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Author Topic: How did you pick your church sound supplier?  (Read 3817 times)

4String

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How did you pick your church sound supplier?
« on: May 03, 2005, 10:05:46 am »

I have been asked to take the lead on sourcing and installing a new sound system in our church.  I am looking for some advice on how to proceed to select the supplier.  

I arranged a seminar about church sound and the pastor etc. now understand:
a)that you need to use a firm that is well experienced in church sound and
b)that it will be expensive.  (I have taken the position that either you do it right or you don't do it at all) - the presenting vendor provided us with a ballpark price.

I see 2 alternatives:
a) identify three competing vendors and ask for competitive quotes (to be candid - neither myself, nor anyone in the congregation, has the expertise to evaluate anything beyond the $ at the bottom)
OR
b) evaluate the potential vendors and select the one that you feel understands the church needs, will do a good job, has experience/references in similar sized venues, and will be there for post install service

I like the second alternative and have permission from the elders to proceed with the project on the basis of selecting a single vendor to work with.

Has anyone else taken this path?  Any comments, pitfalls to avoid, advantages etc.?

Any advice on how to proceed? i.e. selection process?  evaluation process? etc.

Any input is welcome.

Thank you


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Dan Brown

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2005, 10:15:59 am »

Exactly where are you located at?  

Myself and others might be able to help you out with reputable companies in your area.
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Dan Brown
REACH Communications

Trev Belec

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2005, 11:50:57 am »

Hi there,
I noticed that you are located in "The Great White North", So are we. Our company, Yake Engineered Systems, is located in Ontario.We are a pro audio company dealing almost strictly with the church industry, in which we have done over 400 churches over the past 18+ years. We work all around Ontario, and have even made a few trips down to the east coast a couple of times. We would be happy to talk to you about your church and the necessary system that you would require. We take the same kind of attitude about any work that we do, that the quality of the system exceeds the need to hit a certain price point, and therefore be forced into sacrificing the ability or quality of the system. We definately enjoy the design and build process a lot better, because then we can address the real needs of the church and work towards that, rather than, be forced into a certain dollar constraint.
If this information is of interest to you, and you would like to follow up with it, please don't hesitate to contact us at your convenience using the info at the bottom of this post.
Thanks for you time,
Trevor Belec

Yake Engineered Systems
180 Edgehill Drive
Kitchener, Ontario
N2P 2C6
(519) 653-8542
(866) 653-8542
info@yakesystems.com
www.yakesystems.com
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4String

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2005, 12:54:28 pm »

We are located in Burlington, Ontario, Canada
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Dan Timon

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2005, 02:49:01 pm »

Caveat: I am not an audiovisual consultant, but perform many of those services at my day job. I am not financially tied to any any consulting firms.

Because
Quote:

(to be candid - neither myself, nor anyone in the congregation, has the expertise to evaluate anything beyond the $ at the bottom)


I recommend option c) which you have not mentioned, which is to first hire a skilled audiovisual consultant like Tom Young, who is the moderator for the Church Sound Board.

Why? Because you need an objective, unbiased expert to review your church's needs, design a system that meets your needs, analyze the particular acoustic challenges and needs in your sanctuary, recommend vendors in your area who are competent in providing what you need, and can evaluate the system during and after the installation. When you choose a vendor, you are potentially limiting yourself to the kinds of products he is a dealer for, and you are potentially limiting yourself to the vendor's experience. While many have a great deal of expertise in your kind of installation, some are not as experienced and may be Guitar Center clerks by day, or are not up-to-date on the latest technologies or measurement techniques. Lots of small AV companies do not even know how to properly align the speakers in a sound system. But you will not know this, because any of them will run rings around you, when it comes to talking the audio jargon. It is easy for a techie to appear to be an expert, when he is talking to a non-techie.

Seriously, give Tom Young a PM ( he travels) or find an audiovisual consultant in your area.

Regards,

Dan Timon
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Jay Ballard

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2005, 10:13:55 am »

I agree with the post offering Option C.  The best way, especially if you don't have design experience, is to hire an experienced consultant that is not specifically affiliated with any manufacturer.  There are a number of them available throughout the US and probably the "Great White North" as well.  By going with a third party, they can get what is best overall for your situation (your building, technical experience of your operators, project budget, etc.) without being tied to specific equipment they have on their shelf or what is being pushed by their corporate partners.

