What is coordination and why is it so important? First, the definition:
“Coordination is the process of organizing people or groups so that they work together properly and well.”
From my experience as an infantryman in the US Army, proper coordination and communication – prior to actual boots on the ground – is vital to setting your team up for a successful mission. Infantry teams coordinate with other teams such as artillery, mechanics, medics, and others to make the mission go as smooth and safe as possible.
Much like the military, here at BIG RED DOG we believe that coordination and communication is key to completing a successful project. This is especially important to establish early on between the architectural and structural teams to avoid problems down the line when they are harder and more expensive to fix: things like columns in front of windows, beams too low in egress paths, unexpected openings in shear walls, or misaligned slab edges. People are human, and mistakes happen, but many common problems can be averted simply by communicating clearly, early, and often.
To make the process easier for both the architect and the structural engineering team, here is a short list of items that can make a project start-up successful and set the stage for smooth coordination throughout design and construction. Not all apply to every construction type, but this is a good place to start.
Things the architect should provide the structural team:
- CAD files or a Revit model (an obvious one, but worth noting)
- PDF files (useful for reference or for sketching over)
- Titleblock (CAD or Revit)
- Detailed edge of slab location (Things will be moving around during SD, but by early DD, slab edges should be set. If this is communicated with a CAD file, be sure to let the engineer know what layer they should be referencing and put only slab edges on that layer. If it is communicated with a Revit file, the slab itself must be modeled accurately relative to walls and finish surfaces.)
- Column locations (unless this is deferred to the structural engineer; and everyone should know and agree on who controls column locations!)
- Floor-floor heights, cavity depths, and toppings
- Anticipated cladding materials
- Areas with structure to be left exposed, including concrete floors, and discuss expectations for finished appearance
- Openings or special features not clear from the floor plans (such as clerestory windows, skylights, or awnings)
- Drainage scheme for roof (sloped structure vs tapered insulation)
- Expected parapet locations and heights
- Any areas still in flux that the engineer should not start work on yet
Within a short period of time, the structural team should provide these things to the architect:
- Anticipated shear wall or brace locations (where openings should be avoided)
- Approximate column sizes
- Whether for permanent expansion joints are required
- Feedback on feasibility of spans and floor structure depths
- Feedback on feasibility of glazing locations and sizes
- Areas requiring special structural attention or materials
- Any simple changes that could make the system more efficient
This is a good beginning, but it’s only the beginning. When in doubt about anything—ask, request, inquire, or query; or notify, inform, advise, or apprise via email, phone, fax, telegraph, or carrier pigeon. At BIG RED DOG we believe that it is never possible to over-communicate. Plus we like to hear your voice.