How to structure bi-coastal project?


Hi Folks,

My firm is about to sign a very prestigious and large residential project on the West Coast but we are based on the East Coast. I will likely be the project manager for this project and will need to assemble the consultant team, etc in the coming weeks. Any tips on how to structure a deal like this? My thinking is our team work up to 50% DD's and do full interior fit out and develop the design concept for exterior and primary plans, elevations, sections and critical details. Local team can do CD's, permit set, code review, engineering including seismic, etc. We would share the CA responsibilities. 

This sounds ok in concept but can get very tricky in my experience as the personalities and culture differences between firms can have a great influence on how the project plays out. Any tips for how to navigate a deal like this or more broadly thoughts on the AofR/Design Architect or Local VS out of town Architect dynamic?


Jul 16, 17 8:59 am

I try to work locally and do all the scope in house to avoid this sort of dilemma.

Why not just have a local agent and do the rest were you are?

Jul 16, 17 12:16 pm


My experience has been the "local" has inherent dislike for the out of town-er that creates annoying friction.

I "practice" in three cities, but I try to only do tasks that allow me to do it without depending on an outsource too heavily.

Jul 16, 17 12:23 pm

get licensed in the West Coast... let me guess... you aren't licensed anywhere...

Jul 16, 17 1:21 pm
Had a friend experiencing a similar situation. Principal wound up just getting the license in the state of the project. (PM not licensed didn't need to be). It's a big/high profile project done by a small firm that has the potential to lead to many more.

Ended up being way cheaper / less time consuming to get the license and travel etc than pay for the coordination/consulting. You can't perfectly estimate the amount of coordination involved but it almost always ends up being more expensive than to do it in house.

You're totally right about the attitude, local coordination firm doesn't have the sense of ownership/obligation as architect of record (regarding design intent, speediness) and will likely inflate their fee with coordination, endless teleconferences and emails etc. I'm experiencing this now and it's a huge headache and waste of our time.

Makes sense with a different country across an ocean etc where flights and lodging are big costs, but not so much with a ~5 hr plane ride and moderately priced lodging. Also makes sense if client has a specific local architect as in my current situation.
Jul 16, 17 2:35 pm

Use a local PE as AoR and maintain full control of the project.

Provide full services with the stipulation that the PE contracts directly with the owner but works under your direction and supervision.

Rent an apartment / cottage near the site to use as a satellite office and be prepared to travel frequently. 

Jul 16, 17 4:09 pm

via Train if possible, but only if one brings one's own food and drink.


Thanks for the input everyone. 

My only comment is that this project is large and complex enough that it would be intimidating as a first a very first project in this state so we are leaning towards partnering with a local architect. It's more than just a licensing and location issue. I am going to make a responsibilities matrix to help define roles between us and the local arch. 

Jul 16, 17 10:08 pm

Sounds like a crisis of confidence. Maybe you should tell the client to find someone else.

Non Sequitur

Miles is not wrong here.... too many "prime" architects divy up the work load slicing themselves the fun and easier tasks while saddling the local guys with the tedious and time consuming ones thinking it's a fair split. It never is and chances are the local guys will end up running the job. If the job is too big for you, pass and let someone more experienced take the hits.

Then I'm sure you will find many firms ready to partner. But they are all pretty busy right now here is California, where I am also busy.

Jul 16, 17 11:16 pm

Maybe slice your current firm into two pieces and send one of the halves to CA?

Jul 16, 17 11:17 pm

Please send me the half.

Jul 16, 17 11:18 pm

Investigate what it would take to get your firm 1) set up to legally practice in Cal and 2) have someone from your staff live out there during permitting and construction.
There is no substitute for "boots on the ground".   It may not be cheap to do, but working with a subcontracted architecture firm is not easy either.  I have run across very few firms that will play the "local architect" role well.  Teaming with someone you have never worked with on such an important project seems risky to me.

Jul 17, 17 2:18 pm

My firm is involved in a pretty extensive museum restoration project that is in located in the Midwest, while we are located on the East Coast.  Technically, we are the consultant, but the local architect trusts us enough to let us take the reigns on almost all aspects of the exterior envelope, site, and public portions of the interior. 

In terms of how this project is organized, we did all of the documents SD-CD and in CA now.  Our PM or PIC is on site every 2 weeks, and we had to fight for this in our contract.  The owner thought it strange that a consultant would be on site so often, but as we have so much scope, it was necessary.  As someone stated before, there is absolutely no substitute for getting your eyes on the building.  The local architect documents everything, keeps communication organized and moving, code review, owner's rep/client meetings for their scope, etc., In this project, it works to both firms' advantages because the local has more scope in the office and administrative spaces so they can focus their time and energy there.  The local architect also assumed we would be relocating a PM or PIC to be on site daily, but frankly that just doesn't work with our current project load so we do the best we can remotely.

Jul 17, 17 2:39 pm

Thanks and I really appreciate the practical advice. 

Jul 17, 17 11:44 pm

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