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Project Managers Are Like Ducks In Water 

Welcome, 2024! We’re happy you joined us. If you read our December blog, you know that 2024 is truly a NEW beginning for S3 Interior Design. We moved, our team has changed, and we’ve jumped full force into project management-mode, following through on projects that were previously in design mode. 

In case (throughout all our announcements) you missed it, our work doesn’t end after your space is designed on paper, we also coordinate and oversee the construction of your project. “Isn’t that the job of the general contractor,” you may ask? The answer is… it depends. If you’re looking for continuity from the concept of your project to putting the final piece of art on the wall, then hiring a designer who can also project manage is a great fit for you! 

What does it take to manage a design-build project, you may also ask? Well, let’s just say… it’s all in the details, and, if done well, it will appear seamless and easy. Like a duck floating smoothly above the water while their little legs paddle madly beneath the water. It appears calm from the outside, but the duck is paddling hard to stay afloat. The Project Manager of a renovation or new build assumes a pivotal role in bridging the realms of creativity and execution.  

Unlike traditional project approaches, design-build demands a seamless collaboration between the design team and the construction team. In this scenario, the project manager acts as the conductor; orchestrating a synchronized effort to ensure the project moves forward to successful completion. 

At the core of effective project management lies leadership and communication. A Project Manager must develop a cohesive team, encouraging collaboration among professionals with diverse experience and opinions. They must also integrate the client into this communication without creating overwhelm or confusion. The client should feel like the project is “easy” with their project manager at the helm. Clear communication channels are crucial for translating design details into actionable construction plans. Constant and transparent communication reduces potential issues and ensures everyone is on the same page. 

Before implementation even begins, the project manager must be able to define the scope of work, develop a budget, and investigate potential hurdles. At S3, the project management role begins during the design phase. We believe in pricing your project mid-way through design, rather than waiting until the end. This allows design adjustments to be made if the construction costs are out of alignment with the budget. 

Trade Day is another critical step in our S13 (step) process. We engage with the trades and consultants on-site during the concept phase of design. This allows for early collaboration and problem solving so that the design can move forward with more knowledge and better direction. If you want to learn more about Trade Day, check out our blog from July 2023.

Once construction begins, adhering to timelines is crucial. These timelines need to be scheduled into the calendar in advance, allowing input from each trade and consultant involved with the project. The conversation about scheduling begins immediately after the design process is complete. We create a colour-coordinated calendar (yes, we are designers at heart, lol), each trade or consultant has their own colour. This creates an easy visual to see when each trade begins, and how many days they have to complete their work. We try to build in a bit of “breathing room” to account for time over runs or unexpected delays.  Delays can have cascading effects and cause fatigue and frustration. The ability to pivot the team and reassure the clients are two important characteristics for a successful project manager. 

Finally, the success of a design-build project hinges on delivering quality work. Project managers review site conditions throughout the implementation process, ensuring that each trade is following the design intent and producing a quality result. Clients are updated regularly and feedback is offered to every team member throughout construction. 

Overall, bringing a design project across the finish line takes time (a lot of time) and attention to detail. It’s understanding all the pieces of a project and communicating them to all the parties involved. It involves site visits, paperwork, problem solving, and reassuring. It’s hard yet rewarding work, because at the end of the project, there’s a homeowner or business owner who now have a space they love. 

A dream that began as a napkin sketch and a Pinterest board is now reality. The ups and downs of design, budgets, timing, and construction are done. The construction team is proud of the work they completed, the client is thrilled, and the Project Manager can rest their little duck legs until another project begins again!  

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