TZL 1457 (web)

The PDF edition of The Zweig Letter.

September 19, 2022, Issue 1457 WWW.ZWEIGGROUP.COM


Market research

Knowing what people really think will help you grow your business and serve your clients even better than you already do. What do they really think?

In Zweig Group’s 2022 Marketing Report of AEC Firms , AEC firm marketing professionals responded to the question, “Does your firm usually conduct market research projects in-house or are these projects outsourced?” Eighty-eight percent said their firms usually conduct market research in-house. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

I t’s important to know where you stand with your customers and prospects in the marketplace. As an engineer, you work with owners who may only build once or twice during their lifetime. That means you only have one chance to make that first impression. If most of your work is repeat, it’s also critical to know what keeps your clients coming back. It’s important to know what other people think outside of your own firm. This is known as branding. Through market research, you can learn what the marketplace perceives as your brand. That’s because you don’t determine your brand – your customers and prospects do! (With that said, your firm can and does have impact on your brand, which must be very intentional.) There are some simple ways to help you determine your firm’s brand perception and direct your marketing dollars to make the most impact. Conducting brand perception surveys is one of the easiest ways to find out what clients, prospects, and industry partners think about your firm. It does take a little time and money, but it’s well worth the investment. This primary research allows you to determine what each segment perceives as your firm’s brand. It’s much easier to have someone who isn’t directly involved either in the operations of your firm or in a particular project, so utilize your marketing department or find an outside consultant to conduct these surveys. It’s also recommended you keep the individual answers anonymous, so you’ll receive honest feedback. The first step to completing these brand perception surveys is to make a target list. This should include 10-40 contacts throughout your marketplace. (If you have multiple locations, then do this for each office location.) The breakdown of your list should be: ■ ■ 30 percent current customers ■ ■ 30 percent prospects

Lindsay Young

FIRM INDEX AECOM....................................................................... 10

Balfour Beatty.......................................................12

EYP.................................................................................. 8


Juniper Design + Build......................................6

MORE ARTICLES n DAN PISELLI: Following through on AIA 2030 Page 3 n Real connection: Heather Thompson Page 6 n LEO MACLEOD: Boost productivity by time blocking Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: The great timesheet dilemma Page 11

■ ■ 30 percent past customers ■ ■ 10 percent industry partners

This range will give you valid information about your firm that will help you market and sell your services. Prospects will be the most difficult




Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Shirley Che | Contributing Editor

Liisa Andreassen | Correspondent Tel: 800-466-6275 Fax: 800-842-1560 Email: Online: Twitter: Facebook: Group-1030428053722402

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An industry partner is a firm that works collaboratively with yours. For an engineer, it would be the architect, contractors, subcontractors, or vendors/suppliers. Interview the project team outside your firm. Although you don’t pay one another, you work very closely on projects together and have relationships with these other firms. Industry partners know your firm and work with your competitors, so they understand your industry and can make recommendations and suggestions. Many times your current and past clients offer valuable insight on the process they’ve been through with your firm. You are too close to operations, so sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. Having a client explain the experience or make a recommendation based on their experience helps you come up with different ideas of delivering your projects. Many times, through this research, you discover their request actually costs little to no money to implement (besides setting it up and communicating with employees). Other times, the client comes up with some crazy ideas – but use those to generate other more realistic improvements that you can implement. The individual survey results should not be shared with anyone besides the person conducting the interviews. This guarantees anonymity for the contact being interviewed and he or she will likely be more honest with their answers. The interviewer can then assemble a summary and raw results to share with the team. Depending on the size of your firm, the summary should be shared with all employees. This allows your employees to learn more about your company and how they can play a role in the firm’s brand. They may also find helpful tips to working with clients, as far as what does and doesn’t work. Perception surveys aren’t for the faint of heart either. There may be some surprising or even hurtful words shared, but know that these will only help your firm grow and improve. It takes some self-reflection and you must be realistic with yourself. There are times where someone shares something that may not be true about your firm, but remember that is their perception. You can change their perception, but it will take some time to do so. You and your employees must be neutral and open-minded when reading the summary and results of perception surveys. Knowing what your clients really think will help you grow your business and service your existing clients even better than you already do. Zweig Group offers marketing, branding, and business development advisory services. Our team is led by professional services marketers who’ve spent their careers creating innovative, award-winning brands and results-driven strategies to build business in the AEC industry. Click here to learn more! Lindsay Young, CPSM is a marketing services advisor with Zweig Group and president and founder of nu marketing. She can be reached at

