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Control & Automation

$20M Project: Dealing with Change Orders

Two years and counting on this project, the consultant is still only in the "eye of the storm" with hardware still changing. This is where most integrators lose all their profit.


Mark Sipe · October 28, 2011

Hard to believe I have been on this project for over two years and writing about it for over a year and a half. All the good times. I’m not the first to work as a consultant on a residential project of this type, but these series of articles have struck a chord. I have tried to show the project with all its successes and blemishes.

I hear integrators are using the articles to show builders that every project has its problems, but you have to work through them. Others have told me they never want to work on a multi-year project or job of this scale. Probably a good call, you have to want to work at this level and have systems in place to pull it off. The clients and trades doing this work aren’t very forgiving; get it right or we’ll get someone else. There’s no room for anyone but a team player who knows how to close out a project.

Acoustics, Lighting, Seating
We have been addressing the acoustics in a couple of rooms, and we think we have an acceptable plan that will satisfy all parties. The coffered ceiling in the Grand Room is acting like one big diffuser; have to love all the trim, recesses and angles. The client continues to make a few changes, but nothing with any impact.

Vantage stopped by to see how we were doing with the lighting. The panels are works of art.

Given that theater chairs have a six-month lead time, we have been looking at our options. Right now VIP Cinema Seating is the most interesting, we still need to do some research before pulling the trigger, but the seats will be chosen first on style, second on quality and third on price (well maybe second on price).

The woodworking is coming along nicely, curved 9-foot pocket doors. This client has always had an eye for detail, the fit and finish will be amazing. While it looks like we are nearing the end, I expect another nine months before move-in at the earliest.

Change Orders
The detail work will take time to get it right. This is where most companies lose money. You must balance the amount of time bid vs. the needs of the project. If you bid too low, you might get the job but lose money. I have never seen a large custom home come in on the projected date mainly due to the client changing the design along the way. If the client changes one thing, it can ripple across half a dozen subs or more.

Change orders are where most companies lose their way. Either not tracking all the changes or trying to rewrite the contract to include the changes. A little advice: Never change your contract! Deal with change orders as separate contracts that are bite-sized and easier to manage. Too often change orders left until the end of a project lose their value and become negotiating points at the end. The companies that have figured this out thrive on changes, the ones that haven’t get stuck.

We are in the eye of the storm, the highest winds are in front of us not behind. The last 10 percent of any project is the hardest. Our hardware is changing, the programming has evolved and we have to decide what to change and what to keep, if we even have that choice if something is discontinued. Speakers need to be painted, finishes need to be nailed down. See, it’s starting already.



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  About the Author

Mark has been both a commercial and residential integrator and systems engineer for over 25 years. He works with Builders, Homeowners and Architects to design and support all types of projects around the world. He is also a software developer (SalezToolz) and mad scientist/inventor (Xspot Products) all developed around what he saw as a need for the businesses he works with and supports. He has been a CEA Mark of Excellence judge the last 6 years and CE Pro Best awards Judge. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Mark at marks@abacusprime.com

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Lighting · News · Media · Slideshow · Installation · All Topics
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