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Design Zeitgeists By Peter Joehnk
Peter Joehnk, principal, JOI-Design, Hamburg

The disaster continues

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

In my last blog post I described the typical convoluted process for developing guestroom design, culminating in the final review of the mock-up rooms.

To recap: everyone agreed to roll out the concept to the rest of the guestrooms, additional money was released and everyone is happy and looking forward to installing the design into the new hotel … yet the absurdity goes on!

It turns out the approval of the two sample rooms by the investor and the hotel brand’s CEO was perhaps a bit vague, as now we are left with two separate designs with differing functionalities like showers versus bathtubs.

But the project manager expects us to put the specs out for tender within the next five days.

The operator’s design and technical support guy finally made up his mind — after a four-week delay — that one of the model room concepts should be used for the executive floor and the other room style should be implemented on all other levels. So we finished the drawings for all the guestrooms having non-standard configurations (those in corners, next to an elevator and requiring disabled access), arrived at the total quantities needed of each item and, with a delay of eight weeks, the tenders were issued to the contractors.

As a formality, we also issued the drawings of these rooms to the other participants who all previously had the standard room plans and shared their great, most welcome comments about the sample room. Suddenly the architect rang and advised I may not have been aware that the shaft in the bathroom had become 20 centimeters (8 inches) wider because the M+E consultant had to add some additional pipes. And no, the shaft could not be extended into the direction of the corridor because it was very narrow already — the reduction must come from the bathroom interior. As a jovial colleague, the architect added that for a creative talent like us, it should not be problematic to make this tiny adjustment.

The loss of 20 centimeters in a small space like a hotel bathroom changes everything!

So we change the design …

Since spatial requirements meant the bathroom size couldn’t become any smaller, we decided to reduce the length of the bedroom. Everything shifted 20 centimeters towards the window, meaning the lounge chair had to be swapped for a narrower model. It’s probably best that I avoid telling the story about how we found an alternative chair and got it approved by the investor’s wife, the hotel brand and the rest of the gang because then the real problem occurred. To our surprise, we went onsite and discovered all the electrical outlets had already been installed.

And of course they had been located according to the sample room — all 20 centimeters wrong!

Since they were already in place, our best friend the M+E consultant would not budge on any alterations — and the fact that we had to make all our changes because he unexpectedly required a larger shaft was no excuse!

So we had to create a design miracle by symmetrically integrating the outlet behind the headboard with another one 40 centimeters (16 inches) away into a wall panel — although of course there was no room in the budget for this new wall panel.

So we change the design …

But then our best friend had another surprise for us! Since our bathroom specs were issued later than originally planned, he had already placed an order with the plumber for a different series of washbasins, shower trays, tubs and toilets as well all the fittings! They definitely looked different than the approved model room and did not go with its style at all.

So we did not change the design!

The plumber explained the fittings we had specified would incur an additional 120% charge, although the manufacturer told us our choice should only be 8% or 9% more expensive than the ugly ones.

Can you imagine what the investor and project managers told us?

We needed to work with the plumber to find a “cost-neutral” alternative since he had already been awarded the contract … so now the hotel will have the cheapest fittings and washbasins in the market so long as they can somehow be justified as suitable for our design concept. What a waste of money!

One day the tenders come back, and then the FF+E contractor is selected.

This process does not take long, and naturally the contractor has some great thoughts about how to save money. In this phase of the project, these ideas are more than welcome to the investor.

So a new carpet manufacturer promises to deliver the same quality for 30% less cost — although we had coordinated a customized pattern with a different supplier, and it was unclear if the rights for the design were entirely ours. This new carpet company sends us samples, and despite the fact that they are ugly and below standard, the investor agrees to place the order with this supplier because it guarantees that the larger quantity will be perfect.

In the end it was not, of course, and when the project managers decided not to rip out this miserable carpet the investor was probably not too disappointed since the poor quality meant some money could be subtracted from the invoice.

The brand manager from the hotel group was extremely unhappy, but it helped him to share some other bad news that the brand had changed its standards! Some of the changes were not very dramatic or could be solved by issuing a “waiver,” but installing the new, wider TV in the guestrooms is an absolute must!

Then our project leader/senior designer fell ill, so I personally had to jump-in. The manufacturer of the lounge chair told us this model has been discontinued; “value engineering” meant the bathroom tiles installed were a different shade of beige than what had been approved; the desk lamp could not be produced with LED bulbs; the wallcovering manufacturer raised its prices; the fabric distributor fell into receivership; some of furniture was dented during installation and when the replacement pieces arrived the wood stain was too dark; the fabric used for the curtains came from different dye lots so the left and right panels had to be matched on site; and then someone flooded a bathroom, causing all the rooms on the seventh floor to be damaged.

The timeline had to expand, costs exploded and suddenly our project-management company was fired and a new one hired.

Naturally the new management company did know how to do everything better and was not interested in discussing the history of the project.

Terrible, fruitless discussions followed, the management company did not understand anything but still believed it would have done a much better job that the previous company, and the very normal chaos continued.

Believe it or not, the hotel was eventually finished. Everyone liked it, no one saw the compromises and we rushed into the next project, which will undoubtedly follow a similar process!

6/11/2015

 
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