LINDSAY YOUNG, from page 1

to get to respond, which is why I recommend hiring an outside consultant to complete these perception surveys. Keep in mind some of your prospects should not be familiar with your firm or even know your firm exists. These would be your dream clients. The questions you assemble will be different for each segment, because they all have a different relationship with your firm. It’s important to have a well-rounded idea of what each segment experiences, because you may have a good perception from your vendors/suppliers but a weaker one with past customers. It’s important to know the perception from all parties that interact and engage with your firm. Formulating the questions needs to be a strategic process, because you want to ask questions that are leading. Remember, your goal is to obtain as much information about your firm as possible. The questions for each segment are going to be different. A quarter to 40 percent of the questions will be the same for all segments, but the others will need to be modified appropriately. Seventy-five percent of the questions should be open-ended while the others can be yes/no, ranking, or rating. Open-ended questions give you helpful insights to make real changes within your firm. The close-ended questions don’t provide as much information to learn from. Sending online surveys or paper surveys often don’t get you the information you really need to make business decisions. Perception surveys should be conducted face-to-face or over the phone. This communicates that your firm is making an investment to conduct these surveys – and you genuinely care about respondents opinions. It’s advised to not conduct online, web-based surveys, because you aren’t going to get a lot of useful information. It’s more difficult to get people to type detailed information instead of verbally communicate with someone. Face-to-face or phone surveys also allow the interviewer to ask follow-up questions should the interviewee not give a complete or detailed answer. It also allows the interviewer to find out why the questions were answered a certain way. This is much more effective and beneficial to your firm. For current and past customers, you will be asking about their experience with your firm. For your prospects, you’ll ask about their experience with other firms. For industry partners, you’ll ask about their experience from a working relationship point- of-view. You won’t need to ask prospects about the operations of your firm, because they haven’t had that experience. Getting ahold of prospects can be challenging, because they don’t know your firm. My recommendation is hiring an outside consultant to conduct these surveys.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Following through on AIA 2030

While the symbolic act of signing a voluntary environmental commitment is important, action toward honoring it is more meaningful.

A s the reality of our climate crises becomes more stark, businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, and others who own or are planning new buildings are under increasing pressure to take action. Architectural firms and others who design buildings must be prepared to help them. Voluntary environmental commitments have become popular ways for architectural, design, and engineering firms to signal concern and promise action. However, data shows that only a small percentage of firms that have signed onto voluntary environmental commitments have achieved the stated emissions reductions and mitigation goals. In the spirit of shared commitment, this article describes some of the ways that FXCollaborative is trying to hold itself accountable to its environmental commitments and improve the impact of its work.

Dan Piselli,


The American Institute of Architect’s AIA 2030 Commitment and A&D Materials Pledge are two prominent commitments. Recently, parallel efforts have arisen among structural engineers through the SE 2050 Challenge, system engineers with the MEP 2040 Challenge, and the Lighting Materials Pledge for lighting designers. These and other commitments have enabled many firms to join together to amplify climate urgency and rally around common mitigation targets.

Focusing on the AIA 2030 Commitment, architects understand that 40 percent of energy in the United States is consumed by buildings, and that our work plays a key role in reducing harmful emissions. The commitment’s main goal is to drastically reduce the predicted energy use intensity of new building designs to zero (with an allotment of renewable energy) by 2030. It is widely adopted among architectural firms; according to the AIA it has more

