Collaboration On Unique And Custom Interior Projects
Many manufacturers offer both standard and custom product lines, and the promotion and sale of the two categories of products differs dramatically. Standard product promotion requires an in-depth knowledge of the line and all possible variations. The ability to answer technical questions, provide literature and samples and, ultimately, give pricing to the contractor and distributor is important.
Custom, unique, or one-of-a-kind products and systems require a completely different approach, and a different set of skills. First and foremost, there must be an atmosphere of trust and respect between the design professional and the manufacturer’s representative. An independent industry representative can bring to the project team years of experience working with many talented designers, and a history of working on a variety of different projects. Bear in mind that the project representative is providing this service at no additional cost to the architect or to the project (above the cost of the installation itself).
Typically, the first meeting between the architect and the representative is a fact-finding meeting. The representative asks the architect to describe the project, the design concept, project goals and expectation. Usually, no specified products are presented or discussed at this first meeting; rather the representative listens and takes notes. The collaboration has begun.
Discussion of potential materials and systems usually begins at the second meeting, which may take place several weeks after the first. At this meeting, the representative will present many different material samples, details used in past and current projects, and photographs. Again, there is much note taking and conversation, usually resulting in a decision about which direction the design is to take.
At this point, the representative can begin to select appropriate materials, samples, and systems, and to compile technical data that will assist the designer in the continuing evolution of the design. The designer and the manufacturer, in conjunction with the representative, will begin to develop details in caD format that can ultimately be incorporated into the construction drawings. caD involvement early in the process is very important to assure that the detail, dimensions, geometry, and concepts envisioned are possible. During this phase of the collaboration effort, the sample process is fine- tuned, the finishes,gauges, and actual material characteristics defined. Mock-ups of the suspension or attachments systems are developed and tested and renderings may be prepared to enable the architect’s client to view the proposed finished product.
The next crucial step in the process is the development of a precise, complete technical specification to coincide with the design of the project. This is very important to ensure that the designer and the client will receive what is expected. The specification is not limited to material characteristics, but includes detailed requirements for manufacturer’s qualifications with respect to experience, number of years in this particular business, number of projects of similar size and complexity, and track record. Single source responsibility is also required.
Finally, all of the details are complete, the architect has completed the design, the details are in place, and the project goes to bid. The elapsed time for this process, for a major project, can be as long as four years to bid, and six or seven years until the actual completion of the finished project. Obviously, the collaboration between the architect, independent manufacturer’s representative, and the manufacturer is an important tool in a successful project.
William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award