Over the past three years, MOA has teamed with Pinkard Construction on two design-build projects for STRIDE Community Health Center, a community-based healthcare provider in the Denver metro area. The projects included a renovation of the organization’s North Aurora Family Service Center and a tenant improvement project of their main Administration building in south Denver. The tenant improvement project brought all of STRIDE’s administration functions together under one roof. Previously, they had their administrative staff split across five different locations around the Denver area.
Strong design-build partnerships are more than strategic marketing. Katie Vander Putten, Principal at MOA ARCHITECTURE, and Mark Bokhoven, Director of Preconstruction at Pinkard Construction, who were the respective team leaders for these projects, sat down to discuss their successful partnership. An edited and condensed version of a conversation with the two of them appears below.
How did the Pinkard + MOA team originally come about?
Mark Bokhoven (MB): When the clinic renovation project first came up, both Pinkard and MOA were working on separate projects for STRIDE. The original RFP included a concept plan, so — knowing Katie over at MOA and being aware that they were working with STRIDE — I thought it only made sense to ask for her thoughts on the layout.
Katie Vander Putten (KVP): And once Mark shared that concept layout with me, I immediately had suggestions. There were clear areas where the layout could be adjusted to improve patient experience and just the overall efficiency of the facility.
MB: So even though it wasn’t asked of us, Pinkard teamed with MOA as a design-build partner and went into the interview stage of the project as a team.
KVP: We felt it was important to establish up-front the sort of collaborative project this would be. Plus, we were truly interested in providing them the best possible space to provide their services.
This project came in 45 days ahead of schedule and $80,000 under budget. How did the team manage this?
MB: To be honest, Katie and the MOA team were key to that success. STRIDE’s original plan involved two separate phases and included a relocation of the clinic’s pharmacy. Katie looked at the plan and suggested that it would be more efficient to do the project in a single phase and that expanding rather than relocating the pharmacy would better serve STRIDE’s patients and staff. Based on those insights, we were able to develop a construction plan that kept the pharmacy fully operational, with the only downtime being over a long weekend. Those changes played a big part in the savings mentioned.
KVP: I think a big reason for the project’s success was the approach outlined by Mark and Pinkard from the very beginning. At the start of the project, we didn’t even talk about schedule or budget. Instead, Mark posed a question to the owner: “What does success look like for you on this project?” And once we had some ideas out on the table, he asked a second question: “How can we get there – to that vision of success – given the budget and the other constraints that we have?” I think that creating a shared vision for the project was so important to the success we had.
How did the nature of the project itself — a community healthcare clinic — influence your approach?
KVP: First off, a lot of credit needs to go to the owner for the success of the project. STRIDE is a community healthcare provider that doesn’t perform much development work of this scope. Their work is providing exceptional healthcare to their community, not developing buildings. So they really trusted us to guide them through this process.
MB: That’s right — how we worked with this client was very different from how we would have worked with a developer. We really tailored our meetings to them, adapting our language and making sure that we had pictures and visuals, ensuring that everyone understood the implications of what we were talking about.
KVP: Because STRIDE has such a community focus as an organization, I conducted lots of user group meetings, meeting with nurses, administrative staff, maintenance staff, and others to ask them about their dreams for the space. Getting their buy-in was so powerful, because it allowed us to provide a space that they felt really addressed their wishes and needs.
MB: Another thing we did that had a big effect was putting pictures of end users in our meeting minutes, keeping the people who would be using the clinic at the top of our minds even when we were deep in the details. With these users in our heads, it helped us make sure that we were maximizing the value of every dollar being used.
KVP: Looking beyond the process, I also loved how this project was so much about creating a sense of ownership for the community served by the clinic. That made it such a rewarding project to be a part of — how this was truly about offering an environment that would help the community of patients and staff thrive and grow. I always think of something one of the stakeholders told me about the official opening — that one of the clinic’s longtime staff members burst into tears when she saw the completed space, she was that excited and thankful.
What else stood out about this design-build partnership?
MB: Well, it’s a little generic, but communication really was the biggest thing. I think that our teams ended up having a certain level of trust with one another that was so critical. We insisted on calling each other and talking about issues like scope changes and increases in price. We didn’t surprise each other — we knew what was happening at each step of the project, where the design was headed and what our end goal was.
KVP: Communication was so key. Another thing that I loved was Pinkard’s approach to team meetings. Mark also included these little “ice breaker” exercises that encouraged the entire team to really get to know one another. I always felt like that set such a great collaborative tone for getting things done in a meeting setting.
MB: Another thing that stands out is how much fun we have as a team. We also had a great owner on this project, who brought this great energy to everything — really helping us see how we were making a difference and doing something great for a community.
KVP: I think that sense of camaraderie played a huge role in the success of the clinic renovation, and it really set the stage for STRIDE to just hand our team the next project, a remodel of their Administration building in south Denver.
What was different about the Administration building project?
KvP: I think the focus on collaboration and teamwork was possibly even more critical to the Admin project than the clinic project. Even though the admin project was office space – compared to the more complex healthcare program areas of the clinic – the admin project demanded a huge commitment on the part of the owner to change their company culture. The admin project brought together nine small offices under a single roof, and then incorporated them into an open office plan. So this was a sea change for them. In their previous locations, every staff member had a single office and at the new location no one did. Everyone – from the CEO on down – was given that same equitable work space.
MB: That’s completely right. And again, I think the relationship that we had as a team with the client was so helpful. Throughout the project, we were able to keep them informed from week to week and make sure that everyone was aware of the cost impact of certain changes. That was critical to the success of this project.