See DAN PISELLI, page 3



phases, levels of sustainability discussion vary relative to each project, but periodic internal check-ins and quality assurance reviews maintain attention throughout. ■ ■ Helpful resources. To set up design teams for success, we developed a number of internal resources. First, in-house environmental analyses help design teams investigate important environmental aspects of a project. We trained a group of colleagues to quickly review site climates, the impact of the sun on building forms, shading from buildings, interior daylight, glare potential, and other parameters as part of the design process. Other resources include standard starting points for building assemblies and materials. After designing high performance building envelopes for many years, we collected the best examples into an easy-to-use document and digital library. Similarly, baseline green specification guidance is a common starting point, and we are developing a materials library with vetted products for teams to easily choose from healthy, low carbon, environmentally responsible, and ethically sourced options. Colleagues are also made aware of resources related to climate justice, resiliency, and adaptation to raise our level of awareness and ability to proactively raise those topics to clients. ■ ■ Advocacy. Internally, many sustainability initiatives embody the change we seek. Colleagues are required to gain a sustainability certification within six months of employment. Support is provided in the form of study materials, financial assistance, and internal education. An active Team Green instigates all sorts of research, development, and internal policy pursuits. And we participate in advocacy efforts through participation in the AIA NY Committee on the Environment and other avenues. For example, our recent Resource Library Manifesto (see Ann Rolland’s recent article in The Zweig Letter ) joins industry efforts to push manufacturers to make more sustainable materials. ■ ■ Walking the walk. We’re putting our money where our mouth is; FXCollaborative has been a carbon neutral company since 2008. We calculate our impact on the environment and purchase renewable energy certificates to offset our emissions and support a net-zero future with renewable energy. Our new office at 1 Willoughby Square , was an opportunity to lead by example and showcase how we would like to design all our projects. The result is the first LEED v4 Platinum Commercial Interior in New York City, and the highest scoring such project in the country. The space features a number of energy efficiency, water conservation, healthy building, active design, and other sustainability measures. We are all learning how to make our businesses, products, and services more responsive to the new climate reality. No organization has all the answers, so sharing what we try and learn is key to collective progress. We hope this article contributes by amplifying the urgency of climate action and raising awareness of ways architectural firms can take action. Dan Piselli, AIA, LEED AP, CPHD, is director of sustainability and a senior associate at FXCollaborative. Contact him at dpiselli@

DAN PISELLI, from page 3

than 1,000 signatories representing more than 40 percent of architectural firms including most large firms. As of 2020 (the last year of available data), only 378 signatories reported data, and the average reduction in pEUI was 51 percent, far from the mark. Only 15 companies met that year’s interim target of an 80 percent reduction in pEUI. This lack of progress shows that while the symbolic act of signing a voluntary commitment is important, action toward honoring it is more meaningful. FXCollaborative joined the AIA 2030 Commitment in 2010 and the A&D Materials Pledge in 2021, and we have been working diligently to hold ourselves accountable to both through the following: ■ ■ A plan for action. Last year we wrote a Sustainability Action Plan, which is central to all of our sustainability efforts and directly supports our commitments. It is an honest look at the status of sustainability at our office, covering design as well as internal operations. Part of the power of the document was in researching and conceiving it in the first place. We used the opportunity to engage many colleagues from all roles, disciplines, and levels to determine what we do well, where we need improvement, and how we can make progress. The result is a very clear and concise set of priorities that give us clarity about how to improve. We published the plan publicly on our website to encourage transparency and as a resource that other architecture firms may benefit from as an example. “Data shows that only a small percentage of firms that have signed onto voluntary environmental commitments have achieved the stated emissions reductions and mitigation goals.” ■ ■ Internal processes. To foreground sustainability in our design work, we instituted a standard set of internal processes every project must follow. First, a “2030 Memo” is issued to each design team outlining the 2030 Commitment pEUI baseline and target for that specific project. Teams are asked to share the memo with clients and consultants to educate them about the commitment and to advocate for strong goals as well as consultants who have made similar commitments. Early in each project, a series of sustainability focused work sessions are held internally with clients and consultant teams to make sure all involved are knowledgeable about the relevant environmental context, and engaged in discussion of opportunities, strategies, and resources. Teams are required to use the AIA Framework for Design Excellence, which puts sustainability in the context of design and is flexible enough to be used by all projects while covering sustainability comprehensively. AIA award submissions require information about how projects address the framework, which incentivizes teams to keep its themes in mind. Additionally, each team is asked to produce a “sustainability diagram” to consolidate highlights into a clear graphic format. In later design

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Real connection: Heather Thompson Co-founder of Juniper Design + Build, where award-winning design and advanced construction ensures beautiful and environmentally responsible projects.


