Marshall Erdman is unique among design-build companies. April Terreri focuses on the company’s prescription for success as a designer and builder of health-care facilities.
Marshall Erdman & Assoc-iates designs and builds high-performance health-care facilities. The company built its 50-year-old hallmark reputation by focusing only on health care, and by providing value and quality in the planning, design and construction of health-care facilities throughout the country. Based in Madison, Wis., Erdman operates seven fully staffed regional offices to better serve clients in all parts of the country.
“Whatever the technical demands of your project, we’ve faced similar ones before,” says Dave Braucht, director of architecture and engineering. “We understand medical practice requirements, including their equipment needs and special planning considerations.”
The Erdman approach is based on its specialized experience and its contracting method. Since 1951, Erdman has planned, designed and built more than 3,000 medical facilities in 48 states, including ambulatory-care and acute-care buildings ranging in size from 5,000 to more than 500,000 square feet. Its clients include many of the most prestigious medical institutions in the country, small rural hospitals, HMOs and single- and multi-specialty groups of all sizes. Erdman takes total responsibility for each project it undertakes. “If the results are good, we take full credit,” says Jim Hans, director of construction. “If we make mistakes, we fix and pay for them and we don’t blame anyone else. We have never been sued by an unhappy client.”
No one knows more about health-care facilities than Erdman. The entire company is focused on health care; it’s all they do.
The company’s staff includes expert professionals in planning and programming, architecture, interior design, engineering, construction and building commissioning for health-care facilities. Erdman’s specialized knowledge includes facilities’ needs and the complex, changing issues facing owners and health-care facility managers. Customers that choose Erdman eliminate the learning curve for their planning, design, engineering and construction teams.
“I never wanted to compete on equal ground,” said Marshall Erdman, the company’s founder. “I always look for something that will give us an advantage. By specializing exclusively in medical facilities, we have an advantage we can pass along to our clients.”
Rare Service, Well Done
Erdman’s unique, specialized, integrated (single-entity) single-contract approach to design-build covers what Penn State University research cites as the four critical success factors for projects: 1) assembling a good project team; 2) allowing team members to behave as a team; 3) experience of the team members with the type of project being undertaken; and 4) communication. This method meets the needs of the many owners moving to design-build to lessen the risks caused by the two-contract delivery system – which often results in buildings that don’t perform as they were intended, and an awful lot of litigation.
The two-contract system causes headaches for the owner because the architect’s legal obligations (under separate contract with the owner) and the contractor’s legal obligations aren’t parallel. In this system, the owner (whether he or she knows it or not) warrants the architect’s plan and specifications to the contractor – who must perform strictly in accordance with these documents. If the contractor does so, he or she cannot be held responsible if the design proves defective.
The architect tries to provide complete and accurate drawings, but they are never entirely complete and accurate. The clarifications that follow result in many nuisance change orders – some of which can be very large and problematic. Most of the time, the owner just pays the extra cost because the architect’s contract does not require perfection or success – only a good-faith effort consistent with the Standard of Reasonable Care.
In recent years, architects and contractors have responded to these difficulties with several new forms of two-contract delivery, including bridging, “design-build” and expanded building commissioning. Their common denominator is an attempt to create some collaboration, communication and teamwork between the architect and contractor. But this form of “design-build” is still a two-contract approach. The architect and contractor still have conflicting goals and contracts, and the owner is still stuck between them, with more risk than he or she might realize. If the “design-build” under consideration has two contracts, the contractor has probably not assumed responsibility for the design or the drawings.
In addition to bridging and (two-contract) “design-build,” many in the field are expanding the concept of building commissioning across the whole delivery process. All three – bridging, design-build and building commissioning – attempt to infuse quality into the two-contract system. The reality to many, if not most, owners is that there is a pervasive lack of quality in the performance of the building and the systems. The substantial completion of many projects is merely the start of a lengthy shakedown period for myriad building-systems problems.
The Total Leader
Erdman is a leader in building commissioning, because the company’s total-responsibility approach creates disciplined teamwork between the architect, engineers and contractor throughout the entire design and construction process. “Total building commissioning is inherent to the true design-build process,” says Scott Saunders, director of engineering.
Under single-contract design-build, the design-builder is responsible not only for the completeness of the drawings and specifications, but also for the construction and adequacy of the design; the company is even responsible for the adequacy of the building for its intended use. With single-contract design-build, the design-builder is responsible for the building and its systems as a whole, not only for the design, engineering and/or construction.
Erdman’s total-responsibility design-build process meets customer expectations by combining the company’s resources and its motivation to resolve design and construction issues as they arise. Its process establishes a collaborative and cooperative relationship between the designer, engineer and contractor, with the common goal of a high-performance building. Erdman’s integrated (single-entity) single-contract design-build has proven to be a superior form of design-build. By combining everything into one company, Erdman eliminates the layering of contingencies and profits by allowing them to be pooled in the single entity, rather than being held separately in each of the participating companies. This results in lower total costs, and establishes lines of communication, policies and procedures to determine important cross-discipline issues, to solve problems and to coordinate the work of the entire team.
Erdman’s experience and specialization sets it apart among all the health-care design and construction providers in the country, and its total-responsibility design-build approach gives owners peace of mind and keeps its clients coming back. “We get hired because of our extraordinary experience and specialization,” says Steve Davis, principal with Erdman. “Then we get hired for their next project because we did such a good job delivering their building.” More than 60 percent of Erdman’s design-build volume comes from repeat clients who swear by the Erdman experience.