We are currently entering a building project for a new 3500-4500 seat worship center.  I have 20 years of experience in this business (and actually install and operate systems professionally on a regional tour level) and I am going to hire a consultant.  Having a consultant on board adds some "legitimacy" to the design for your elders.  They are used to having an architect design a building, why not have a consultant design your system?  This system is a major investment of money.  We are supposed to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with.

Remember, you are going to have to live with this system for a number of years.  You want the best you can get in order to bring glory to God.
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alyien

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2005, 12:07:42 am »

Hello everyone! As a new comer of this forum, please allow me to share my experience.

Our church hired a consultant from Toronto who is specialized in church acoustic and made purchase decisions based on his measurements, calculations and recommendations. As a result, we have achieved the following:

1. Avoid buying equipment that does not meet our requirement;
2. Avoid some other "experts" or vendors from questioning the effectiveness of the system design;
3. Established an more accurate budget;
4. Minimized the total building cost (very important for any church);      
5. Knowing what we build will definitely work. (The consultant has a guarantee on his work).

Being said that, thought the shopping process, quite a few companies (I mean reputable system builders)we have approached still insisted on their own custom "design" because they want to sell us what they carry and make money on installation!! Having this experience I totally agree with the previous replies suggesting the use of a consultant who is not going to sell you any product!

PS. It may be normal... but the consultant we hired has an unique attitude towards those who think they know acoustic Very Happy

Allan    

 
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?-kinda long
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2005, 08:02:28 pm »

I will agree with getting a qualified person in to help you.  That may or may not be a consultant (here comes trouble-more on that later).  Ask to be taken to jobs of simular size and worship style as yours that they have done and really talk to the people who not only are in charge, but who also operate the system, about what they think of the system and the people who designed it and installed it.

As far as price we usually tell people to expect the range of $75-125/seat.  This can go up or down-depending on actual needs.

Now here is what I am going to get in trouble about- MAKE SURE that the person who is doing your designing actually takes your needs/wants into account.  As many know I have a real distaste for consultants.  I know Tom Young well, but have not had the opportunity to work with him yet, but am looking forward to it.

Here are some of the issues that I have had with consultant projects.  This may be unusual, but ALL the consultant projects (we don't get that many-maybe 1% or less)that come to us are majorly flawed.  This includes some of the biggest consultant names in the industry.  They include (like the one I got this week) using large diaphram AKG mics as monitors, systems that require a person to hold down the system ON button for the entire service, a church that wanted 8 wireless and no patch bays-but got 6 wireless and $20,000 worth of patch bays, systems in which the main speaker (intellivox) was directly behind the pastor (couldn't get any gain there!), insert unbalanced paths that were 350' long, inserts for channels (gates/comps) that were located in the amp rack at the other end of the building,
paging mics and "local" mics that have no way whatsoever for the customer to adjust the volume (unless they get in the back of the amp rack with a small screwdriver and adjust), not having enough DSP channels for the main cluster, but having 2 channels of DSP for 2 subs sitting right next to each other, and 1 speaker manufacturer telling us should get an award for having the guts (consultant designed) to install a system that was designed for 400' throws in a room in which the back wall was about 80' from the cluster-and what a cluster %@#*% it was!.

I could go on and on and on and---, but you get the point.  I am not saying that all consultants are this way (and I have a lot that are professional friends such as Tom),but I have not had 1 single job to look at that I said was even close to being OK.

Be sure to check out their work by talking to the customers.  DO NOT take their word for it.

By all fairness, there are as many bad design-build firms out there that do just as bad a job, and many consultants have their own horror stories.  I am attaching a piece that I wrote about the issue of design-build VS consultant.
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Ivan Beaver
dB Audio & Video Inc.

Dan Brown

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?-kinda long
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2005, 08:15:42 pm »

Ivan Beaver wrote on Fri, 06 May 2005 19:02


As far as price we usually tell people to expect the range of $75-125/seat.  This can go up or down-depending on actual needs.



Ivan,
I heard that it should be it should cost as much as your chairs.  With churches putting in those nice theater type chairs now it comes in at about what you said.

Most problems we have had is with consultants that weren't just audio consultants.  They have stuff that they have done in the past and just pull that out again for the next project.  Just finished a project with a headache like that.  Not to much fun
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Dan Brown
REACH Communications

Dan Timon

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?-kinda long
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2005, 11:57:58 pm »

Ivan, you make great points, of course, and I agree with all of them. Nice work on that Word doc-that will be a valuable resource for a lot of people, and I hope that it gets a lot of use in church land. I have seen disasters and successes both in consultant-driven projects and design-build projects. For me, I like to modify the choice to match the needs of the job with the deficiencies of me!