A fter working on multiple projects together over the years, Heather Thompson, former owner of Thompson Johnson Woodworks, and Rachel Conly, former owner of Rachel Conly Design, decided it was time to come together and form one firm – Juniper Design + Build (Peaks Island, ME). Now, they’re the poster child for collaboration. Added into the mix was a third co-founder, Mark Pollard, who was a lead carpenter at TJW. They knew that if they all joined forces they could create some real magic and high-performance building with a positive impact to boot. “We’d thought about merging our businesses for several years and 2022 was the year we finally did it,” Thompson shares. “We felt confident to make the move. Our businesses were thriving and we had solid industry relationships. The timing was right.” In part, the pandemic actually contributed to this decision as there was an influx of design/build business. Thompson says people were really rethinking the spaces they were living in and contemplating what they could do differently. Many

wanted to renovate or build, and their clients shared the co- founders’ ethos for building appropriately-sized homes with a small carbon footprint. For example, the Woods + Water House project began with a request for a humble bunkhouse. Its breathtaking site – a bluff of spruce and pine on an island overlooking the sea – inspired what evolved into a dramatic studio. It’s now divided into two distinct halves, then woven together by 1,000 square feet of cedar decking, creating complete immersion in the stunning surroundings. Designed and built to minimize carbon footprint, the building uses siding, decking, and pergola framing of locally-sawn white cedar, with seams painstakingly aligned across the walls, doors, and even the floors. Cabinetry, flooring, and trim are made of rift-sawn white oak. The result is an unforgettable, environmentally-responsible building, easily up to the challenge of enduring its seaside location.



WHAT DOES COLLABORATION LOOK LIKE? Thompson and Conly love great design and share a commitment to top- quality work, sustainable building practices and carbon mitigation. They enjoy building a diverse workforce and are committed to communicating that in their culture’s messaging. As a majority woman-owned firm, which is somewhat unusual in design/build, Thompson says there have been many clients who have sought out their team because they are women. “We’d thought about merging our businesses for several years and 2022 was the year we finally did it. We felt confident to make the move. Our businesses were thriving and we had solid industry relationships. The timing was right.” “Ultimately, they select us because of our work,” Thompson says. They do still like to highlight this fact in their marketing because it helps to distinguish them, but what really sets them apart is how well they all collaborate and communicate with each other and their clients. “There’s a real connection that forms,” she says. Overall, the co-founders believe in the advantages of integrated design, which means from the get-go the whole team is involved – builder, designer, engineer, subcontractors – the whole kit and kaboodle. This helps to save time and reduces errors. Plus, you get the added benefit of years of experience weighing in to create a top-notch solution. Collaboration at its best. “Design/build is the best option, not just for us, but for our clients too,” Thompson says. “It’s not like the traditional competitive bidding process. Rather, we’re estimating throughout the process which brings everyone together from the beginning. In turn, this builds trust and brings in more accurate pricing, as well as beautiful design solutions for the clients.” Since starting the firm a mere few months ago, Thompson says some of the most important skills she’s learned have to do with collaboration. “When like-minded people come together you just seem to make better decisions for

not just the company, but the whole staff,” she says. “And, as a leader, while I maintain a high standard, I think I am seen as fair, approachable, and a good listener. I try not to micromanage and nitpick. We’re like a family.” Thompson also works to manage expectations. “I often have to tell people news they don’t really want to hear (e.g., budget, costs, project deadlines) in little bits and often to manage expectations – for employees and customers, alike,” she says. And, while COVID-19 did have some impact on how everyone is coming together, it hasn’t stopped them from meeting in person. “It’s hard to telecommute to the construction site,” Thompson jokes. “However, we do many of our meetings with vendors via video conference now. And we also notice that the pandemic has changed our mindset and that of our clients. People are more willing to Zoom for a meeting.” She shares that one of the best parts of coming together as one firm was that she was finally able to take a real vacation – one that led her to Italy for a month. “I knew I had my partners and the entire team to rely on and everything ran smoothly,” she says. “Honestly, I probably worked a total of eight hours in four weeks. Sheer bliss. It just goes to show – we’re stronger together.” “When like-minded people come together you just seem to make better decisions for not just the company, but the whole staff.” THE NUTS AND BOLTS. So, after collaboration, what’s next? What’s important to the team at Juniper Design + Build? Thompson says that having employees commit to them is a top priority. They strive to treat people well, be kind, and to give good benefits. “We’re a small company, so we try to have regular conversations with everyone to make sure they’re happy and talk with them about their goals, ideas, and whatever else they want to bring up,” she says. She admits that they do this with varying degrees of success, but she sees that when people feel engaged and they’re heard, they’re happier and stay on. And, there’s also generous vacation and holiday packages, and PTO See REAL CONNECTION, page 8


Peaks Island, ME





MARKETS: Residential

SERVICES: Design-Build


Design+Build’s trophy

case is getting crowded.

