Program projects, meaning multiple sites for the same retailer, comprise a significant portion of our Land Development team’s work. While these projects can be comfortable and feel like it’s “another XYZ project,” after working on as many as we have, we know they offer some unique challenges. Here are some tips to keep in mind when working on program projects:
- Don’t Copy and Paste. One of the most important things to be mindful of is that not all sites are the same, so you can’t treat them that way. You may be able to incorporate ideas or elements of a previous design, but you can’t copy the exact design from site to site and expect it to work. There are different constraints from the site itself (size, topography, etc.) as well as different jurisdictional requirements that will affect the design. Each site has specific challenges, even if they initially look straightforward. Therefore, it’s important not to overlook the unique qualities of each site. This seems obvious, but it can be easy to get into a “cookie cutter” mindset, especially if you’re designing one right after the other or simultaneously.
- Get Organized. Depending on how many program sites you have going at once, it can be very easy to confuse the details of each. While it is important to be well organized for every project, it is especially important that you maintain good files and notes for program jobs. It’s also critical to be prompt in filing correspondence and notes in addition to responding to items in order to minimize the chances of things getting confused between projects. We’ll often get an unexpected call from the contractor, the client, or another consultant about one of our many program sites, and having organized files helps immensely in keeping the details straight during those discussions. You know what works best for you to be organized – it’s all about being diligent and actually using your organizational strategies.
- Communicate Well. One of the benefits of program work is that you have the same client or possibly two different clients that you are working for on all these sites. Having these established relationships makes it easier, but you still need to be proactive with communication. Just like a non-program client or a new client, these familiar clients still need to be kept up to date on progress or issues with the current project. Don’t take that relationship for granted or assume they know how everything with the current project is going.
- Check Your Team Coordination. Similar to your relationship with the client on program sites, you typically work with the same architect for each of the projects. While responsibilities almost always remain the same, it doesn’t hurt to make sure there isn’t something about this project that would make it different. Maybe the jurisdiction requires an architectural site detail to be included in the civil plans or vice versa. It’s also important to make sure items such as utility connection locations, downspouts, etc. are coordinated for each project. You can’t assume they will be the same as on the previous project since they are site dependent.
- Do Your Due Diligence. With some exceptions, you are working in a different jurisdiction for each site, so you are dealing with a different city/county every time, sometimes working in DOT’s right-of-way and sometimes not. That being the case, the idea of standardized program work does not apply to the due diligence and permitting phases of the project. There are no carryovers from project to project when it comes to due diligence. Thorough due diligence is important for every site, program or not, and the research that was done on the previous project has nothing to do with the next one. Likewise, just because permitting went smoothly with County A on your most recent project, you may run into a longer or more difficult permitting process with County B for your current project.
Program sites are great for your company since there’s typically a snowball effect for more projects down the line. Being aware of each site’s unique challenges and staying organized in your files and communication will help you nail your current jobs and increase the likelihood your client keeps you in mind for the next set of sites.
About Suzy Mansfield
Suzy Mansfield, PE, is a Project Analyst for the Land Development – East Division in Tampa, Florida. Suzy graduated from Louisiana State University in 2012 with a degree in Civil Engineering. She has been working at Foresite Group since her graduation. She enjoys working on several of our program projects in Florida and the southeast region.