To the original poster: my boss hired me because they needed an unbiased person who had strong familiarity with all aspects of the AV business, from design, installation, repair, procurement, maintenance, project management, to staffing, training, etc. They wanted a Friend in the Business (FITB), to help them make the choices they needed on new AV projects and building, staffing and maintaining an AV department.

You have to find a true FITB, who really knows the business, to help you in this process of designing and integrating a suitable AV system, because you do not have those skills yourself. While I am a permanent full time employee because of how much we do with AV, you just need somebody to help you with the project, and to call up once in a while to advise you about how to solve some kind of technical problem about who should fix this thing. The FITB might actually be the AV Consultant, or he might be the person who hires the consultant of system designer. In any case, the FITB should be the person who walks with you through to the end, and helps you sign off on it when it is completed. But you need a trusted unbiased friend with you in all of the crucial stages of the project, to advise you when there are problems, before they become crises.

The better you are at finding this trusted FITB, when he is not the AV consultant, the more likely you are to find a consultant who will find out what you need, design what you need, and give you the best, most cost-effective system that you need. He can also help you find the above qualities in a design-build firm.

It is critical that you, the FITB, the architect, the AV consultant and the AV designer knows what he does not know. I know, for example, that despite the fact that I own several thousand dollars of audio test equipment, I am not a competent acoustical consultant. I know that I do not know how to repair a TV set. Smaller design-build firms and consulting firms will both take jobs that they are not best suited to take, and one of the most important jobs for the FITB is choosing and evaluating the firms for fitness to do the required job-to make sure that they know what they know.

Since Architects employ Consultants, they bring the consultants into the project whenever they want, and because architects do not have expertise about your AV system or do not want to have their design compromised by something that is not important to them, the AV System may be severely compromised as a consequence. And the consultant cannot blame his boss to his face, so you are stuck with delays or extra cost or not gettingwhat you need. In the other method, an AV design-builder is hired by you, and typically you bring him in too late into the project because the Architect will say he is not needed yet, and your AV system may be severely compromised. The compromises often involve bad acoustics, high ambient noise, inadequate or improper power, or inadequate hanging points for speakers and screens, sun control and lighting control, equipment cooling or inadequate wire paths. Your FITB will know all this, so at this early meeting with the architect, the person who designs the project will be there with your FITB.


I fear I have not answered any questions, but I am passionate about the subject because I have seen too many unnecessary project failures. I especially dislike it when it is the Lord's money that is wasted, or the Lord's work compromised.

Regards,

Dan Timon
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4String

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?-kinda long
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2005, 12:51:10 pm »

To Ivan Beaver - Thanks very much for the white paper - great reading.

Here is a quote from your paper that is my opinion (and fear) in a nutshell:
What if the system does not operate correctly-i.e.: dead spots in the audience- certain functions not working as expected? If the contractor put the system in as designed, is it the consultants fault or the contractors?  Often there is a lot of finger pointing and blaming and in the meantime the customer is unhappy with both parties and just wants a system that works.

Your paper follows with a great list of decision criteria for working with a design/build contractor.  Really what you are saying is that the buyer must extend his due-diligence when evaluating a supplier and not take a hope-for-the-best approach.

Thanks again for your most valuable input.

And thanks to all the other forum members that replied.  Your comments are much appreciated.

4String
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Tom Young

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?-kinda long
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2005, 06:15:36 am »

Ivan has raised the hairs on the back of my neck. While I have no doubt that he and his company have run into some pretty sloppy and shameless consultant-designed systems, I do take exception to having all of us categorized in this manner.

There are a number of errors, or false assumptions, in his attached document.

First of all; we (I) am in close contact with both the manufacturers and reps and just as much as any contractors I know. No consulting firm that I know of receives any compensation from manufacturers other than the occasional invitation to a factory-sponsored factory tour or workshop and sometimes a dinner during a trade show. And while our expenses are paid for, our time is not. This is no different for contractors who also get invitations for the same types of factory-sponsored events.

For the record; any consultant who does receive monetary compensation for specifying any product should be shot, as this is in violation of the premise, assumed or stated, that the consultant is independent and is only in the employ of the project or owner. It's just wrong.