Most recently the firm

was honored to receive

awards from the AIA

for its Woods + Water

project, and from Fine

Homebuilding as the

builder of Evergreen

House, their 2020 “Best

Home of the Year.”

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 19, 2022, ISSUE 1457


BUSINESS NEWS EYP DESIGNS HOUSTON METHODIST CENTENNIAL TOWER AT TEXAS MEDICAL CENTER EYP, a leading architecture and engineering firm creating memorable designs that enhance people’s lives and communities, today announced that it has broken ground on its most recent project to uplift the patient and care provider experience for the Houston Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. The $1.4 billion Centennial Tower continues the hospital’s iconic architectural identity and advances its mission to deliver the best clinical care, leading-edge technology, and exceptional patient experience within a healing-focused environment that supports the region’s evolving health needs. Centennial Tower resulted from a decades-long journey to renew and expand Houston Methodist’s aging patient facilities. As part of the effort, EYP developed a long-range campus master plan that started with the Research Institute and Outpatient Center completed in 2010 and the 22-story Walter Tower opened in 2018. At 29 stories, the new Centennial Tower will add 382 private in-patient beds, an expanded emergency department, and advanced neuro- and cardiovascular- surgical capabilities.

“After successfully completing Walter Tower, we engaged EYP to design Centennial Tower to serve the needs of our area’s growing patient population,” said Sean Menogan, senior vice president of construction, facilities design, and real estate, Houston Methodist. “With a new emergency department that’s nearly double in size, and larger, enhanced imaging services, and approximately 400 additional patient beds, the new state-of- the-art building will deliver outstanding patient service and operational efficiency. We value EYP’s leadership and effective management through each phase of this complex project.” Connecting to existing Houston Methodist buildings on multiple levels for better care integration and more efficient operations, the curvilinear shape of the tower will provide spectacular views from every patient room. The diagnostic and treatment platform will include 19 operating rooms, imaging, and interventional radiology co-located to consolidate and lessen patient movement. In addition, a green roof on level 14 offers an outdoor space for respite and rejuvenation. “Centennial Tower will be a landmark building that reinforces the identity and presence of Houston Methodist within the Texas Medical Center,” stated Tushar

Gupta, FAIA, NCARB, managing principal and design principal at EYP. “With a contemporary and empathetic design throughout, the building will create a healing environment welcoming patients and caregivers as the new front door of the campus.” Serving as the architect of record for the new building, EYP managed master planning, programming, architecture, medical planning, environmental graphic design, and exterior and interior design. Centennial Tower is scheduled to open in 2027. EYP is celebrating 50 years as a people-first, interdisciplinary design firm specializing in higher education, healthcare, government, and science & technology. Our integrated teams offer planning and design, high-performance engineering, environmental graphics, preservation and modernization, interiors and workplace, sustainable landscaping, and rapid response projects to tackle your pressing challenges. And together, we begin every project by asking, “What’s Possible?” EYP has interdisciplinary offices in 11 cities across the United States and projects in more than 100 countries.

1. Continue to hire a more diverse workforce. They’re putting this out there in their marketing and on their website. They also work with a local organization that helps new immigrants find work. 2. Build resilience to get through the coming recession. Currently, the company is solid and has a good backlog of work – about two years – but it will continue to build on that to ensure a secure future. 3. Continue to improve building practices to maximize build efficiency. To meet this end, they will continue to focus on maximizing the utilization of carbon sequestering materials – that’s an important part of the company’s ethos. Currently, the firm reviews its balance sheet and job profitability each quarter and adjusts practices accordingly when it makes sense. All indications are that Juniper will grow robustly, but that’s not primarily what they’re after. They’re more about creating a quality day in/day out work life for their employees, a satisfying client experience, and leaving a design and sustainability legacy that future generations of Mainers will be inspired by. “That’s what gets us to the office every day,” Thompson says.

