Q & A with the Felderman Design Team
Greg DeWeese (VP of Design Services, LEED AP) and Mike Scherman (CAD Detailer, LEED Green Associate), are Felderman Design-Build's in-house conceptual experts. They work together with clients and project managers to create stunning designs and drawings for a variety of different industries. They also assist with the planning and permitting phases of the design-build process. Some of their current projects include the Murray Equipment expansion, Sabert expansion, and the TrueCore manufacturing facility.
What is the design-bid-build process? G: Traditionally, all of the design work would have to be done upfront, prior to construction commencement, which is a slower process. Design-Build allows us to do phases of permitting and then construction while the project is still evolving. For example, we may not have the structural drawing complete while we're starting permitting. So, we work as we go along versus doing it all at the beginning. This results in a much faster completion time and significant cost savings for the client. How has the design process changed over the years? G: I think what clients are going to see in the future is designers taking these 2D models that we typically do and turning them into 3D. The advantage of 3D is that it can show us where the differences might be between architectural drawings and structural drawings. For example, you might see a beam or a pipe and be able to spot a possible interference during the build. It's all moving towards 3D design now. M: We recently had a project where we created a 3D model so the client could look and see all of the trusses and details on the interior perspectives. From the client point of view, what would be a good way to explain the value difference between traditional and design build? G: I see one of the biggest values for the client being the single source of responsibility. We cover all of the bases from concept to completion. When a traditional architectural firm produces documents and sends them out to a general contractor or a project manager, they become kind of hands off, outside of maybe some site inspections during the project. Then, if problems occur during the build, you tend to get a lot of fingers pointing between the contractor, the design team, engineers, etc... At Felderman, it's a team process. Everything is communicated internally which is a huge benefit and time saver for the client. When clients come to you with their budget and their concept, how do you reconcile those two things? G: We always try operate within the realistic realm of their budget while at the same time respecting that this is their dream or vision. One of the advantages of design-build is the contact between the design team, the project manager, and the client. We're all on the same page and communicating throughout all phases of the project. I like to joke that it's a disadvantage as well because sometimes we do have to re-center and make sure we're all doing what's best for our client regarding budget or design.
How do you work with clients to develop their vision for their project? G: We help them grow their idea into a real concept that has validity to it. Then we examine how they are going to use that space. How many offices are they going to have? How much open space? They might have management teams, engineering teams, sales staff…. We look at how they all interact within that space to find the function and we discuss that with our client before we begin the design process. The relationship that we develop with clients helps us understand the process for their facilities. By getting to know their employees and facility you can determine the functionality that they need. Does having a relationship with clients drive your design process? G: Certainly, and that's true of any project we do. Our tagline "building relationships" is something that really stems from the beginning of the company. When Russ Felderman began he was all about developing relationships with customers and he was even building for his friends. Those relationships turned into multiple projects over time.
Do you keep your eye on projects after they've "left" the design department? M: Once it's through the concept phase, I then take it through the detailing phase and work with the project managers on the drawings that they need. G: Then I go through the code reviews and permitting process but after that I’m hands off until the end when we finalize the permits. Mike, what is your favorite Felderman project? M: AWS Foundation. It was such a close project and I had the opportunity to see a really sequential process of building. I was involved with some initial design concepts and then with the project manager, so just getting exposure to all of that before I went into the detailing was really beneficial to the overall process. Plus, I enjoyed being able to see the finished building. Greg, what is your favorite Felderman project? G: I really enjoyed the Community Foundation building here in Fort Wayne. Part of that has to do with what it meant to our client, Don Steininger, and his involvement in that project. It was something that he had wanted to do for a long time and was a truly heartfelt project for him. Being able to help him, collaborate with him, and see it come to fruition was very meaningful to me.
Greg, you've been with Felderman for 35 years, what continues to make Felderman different than other design-builders?
G: Our experience. We've been doing it longer and we're more familiar with trends as they evolve. A newer firm might be familiar with what's current but we've seen where these trends have started and how they've taken off. So, we now have the ability to foresee where things are going because of that. We also have the advantage of our relatively small size. At a larger firm, a client might deal with 3 or 4 different project managers and they aren't getting the same continuity of information that they'd have by working with one project manager throughout the entire project. Our smaller size means that we can focus on building a strong relationship with our client and meeting their needs.