the architectural and engineering teams.
- Challenges to the status quo. Acknowledge that the design team, at the programming stage, is present to assess current space, assist end-users in determining future need and then test those assumptions.
For the architectural planning and programming team the complex nature of scientific research provides opportunities and constraints that need to be navigated efficiently. The first course of action may be to default to one’s general working design knowledge and previous laboratory problem solving experience. However, relying on rules-of-thumb can limit a design response – every client has specific needs that should be addressed in order to deliver a well-crafted design and built space. The programmer may start by relying on their own observations and experiences in those early phases, but they should also be mindful of developing new ways to satisfy the research criteria of those who will occupy the building.
Detailed programming begins when overall building use requirements are determined. It is at this time that a planner/programmer discovers the scientific heart of the project. Often the space requirement data is tracked in a tabular program and specific room organizational details are tracked on Room Data Sheets that depict an idealized plan, environmental standards and locations of utilities. Once those room areas and requirements are developed and accepted, oversight is required during the later design phases to ensure that needs determined in the early design phases are met in the final design. Often parameters of design change during the later design phases and this is a normal thing. Planners/programmers must be sure to revisit the project goals with the client and design team to make sure that evolution of those goals is understood by the client/end-user and the design and construction team.
Those idealized plans developed at the outset of project design can be variable due to staffing changes, the fast paced evolution of scientific technology and the need to meet evolving market forces. These revisions are not uncommon; they reflect a typical, iterative design process. They do, however, test the financial models associated with the project and the carefully planned construction schedule. By creating strong planning documents from the early phase the Architect, Client and Construction Manager can assess the impact of the proposed changes and determine the most efficient way to meet the needs of science, the design goals and schedule.
As long as everybody is informed, communication is clear and the overall project goals are tracked, the success of the project can be insured. With continued attention to the client, clear documentation of their early requirements, and continued assessment of those requirements as compared to the evolving design, a high quality, tailored architecture can be achieved.