REAL CONNECTION, from page 7

policy. They pay 100 percent of an employee’s health insurance and offer a simple IRA with a 3 percent match. There’s a tool allowance for carpenters and they also adhere to FMLA and parental time off even though they’re below the company size threshold. “We’re a small company, so we try to have regular conversations with everyone to make sure they’re happy and talk with them about their goals, ideas, and whatever else they want to bring up.” FOCUSED ON THREE. Thompson says there are many challenges to meet ahead including the serious labor shortage that everyone seems to be dealing with, but right now, the founders have several short- and long-term goals, and they’ve narrowed their focus to three:

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Email is a great tool, but if it’s not managed efficiently, it can dominate our day and rob precious time from getting work done. Boost productivity by time blocking

O ne day, I arrived for a coaching session with a project manager. The receptionist said the project manager was wrapping up a call and would be out soon. From my seat, I could see across the office to where my client was immersed in her call. As she hung up, she glanced at her computer screen and dove into, I assume, responding to an email. And then someone came up to her desk to ask her a question while she was typing. After 15 minutes of observing her, I decided to approach and remind her of our appointment. She literally jumped out of her chair. “Oh, my god, I forgot about you. I mean, I didn’t. I had our meeting in my calendar until a client called, and then I tried to answer somebody’s question. I got distracted!”

Leo MacLeod

Sound familiar? Microsoft conducted a study and found that every interruption costs us about 15 minutes of productivity – whether we are being interrupted or we are breaking from a task. Part of that loss is due to the time it takes to recover and refocus. But they also found that it’s often a new distraction, in the form of an email, text, call, or someone wanting our attention, that pulls us away. Because time is finite, we often try to cram as much in as possible. We believe we can handle it by multitasking: thinking and doing many things at once.

What we commonly refer to as multitasking is better described as task-switching. The brain is not capable of intently focusing on two serious tasks at the same time, explains productivity psychologist Dr. Melissa Gratias. “Our brain does not perform tasks simultaneously. It performs them in sequence, one after another,” Dr. Gratias says. “So, when we are multitasking, we are switching back and forth between the things we are doing.” When we split our time and jump back and forth, we risk losing details and the power of our focus. We lose the thread of

See LEO MACLEOD, page 10



BUSINESS NEWS AECOM AWARDED NJ TRANSIT BUS GARAGE MODERNIZATION DESIGN CONTRACT AECOM, the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, announced it has been awarded a contract by NJ TRANSIT to provide engineering services for its Bus Garage Modernization Program. In this role, AECOM will design the infrastructure required for battery electric buses at NJ TRANSIT’s Hilton Garage in Maplewood and conduct a survey of current conditions at 16 bus garages statewide. This work will help identify the required infrastructure upgrades needed to aid in the agency’s zero-emissions transition. “We’re honored to continue our longstanding partnership with NJ TRANSIT in support of its mission to provide safe, reliable, and affordable public transportation, which is well aligned with the goals of our Sustainable Legacies strategy,” said Dan Faust, chief executive of AECOM’s U.S. East & Latin

America region. “Garage modernization is a prerequisite for operation of a zero- emissions bus fleet, and we’re excited to bring together our team of proven program managers and subject matter experts with vast fleet electrification experience to help NJ TRANSIT achieve its strategic vision.” NJ TRANSIT’s Bus Garage Modernization Program involves the extensive upgrading of existing facilities and infrastructure to support accommodation of a zero-emissions fleet. Under the contract, AECOM will provide conceptual, preliminary, and final engineering and construction assistance to prepare Hilton Garage for a limited deployment of electric buses. The firm will also conduct a systemwide bus garage survey to identify potential improvements related to fleet electrification, such as facility expansion, roof strengthening for solar systems and equipment, power supply upgrades, and installation of new

technologies, including bus charging equipment. “With increased investment in infrastructure that helps realize the social, economic, and environmental benefits of a decarbonized future, we’re proud to support our clients by delivering advanced solutions that accelerate the adoption of zero emissions technologies,” said Jennifer Aument, chief executive of AECOM’s global Transportation business. “Our dynamic, innovative technical specialists are pleased to help NJ TRANSIT implement its electrification goals as they relate to the passenger experience, social equity, climate resiliency, and futureproofing.” AECOM is committed to delivering transformative environmental, social, and governance objectives through its Sustainable Legacies strategy, such that the work it does in partnership with its clients leaves a positive impact for years to come.

