Last time I promised to talk through a series of challenges we’ve faced and how we’ve overcome them. Now I have a lot of great stories from working all over the world but I have to admit, I’m struggling to find any that aren’t just a little bit sensitive. Some are even commercially sensitive for us but we feel that it’s the solution that defines us, not the problem. To that end, I’ll keep these confidential. Only the names, places and events will be changed…
Last time I discussed the importance of the design brief and I hope this little story doesn’t argue against it. On a recent job in India, we had begun with the kick off design team meeting which aimed to complete the design brief and some outline routing plans to enable the masterplanners to begin planning the surrounding real estate. With everyone agreeing the brief, we all set about our tasks which for us was the detailed design. The tender package was completed and we proudly delivered the package with a presentation to the development team. This team had grown in numbers since we last met including a golf team to deal with the contract implementation, agronomy and operations. It took us 10 weeks design and a two hour presentation to convey our design for this executive length golf course, but it only took three or four seconds for one of the golf team to say “this should really be a championship course, I’ll ask the chairman if he’s sure he still wants an executive length course”. With that, the chairman changed his mind and now wanted a full length course. The design brief could not have been clearer on the requirement for a short course and it was signed off at the time by the client. However, in the real world, we do understand that things change over time and, in this case, were ready to amend the design to a full length course within a few weeks. As designers we have to be ready to adapt to the clients requirements at a moments notice. I would consider a project successful when all the owners needs are met, not necessarily the designers. If we can do both, that’s a real result.
On a recent project which we bid together with a well-known golf contractor, the project timeframe was being pushed to the limit right from the start. The owners had their own very important reasons for finishing this golf development by a certain date and we were under no illusions. When the bid was won, we all agreed the timescales and how the programme could be pushed to produce the result they required. This included airfreighting construction equipment, working 24 hours on site in triple shifts and cancelling public holidays for the foreseeable future. These are all possible you understand, just not very cost effective! However, there was one fundamental mistake at the start of the project which will never be forgotten. One of the ways in which we could shorten the timescale was to have the contractor mobilising as the design was being completed. This meant that the contractor had a fixed price lump sum golf construction contract on the basis of a concept masterplan. Unusually, IDG as architects were not privy to the construction contract and were kept at arm’s length. Therefore, we had no ability to advise the owners properly on the various kinds of contracts available and the potential for a re-measurement contract which would have undoubtedly saved a lot of headaches through the construction process when discussing for example, whose responsibility it was to distribute utilities within the site. e.g. power to borewells. This kind of issue was commonplace throughout the construction process. However, an understanding owner, a great contractor and IDG as mediators, every issue was resolved amicably and to the expected level of finish. The moral of this story is that we can resolve most issues as they arise but perhaps we’d all have a little more hair left on our heads if the design process and the construction contract were given a bit more time.
On another recent golf course build across the other side of the world, we saw some real outside the box thinking in order to speed up construction. IDG staff were contracted on a full service basis meaning we could be on site as much as necessary to ensure the quality of works so the owner knew quality would not be compromised. On knowing this, he decided to hire three separate contractors all of whom were given a nine hole contract. Then the owners placed a $1 million dollar reward for whichever contractor finished first. On reflection, we think this cut construction time by at least 35%. It’s amazing what a bit of financial motivation and pride can do to the speed of construction!
I wont drag on with any more anecdotes – you get the idea. One last thought before the plane lands in Doha..
In golf development design and construction, almost every issue we’ve seen can be overcome. It’s the bigger issues that threaten projects such as political instability, fluctuations in the lending markets, natural disasters and even personal circumstances of key people. However, these are largely out of the control of the owners and would be risk factors in whatever business they may be in. So if you’re a developer and are looking at including a golf offering in your next project, our advice would be to consider it on its merits but certainly don’t discount it as difficult or unfamiliar. There are professionals to help with every aspect.
Jon Hunt :: Group Director