What Makes a Great Partnership?

Blogger: Robert Cline, Project Manager | Houston, Texas, USA
January 26, 2017

For community colleges, establishing strong local ties through social, economic, and business activity is important for maintaining good rapport and partnerships.  One of the more effective ways to support economic development and growth in the region is to assure that a certain percentage of contracted work is awarded to local small businesses.

The Houston Community College Small Business Development Program has set a goal of having 35% participation from small business enterprises (SBEs). This goal was front and center when the Capital Improvement Project issued a $413 million bond program in 2013. The Coleman College for Health Sciences addition, for which HDR is serving as Architect-of-Record, was part of this bond issue. So we took seriously the task of teaming with great local partners to assure that the best possible outcome is delivered when the building opens later in 2017. 

When it comes to selecting great partners for a project, three things matter most: Experience, Staff, and Commitment. Too often, one or more of these three tenets needs to be sacrificed because of budget, availability, staffing conflicts or some other limitation. Typically, this makes the work that much more challenging because extra time and energy needs to be spent on improving coordination and communication.

Fortunately, in the case of designing the expansion to the Houston Community College Coleman Campus on the Texas Medical Center complex, we were working in the Houston market, which has many qualified consultants that meet all three criteria. Ultimately, we partnered with the following SBEs:  AUTOARCH Architecture, E&C Engineers & Consultants, Rogers Moore Engineers, DataCom Design, and Project Cost Resources.  We are proud to share that, at slightly over 50%, we have one of the highest rates of fee going to small business enterprises (SBEs) of all the projects that are being completed as part of the capital improvement project bond.

We selected these partners because of our familiarity with them and their experience with the education and healthcare typologies. The health science building represents a unique blend of both educational and medical settings – making it of utmost importance that our partners understand how both the educational and healthcare paradigms are rapidly changing and how, in order to remain relevant far into the future, this new environment can account for these changes. Supporting a variety of health sciences academic programs, the new building will house a variety of simulated patient rooms replicating the physical environment the students will encounter upon graduation and employment in the healthcare community.  Student collaboration spaces are provided on each level giving both students and faculty a variety of environments within which to study, mingle, and collaborate. The facility also includes a lecture hall, grab-and-go food services, hoteling offices for brief student/faculty meetings, and three floors of shell spaces within which to accommodate growth of existing programs or the addition of new ones.

We also had previous experience working with several of these consultants which allowed us to apply the synergy we had developed on earlier projects to this project. Our ability to effectively communicate and collaborate ultimately led to a project that, to date, is scheduled for early delivery and is under budget.  Another significant accomplishment: As a result of a favorable bidding climate and value engineering, we were also able to include the design of a bridge that connects across the street to the existing HCC Coleman building, creating a small educational campus in the context of the larger Texas Medical Center complex.

This building, which will open later this year, demonstrates how partnering with SBEs can lead to a solution that is better than the sum of its parts.  We look forward to a ribbon cutting ceremony that will be a tribute to successful partnerships that have made a vision come to life on the Houston Community College Coleman Campus.