Ivan has overlooked one differentiating fact of life: in order to retain their dealerships the contractor MUST attend these factory tours/workshops and we consultants do not BECAUSE we are independent. The manufacturers have NO leverage with us. Likewise; the contractor must sell so many dollars of each brand in order to keep those lines. We do not. Therefore it is unavoidable that equipment selection decisions made by a contractor are effected by the need to keep their dealerships and/or sell what is in their warehouses. The reps I work with often DO receive compensation for spending time with us consultants, BTW. Bottom line: as an independent consultant I specify equipment only based on its merits for the applicatyion at hand. Period.

The examples that Ivan has provided of design flaws are obviously alarrming and should not have been tolerated. These aside, there are benefits in having a consuiltant design and competitively bid package as long as the winning bid (and this is not necessarily the lowest bid) is from a competent contracting firm. One is that the client gets a decent price. Another is that there is a "checks and balances" process so that any small errors that may be made or any complications due to site conditions may be observed by the contractor and then the consultant has the opportunity to work with the contractor (and others on site) to resolve these. Likewise; the consultant sees that the installation work done by the contractor is up to standard.

For every bad consultant that Ivan appears to have worked with there are more "contractors" who should never be allowed anywhere near a sound system installation. I personally thoroughly "vet" each bidder befor they go on my bid list. In my experience, there will be errors on both sides but these are all small ones. In a sound system design of medium-to-large scale it is unavaoidable. But these do not result in additional charges and (again) they occur on both sides.  I sincerely hope that Ivan does not proclaim to never have made a few small errors.

One point (and there are a few others) that I do agree with Ivan on is that the sound system design for churches in particular must be straight forward to undestand and operate. Because churches rely on volunteers these systems cannot be over-the-top in their complexity. This is true, BTW, for many secular performance venues as well.

Ivan and his company appear to be a very qualified outfit that does exemplary work in their geographical market area. However, his work does not come under the scrutiny that a consultant-designed system does because there is no other party that works with them to see the system get designed and built. Perhaps this is unnecessary in their case because I know Ivan and Mike to be very honorable and technically proficient folks. But I still maintain that the client is better served when they have a qualified design consultant working with an equally qualified contractor to achieve the best system they can afford.
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Tom Young, Church Sound section moderator
Electroacoustic Design Services
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?-kinda long
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2005, 09:46:38 am »

Tom:

I appreciated all that you have said, and understand why you said it.  Of course I am biased towards my camp (design/build).  We just redid a system this week that another design/builder did.  Tons of problems-including possibly issues with the cluster falling on the stage-not good.  The whole design was flawed.  This was a $500K (audio only) job with a major speaker manufacturer.  This is the 2nd one in just a few months in which we have come in and made the customer happy with a system that was 1 year or so young, by the same design/build contractor.  They only do expensive jobs.

I am biased against the consultants of whose jobs I have seen.  So therefore my window is rather small.  It is just that in all of them, I have not seen one that is not full of MAJOR errors.  I have lots of "oops" "forgot that" "how did I not count right" etc.  We eat the cost and make it good by the customer.  They are ususally small things, not major design flaws.

I have many consultant friends (yourself included-I hope still!), with whom I have not worked with.  There is no way that they can all be bad.  I will agree that there are just as many-if not probably more-bad contractors-than there are consultants.  It just seems that all the bad ones are drawn to us. Maybe so we will fix their problems HAHA.

In most of the consultant jobs that come across my desk, it seems as if the consultant never really talked to the church, as to what they needed.  A few years ago (and it is still around the shop somewhere) one of the MAJOR consultants had a completely designed job (down to the nth detail) for a job that was 5 years out.  They had a quote in the bid spec that said-and I quote "The needs of the customer are not important at this time"!!!!  Almost everything in the quote did not exist 3 years prior to the bid date, yet the job was 5 years away!  Who knows what equipment will be available at install date?  I guess so they could redesign the job for an additional fee? They also had many specs that simply add to the customers costs without adding any benifit to the customer.  Since most of these consultants are paid a perchantage of the job, it it advantagous to them to get the cost up as high as possible.  They want to to be paid based upon the origional bids-not what actually gets installed or value engineered.  Why is it so often that the consultants (that seem to come our way)can't give the customer any idea what the system will actually cost?  Many times all the bids are way over what the customer has budgeted.  The consultant should be able to give the customer a price that is within 20% or so of the total expense (at least that is my thought).  

I have seen several times in which the consultant speced equipment that there is no way they could have tested it to see how it performs, because if they did-they would not have speced it in that application.

We will not install any equipment unless we have it in our shop for us to play with and test, under our conditions-not demo type conditions.