Kaylee was being more intentional and conscious about her communication. She also made a positive impression on her supervisor, which only built more support for her as an emerging leader. It would have been easy and tempting for Kaylee to send an email to her supervisor each time a question occurred to her. Email has become part of our thought process. Get an idea, send an email. The problem is that sending, reading, and responding back to email creates a vicious loop. Inboxes get clogged, people get overwhelmed, things get dropped, messages get misinterpreted. Email is a great tool, but if it’s not managed efficiently, it can dominate our day and rob precious time from getting work done. A study at the University of British Columbia tested the validity of time blocking for email by comparing two test groups. Participants in group A checked their email three times a day and then closed it down to focus on other work. Group B participants could check it whenever they wanted. What they found is that group A spent 20 percent less time working in email than group B. When we simply respond to emails as they arrive in our inbox, we don’t discriminate between those that require immediate attention and those that simply show up. When you wait to check email less often, you reduce the back-and-forth of emails. The time you spend not engaging and being distracted is time you claim for more important things. Leo MacLeod, founder of Training, Coaching, Pie, helps doers become leaders in the AEC industry from his home in Portland Oregon. This article was an excerpt from the book From The Ground Up: Stories and Lessons from Architects and Engineers Who Learned to Be Leaders .

LEO MACLEOD, from page 9

thinking that makes great design possible. At the end of the day, we end up with a pile of unfinished work that we need to revisit the next day and remember where we left off. Working in blocks allows your mind to stay focused on similar activities so you can make the connections, follow the threads, catch the details, and find what some call the flow of work. When we choose to work in blocks of time, we gather up tasks that are connected so our attention and mindset are concentrated in one mode. “When you wait to check email less often, you reduce the back-and-forth of emails. The time you spend not Kaylee, a project assistant at a civil engineering firm, felt bad bugging her manager each time she had a question. She began a practice of writing down her questions on a legal pad and then scheduling a convenient time with the manager to review all her questions in one block of time. There were several benefits to this approach: some questions became resolved as she did the work on her own; it gave her more time to think about the questions and come up with her own solutions; she found other ways and people who could provide answers; and when she did meet with her manager, it was more efficient because he was focused on addressing her questions rather than distracted and not present. engaging and being distracted is time you claim for more important things.”

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




The great timesheet dilemma

Most firms in this business still struggle to get their people to do their timesheets and turn them in – but there could be a simpler way.

T imesheets have always been a big deal for architecture and engineering firms. After all, the only thing we have to sell is our time. That is it! And if our people don’t track that time accurately, we not only don’t know what our costs are to do a given task or project, we also can’t accurately bill our clients on many jobs where the contract calls for hourly billing rates, or time and material. Not to mention the fact that management of firms in our industry are usually preoccupied with “utilization,” i.e., how much of someone’s time is charged to billable projects, because in general, higher utilization means more revenue and less overhead. That’s understandable.

Mark Zweig

Most firms in this business still struggle to get their people to do their timesheets and turn them in. It usually requires many emails, and sometimes even phone calls or visits to certain people who either lack the discipline to get them done, or those who actively resist doing so for one reason or another. Sometimes companies even threaten their people with withholding their paychecks if they don’t turn in their timesheets. All of this causes great stress for those responsible for accounting and billing, because it puts them in conflict with the offenders who haven’t done their timesheets. These accounting and billing people have to be the “bad guys” on this issue. Nobody

enjoys that. The adversarial relationships timesheets cause are not healthy. One issue that I believe many in this business don’t understand is that of unbillable project or time categories. The typical firm creates more and more of these over time. There are unbillable codes for all manners of leave – vacation, sick, holiday, bereavement, maternity, and more. Depending on one’s leave policies, these may be necessary. But then there are a whole lot more of these task or time

