Guest Column - July 2009
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Design Corner:
Responsive Planning, Responsive Projects

By Janet Jordan

Design Development

The design development phase defines what the project is made of. Technical systems are detailed, materials and finishes are selected and the construction sequence or phasing is determined. The budget is often officially scrutinized by an estimator, the construction manager or contractor, pricing the material quantities and systems that comprise the project design. If this effort identifies budget breaks, an engineering exercise is conducted to bring the budget back into balance through multiple methods from changing materials and systems to reducing square foot size as a last resort.

Construction Documents

Following the previous steps, this phase literally puts everything into written form, including the instructions to build the project and translate it to precise scale drawings and specifications. The documents prepared are the foundation upon which the bids or final estimate of costs are determined.


As a public project, the determination of who will construct is made through a competitive bid process, and awarded based on lowest and best bids. This process may be managed by a professional construction manager who selects multiple subcontractors, or the bid may be awarded to a single general contractor who in turn selects the subcontractors. The design-build construction delivery method initially partners a contractor with the design team for an integrated process from the beginning.

Construction Administration

This involves regular meetings and visits to the project construction site to communicate and answer questions about the construction documents to ensure the design intent is met. Requests for information are issued in written form by the contractors to ask or clarify questions about the project on anything from the curve of a wall and the connection of two pieces of steel to the depth of asphalt and proper turf seed mix.

On-time responses and collaborative problem-solving are essential during this phase.

We started with the question, "What is the definition of 'shovel-ready'?" The answer may be determined by the project type, engineering, energy-efficiency upgrades, land and water projects or buildings. However, the conclusion of the schematic design phase or when the project idea has been vetted and approved by the local officials, administration and citizens is often a logical pausing point. The project scope has been defined and fully priced to include construction, permits, contingencies, design fees and any other unique aspects. Approximately 20 to 25 percent of the design fees have been consumed with adequate dollars accounted for in the budget to complete design and construction.

While the term "shovel-ready" may not have a single accepted definition, a ready-to-go project must be based on reliable and responsible information to promote economic recovery, increase economic efficiency and provide long-term economic benefits.


Janet Jordan is a recreation planner at Moody-Nolan Inc., an architecture, interior design and civil engineering firm specializing in healthcare, education, sports/recreation and public service facilities. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Moody-Nolan is the largest African-American-owned and -operated architecture and engineering firm in the nation. For more information, visit