Building Is a Team Sport

Though we each play our own roles in the design and construction process- clients initiating (and paying for) the project, architects creating the design, consultants lending specialized expertise, and contractors turning the design into a finished building- none of us can do our jobs effectively alone. It takes all of us working together toward a common goal to make a project successful. When we approach the process with an authentic spirit of teamwork, the collaboration becomes truly enjoyable as well. As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

Attitude Is Everything
LS3P experienced this next-level teamwork on our recent project with East Carolina University to renovate Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The project team involved a number of diverse players: LS3P as Architect of Record, AECOM as Design Architect, and TA Loving and Frank L. Blum  in a joint-venture partnership as Construction Manager at Risk. The ECU project team also included multiple entities representing both facilities and athletics. As with any large, complex project, our team was multidisciplinary and diverse. What made this endeavor so successful, however, was our sincere commitment to collaboration, communication, and win-win solutions. To a person, we shared the mindset of working for the greater good for the client and the project, and this attitude shaped our team process at every stage.

An Integrated Game Plan
Advance planning for the project began in November of 2015, and the completed stadium opened to fans in September of 2019. Over the course of almost four years, we were fortunate to keep many of the same key team members on board. We collaborated closely from the earliest project stages about building systems, light fixture packages, the structure for the elevators, and other key decisions that impacted the budget, schedule, and design. The continuity of team members was invaluable when we had to coordinate details and remember how and why particular decisions were made, and the early involvement of the contractors helped to inform the team’s decision-making process at every step for smoother progress in the field. It also helped that we were all deeply invested in the project. Most of the leadership team for the contractor graduated from ECU’s construction management program and of course brought their “A” game; we all wanted to exceed ECU’s expectations and do everything right the first time.

Everyone in the Huddle
One of our key success factors was the amount of time our team built in for communication. We did a lot of talking. We were all on board with texting on the fly for quick questions to keep things moving, trusting each other to follow-up with official documentation in a timely fashion. We relied on Facetime conversations from the project site so we could reconcile details in real-time, even on days when we were in different cities. The contractor frequently reached out to ask questions as they arose to confirm our design intent before proceeding. Although they could have made assumptions or forged ahead in the field and hoped for the best, the construction team was really committed to quality and consensus, and the design team was committed to being accessible and responsive in return. Facetime saved us a great deal of driving time and became a vital tool in keeping the project moving forward day-to-day.

Teamwork, Not Perfection
One reason that we all started the project as coworkers and finished the project as friends is that we agreed from the beginning that none of us were expected to be perfect. It’s easy in this industry to start pointing fingers and assigning blame when questions arise as to how to solve problems in the field. Our team knew that we’d encounter the usual project hurdles, but since we’d already decided to skip the step of assigning blame when we had a hiccup, we could easily move straight to finding the best solution for the client, the project, and the team. Keeping the focus on resolutions made for a much better process, and an excellent end result with a high quality of construction.

The initial project scope was a masterplan for ECU Athletics campus, which included a series of studies for the press box tower, renovations to the Ward Sports Medicine Building and Scales Field House, along with site options to expand tailgating opportunities. Then final scope included demolition of the existing press box tower, construction of a new tower including clubs, suites and support spaces, and partial renovations to the Ward Sports Medicine building. The new design accommodates not just game days, but also special events throughout the year. Ultimately, the project yielded a huge win for all involved: the client, the design team, the contractors, and of course the ECU athletes and fans. Though teamwork is always a goal, it’s a delight to be part of a team with this level of authentic collaboration and commitment to excellence in the process and the product. Working toward this caliber of teamwork for all of our joint endeavors in the architecture, construction, and engineering industry, we can pave the way for phenomenal results for our clients and a more productive and efficient design and construction process for us all.

About Laura

An architect with extensive experience in a diverse portfolio of project types, Laura Miller serves as LS3P’s Wilmington Office Leader. Her strength lies in her ability to develop relationships with clients and building users in order to truly understand how each person might experience the design from all aspects.

A graduate of the School of Architecture and Environmental Design at Kent State University, Laura is “tried and true” LS3P. She started as an intern in 2000, served as design team member and project manager for a wide variety of projects, and became a Principal in 2010. Notable recent projects of Laura’s include the Cape Fear Community College Union Station Building, East Carolina University Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Southside Renovation, Live Oak Bank Headquarters (Bldg 1), and the Wilmington Convention Center.  She has also designed a series of prototype behavioral health facilities that have been built across the country.

Laura’s work has been recognized in recent years with awards from AIA North Carolina and AIA Wilmington for exceptional design as well as multiple Lower Cape Fear Stewardship Awards for commitment to sustainable building practices.