Monthly Archives: September 2014

HFA Releases New Logo Reflecting Evolving Culture and Commitment

HFA 150pxwide Harrison French and Associates, LTD (HFA), a Bentonville, Arkansas based architecture/engineering firm with national reach revealed their new logo reflecting a metamorphosis of the firm into its new era.

Larry Lott, President/COO emphasized that going forward HFA will expand its services beyond traditional architecture and engineering and develop into other areas within the design and construction industry, such as construction management, energy modeling, building analysis, branding, procurement and data management.  “Our new logo reflects endless potential to service our client’s growing needs,” Lott said.

The new logo keeps the HFA letters and colors but replaces the specific services Architects, Engineers and Interiors with their new mission statement Creative Solutions Meaningful Places.   Lott stated, “Our logo and mission are integrated together into one collaborative message.   These words represent the essence of what we do and why we are here at HFA.  Our people are creatively driven, each and every day, for any project type or challenging assignment which ultimately defines our mission: to create meaningful places for our clients and community.”

HFA Helps a Neighbor

HFA employees reached out to a neighbor, collaborating to design and build an accessible ramp.

When John Berkley, Project Manager, at HFA was talking with his neighbor, he saw an opportunity for him and co-workers to do a team building exercise. But when he presented the idea to Dave Wilgus, Associate, Dave knew he had an eager group of intern architects on staff already seeking an opportunity to provide community service as part of their Intern Development Program or IDP.  The IDP requires these interns to gain exposure to various aspects of architecture and one element requires them to provide a minimum of 80 hours of community service, a way for them to give back.

John would often help out his elderly married neighbors with minor home repairs.  Recently, the need for a ramp became apparent.  And the joining of a need and volunteer resources came together.

The HFA volunteers completed the project over the weekend which took about 16 hours.  On Sunday afternoon, Mary Mae wheeled Jody, her husband, down the ramp out onto the carport.  Jody is 97 years old and loves the outdoors, but due to his limited mobility, has not been able to get out of the house except for occasional doctor appointments.  With tears in her eyes, Mary Mae shook each one of the volunteers’ hands and thanked them for what had been built.

You may recognize the name of the couple.  Mary Mae and Jody Jones.  Yes, Mary Mae is the retired school teacher who Bentonville Public Schools named Mary Mae Jones Elementary School after.

Dave Wilgus said: “I was so impressed with everyone on the team and the team’s cohesion – each one brought their own expertise and leadership to the group.  We are a luckily office to have such talented and classy individuals working for us.  Finally, I want to thank John for bringing this project to our attention, spearheading the project management and acting as great foreman over the weekend.”

The HFA interns involved include:  Mike Czajka, Stacey Jawor, Sean Paquin, Dan Richards and Matt Turner.


Timesheets….The necessary evil

DeLynn HughesBy DeLynn Hughes, CPA, Associate & Controller 

In today’s world of fixed fee contracts it is becoming even more difficult to convince our employees to fill out timesheets in an accurate and timely manner.  After all, many employees don’t think that timesheets matter when the contract is fixed fee.  We must find a way to instill the importance of accurate timesheets to our employees regardless of the fee arrangements.

One of the most important reasons that accurate timesheets are necessary is for planning and bidding future projects.  If we really don’t know how long something takes, how can we accurately bid on a future project.  Accurate timesheets help us determine the hours needed on a similar project in the future for profit and loss projections.

Another reason for accurate and timely timesheets is to have a record for determining additional services.  Perhaps a relatively new employee, eager to please the client, performs services outside of the contract.  If the timesheet is being reviewed timely by a more seasoned employee, they may be able to approach the client to obtain fees for additional services or explain to the new employee the actual scope of work before he or she spends an inordinate amount of time.

Timesheets also provide us with a tool for teaching.  By reviewing timesheets when the project is current, a manager can discuss problem areas with employees.  This can be an efficient tool to help everyone create better processes in the future and avoid the same mistakes.

Timesheets seem to be the thorn in all service industries.  We try to praise employees who fill out timesheets efficiently, belittle employees who don’t, and annoy all employees with reminders.  Perhaps education is our best tool by reviewing and explaining to employees the importance of accurate time management and leading by example.  We have to remember that timesheets provide the service world with a gauge to review history and predict the future.

What does it mean to be integrated?

Chris HortonBy Chris Horton, Vice President & CFO

In my previous article, I discussed the reasons for hiring an Architect/Engineer for your projects.  One of the items I didn’t list was the benefits you gain from hiring an integrated team.

Firms will tell you that they function as an integrated team because they have all disciplines under one roof, but experience has shown that what usually ends up happening is each discipline is treated like an outside consultant, never talking to each other except through email.

Firms that have embraced the concept of integrating the disciplines provide a more cohesive project with fewer drawing inconsistencies.  Notice I didn’t use the word “no” here.  As long as human beings are involved with design, there are going to be inconsistencies, period.  What integrating the team accomplishes is that those inconsistencies are generally small inconsistencies.  You typically don’t have the big busts that occur like routing ductwork through structural beams because the MEP Engineer didn’t have access to the structural plans.

When a project is completed by a cohesive team, the client gets a set of project documents that are very tight and that in turn allows for bids to be tight.  When the bids are tight, you truly start hiring contractors based on qualifications, not pricing.

Another benefits of a good set of documents is that it’s easy to identify the outliers.  All too often contractors will underbid projects in order to get the work and then the change orders start coming.  With a good set of documents, the good contractors will basically clump together somewhere in the middle.  The guys that are too busy for the work will price it high and the ones that you don’t want to work with will be at the bottom.  Makes it a whole lot easier to pick a good contractor when they are all hanging in the same area in the way of fees.

The next time you are shopping for A/E services, ask a few questions.  What questions?  Well that will come in my next article.

Why Hire an A/E Firm for your projects?

Chris HortonBy Chris Horton, Vice President & CFO

When searching for reasons to hire architects and engineers, almost all resources target individuals wanting to build their dream home.  While architecture/engineering certainly has an important role in the home building industry, resources on why to use them for commercial projects are almost nonexistent.  So why should you hire an A/E team to build your next building, store, office, or factory? 

Many of these reasons are applicable to both areas of the industry:

  • Architects and Engineers are licensed by the State as Professionals – This is a very important point! As Architects and Engineers, we take an oath to safeguard life, health and property and to promote the public welfare.  It is our job to make sure that anything built conforms to acceptable standards.  The last thing you want is a building that isn’t safe.
  • Architects and Engineers save you money – have you ever started out thinking something won’t take long only to have the project hang around for what seems like an eternity? Have you ever cut that board twice and it’s still too short?   Architects and Engineers are trained to plan.  A good detailed plan will always trump something that’s thrown together.  As the old saying goes…..time is money.

Beyond these universal reasons, there’s quite a few reasons to hire architects and engineers for your commercial project:

  • A/E firms are experienced in working in local jurisdictions and can help you navigate the processes of entitlements, building reviews, etc. If that firm is nationally based, they are accustomed to working in multiple jurisdictions across the country and bring a deeper bench of understanding those requirements.
  • When considered and treated as partners, A/E firms bring a level of ownership to the projects that goes beyond performing tasks for their clients. These partnerships must be a win for both owner and firm, otherwise all you’ve accomplished is making a bad reputation for yourself.  A reputation that eventually catches up with you.

There seems to be a trend that A/E firms are becoming a commodity because clients simply want building permits and know that they need stamped drawings to get them.  This will eventually drive good A/E firms to take a different route and become competitors as opposed to partners.