ACE is a joint venture of the American Institute of Architects, Associated General Contractors, and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia, to educate and promote best practices of the design and construction industry.

ACE had its second forum on June 18 at the College of William & Mary. Approximately 100 members from the three organizations attended to hear what those who lead the design and construction efforts at the College of William & Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University had to say.

The panel consisted of the following participants:

Jeff Brancheau, PE – W&M Director of Facilities, Planning, Design & Construction
Mary Cox, FAIA – VCU University Architect
Jean Kennedy Sleeman, AIA – ODU University Architect
Terry Woodhouse – NSU Director of Capital Planning and Improvements

Great dialogue was exchanged regarding upcoming projects and long-range planning, how to get work, SWaM, sustainability, and procurement vehicles. Audience members shared their desires for university leadership to be transparent in consultant selection, provide uniformity in standards, and define the expectations of value engineering early in the design process. The event was followed by a networking reception that allowed for more intimate conversation with the panelists.

Upcoming Projects and Long Range Planning: Each university panelist spoke in depth of their upcoming capital projects and provided spectacular insight on its long-range planning. These opportunities for design and construction professionals crossed a wide spectrum of building types that include academic buildings for the sciences and athletic facilities. The panelists shared this information to allow attendees an opportunity to formulate a strategy in pursuing these opportunities.

How to Get Work: The panelists shared what they want to see in the RFP responses that design professionals submit. How can you stand out from the crowd in developing a proposal? Here are the top items these decision-makers look for:
• BCOM Experience (particularly for NSU)
• Project Experience as a Team
• Readability of Proposal
• What Do Your References Say About You?
• Similar Project Experience
• Who is the Project Manager?
• Make Sure the Interview Team is “THE TEAM”

SWaM: Each university is committed to the success of Small, Women, and Minority-owned businesses. There is a strong desire to be sustainable and use local talent while spreading the work to various firms. One key takeaway that was shared by a panelist is that leaders of SWaM firms should ensure that they receive training on procurement tools such as eVA.

Sustainability: This portion of the discussion touched not only building sustainability but site sustainability as well. For example, ODU faces significant challenges with implementing the required stormwater management policy. This is an issue that craves innovative design-thinking. There was a general consensus that LEED is the sustainability design metric being utilized at each campus.

Procurement Vehicles: The Term Contract is the procurement vehicle used by these universities to establish relationships with consultants, often on smaller-scale projects. This makes these contracts incredibly competitive. There was a general consensus by the panelists that this contract vehicle was preferred over Category B contracts. The use of Public-Private-Partnerships is rare for these universities. VCU has the most experience with this vehicle while others have not taken this step.

The next ACE Event is being planned for the end of September to host higher education clients in the western side of Virginia.