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



BUSINESS NEWS BALFOUR BEATTY, AS PART OF CRC JOINT VENTURE, SUCCESSFULLY PLACES FIRST BEAMS TO SUPPORT BRIDGE WIDENING ON TXDOT’S OAK HILL PARKWAY PROJECT Balfour Beatty, as part of Colorado River Constructors joint venture team, achieves a major milestone during the delivery of Texas Department of Transportation’s $674 million Oak Hill Parkway project. The project team successfully set the first bridge beams that support widening activities east of US 290 and SH 71 “Y” interchange in Austin, Texas. To achieve the milestone in one night, crews used trucks to transport 10 bridge beams through the roadway barrier onto the wide shoulder of the US 290 mainlanes where crane operators then lifted and set the beams on bearing pads atop of previously constructed columns and caps. The successful placement of the bridge beams supports upcoming widening operations over Old Fredericksburg Road which include installing permanent metal decking, forming bridge overhangs and setting rebar for future bridge decks and barriers. “The start of bridge widening activities

over Old Fredericksburg Road and Monterey Oaks Boulevard signifies significant progress on TxDOT’s Oak Hill Parkway project,” said John Rempe, PE, Balfour Beatty executive vice president and region manager of Civils operations in the Southwest. “I commend our bridge crews for their collaboration in safely performing this operation that serves as a step forward in alleviating traffic congestion and improving long-term mobility along US 290 and SH 71 in Austin.” Since breaking ground on the project last summer, the CRC joint venture team completed its first major traffic shift west of Circle Drive and is preparing for its second major traffic shift where the first permanent frontage roads will come online at the west end of the Oak Hill Parkway corridor. The crew continues to work on the construction of more than 10 different retaining walls along the project’s corridor which are a mix of soil nail walls, cast-in-place walls and drilled shaft sound walls. The delivery of more than 10 bridge structures is also underway where team members have completed drilled shafts, columns, caps, abutments, and now bridge beams.

Additionally, due to the project’s location, large trenching and milling machines are being used during excavation work. Almost 400,000 cubic yards have been excavated to date, of an estimated 2 million cubic yards, to complete the project. Once complete, the Oak Hill Parkway project will reconstruct and widen US 290 from the east end of Circle Drive to Loop 1 and SH 71 from US 290 to Silvermine Drive. The newly designed roadway will consist of constructing two to three mainlanes as well as adding two to three frontage-road lanes in each direction. An overpass for the US 290 main lanes over William Cannon Drive will also be built, along with direct-connect flyovers between US 290 and SH 71. Additional project components include bicycle and pedestrian accommodations along the entire corridor, cross-street intersection improvements, U-turn lanes, upstream water detention, storm water detention and water quality treatment ponds. The Oak Hill Parkway project is scheduled for completion in 2026.

so many different places an employee can charge their time psychologically legitimizes all of that unbillable time. That, in my estimation, leads to more of it (non-billable time) instead of less of it. And no one who owns a firm in this business wants that. “Stop kidding yourself about the necessity of and accuracy of the accounting for the money you are spending for all of your non-billable activities, and see what effect this change has on the amount of time your people spend doing them!” Therefore, I question the wisdom of having so many non- billable project, time, and activity categories. My advice to management is cut these lists way down to the absolute bare minimum you absolutely need to operate. Stop kidding yourself about the necessity of and accuracy of the accounting for the money you are spending for all of your non-billable activities, and see what effect this change has on the amount of time your people spend doing them! Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

categories and codes for everything else under the sun. There could be a dozen codes for different types of training alone, i.e., CADD training, other technical software training, project management training, business development training, and so on. There could be codes for chores such as filing, developing graphic standards, maintaining standard details, and more. There could be codes for recruiting or setting up a physical office. There may be codes for a large variety of marketing activities such as business development phone calls, business development emails, business development meetings, fee proposal writing, qualification document preparation, presentations, maintenance of the CRM database, and others. I have seen some firms that had as many as 50 or even more non-billable project or task codes. The problem with having all of these different non-billable project or task codes is twofold. One, it creates all kinds of complication and difficulty for those entering their time. They can’t figure all of it out and shift gears so often during the day that it is nearly impossible to say exactly how much time they spent on any of these activities, so they just guess and throw a number in. That makes all of the data that comes out of the system look like it’s accurate when it isn’t. Decisions get made based on that information and the information is wrong so it can lead to bad decision making. The other problem that is not often considered is that having

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