I guess I would come down harder on contractors (a lot of them are just plain stupid-and give us a bad name), but they don't (as an group) proclaim to keep the customers best interest in mind.  So many of them just want to be the cheap and sell equipment.  We later come in and give the customer what they really need.  

My biggest gripe with the consultants that I have delt with (albeit a few) is the general statement that the customer needs to hire a consultant who will actually consult with them and keep their needs in the forefront of the project. Why did they design an LCR system with 3 exposed clusters, when the customer specifically wanted a "hidden" intellivox system- )that would be the right choice for the room anyway)? The ones I see do not, and are designing for what they want (gotta keep that cost up ya' know)-not the customer who has to live with the design.

I figured that my post (and paper) would ruffle some feathers.  I guess it is a slam towards consultants in general (but not all in particular).  I do not see my job as work.  I take imense pride in what I do, and do it to the absolute best of my ability.  I just wish others would do the same.

I still don't understand why a speaker wire needs to be spliced 5 times between the amp and the speaker.  Just more work and more chance for failure.  We got another job in from the same consultant last week and it is still so full of needless "fluff", that the church is going to be overwhelmed by the cost.  If done as designed it will probably cost well over 3 time what it should.  We have done several jobs for this particular customer (and they are happy with them), but somebody must have gotten to somebody and told them they need to get consultant involved since this is a "real" room.  I know what the needs and capabilities are in the church, and this system ain't it.

We'll get together and swap "nightmare" stories.  I probably have as many contractor ones as consultant ones, but at least the customer was not out as much money with the contractor ones.

We, as people, get stereotyped all the time, from where we live, to the color of our skin, our sex, religion etc.  Stereotypes do have a basis, but there are just as many exceptions to the rule, as there are those that meet it.  I count yourself and myself as exceptions to the rules for the particular stereotypes we have of each others "side of the fence".
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Can I have some more talent in the monitors--PLEASE?

Ivan Beaver
dB Audio & Video Inc.

Phillip Graham

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Re: How did you pick your church sound supplier?-kinda long
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2005, 12:15:54 pm »

Hey Tom, I think you know my comments are not meant to slight consultants (heck, I've thought about doing consulting), but just some observations from a knowledgeable outside observer:

Tom Young wrote on Wed, 25 May 2005 06:15

Another is that there is a "checks and balances" process so that any small errors that may be made or any complications due to site conditions may be observed by the contractor and then the consultant has the opportunity to work with the contractor (and others on site) to resolve these. Likewise; the consultant sees that the installation work done by the contractor is up to standard.



Here in Atlanta, at least, the checks and balances system you speak of does not work well.  I have friends at most of the major contractors here in town (e.g. Baker, SPL, TIP) and they, almost without fail (a couple consultants excepted) end up fixing boneheaded things the consultants do without feedback to the client, OR the consultant, about what the issues were.  The client usually doesn't know and/or care, and the consultants tend to be very unreceptive to criticism from the contractors.

Quote:


For every bad consultant that Ivan appears to have worked with there are more "contractors" who should never be allowed anywhere near a sound system installation.



This, to me, would seem to speak in favor of a good design/build, because if the design is good, I would hope the install would follow.  Your vetting of contractors works well too, obviously.

Quote:


In a sound system design of medium-to-large scale it is unavaoidable. But these do not result in additional charges and (again) they occur on both sides.  I sincerely hope that Ivan does not proclaim to never have made a few small errors.



Again, I have not seen good communication back and forth over what the errors are, and I have seen some major ones (e.g. incomplete or non-existant drawings).

Quote:


However, his work does not come under the scrutiny that a consultant-designed system does because there is no other party that works with them to see the system get designed and built.



Contractors need work, most are going to "smile and nod" when they get passed a consultant gig, even if they essentially end up redesigning it.  If the design turns out good, and it actually is the contractors doing, the benefit goes to the consultant!  One consultancy in the Atlanta area in particular (whom I've mentioned to you) would (unknowingly) be sunk on lots of projects if they chose another installation contractor.

Quote:


Perhaps this is unnecessary in their case because I know Ivan and Mike to be very honorable and technically proficient folks. But I still maintain that the client is better served when they have a qualified design consultant working with an equally qualified contractor to achieve the best system they can afford.


I agree that this particular arrangement should, and does, work out well, but I struggle to see how it is much different than an equally good situation from a design-build.

My cents tossed in,
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Phill Graham

Doctoral Candidate

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

The Georgia Institute of Technology
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