By Brandon Dexter and Jake Snyder
Would you buy a car without a test drive? Or a house without a walk through? When it comes to expensive investments, we want to be able to see, touch, and verify before making a decision. We feel our clients should have the same opportunity on their projects. There are so many decisions that our owners are often asked to make based on drawings. What happens if they change their minds after the work is done? Or if there’s a compatibility issue with two finishes? We have to make changes, reorder materials, and redo the work – all of which add expenses to the budget.
We’ve had success working with our clients to make these necessary changes without added cost by using mock-ups in our projects across a variety of market sectors. The use of mock-ups has been around for many years. Specific markets, like healthcare, rely on them heavily. As an experienced healthcare builder, we saw the value in using them in other market sectors where mock-ups are less common. For example, our multifamily projects where the same construction is repeated hundreds of times. We use them to ensure the owner’s expectations are being met, to ensure quality can be shown early and continued throughout the life of the project, and to minimize the impact that changes have on a project.
Another way we use mock-ups in healthcare construction is to allow the end users — doctors, nurses, and medical staff — to walk through the areas and identify any changes that need to be made to allow them to do their jobs effectively within the new space. Sometimes that means moving a light in an operation room or moving built-in furniture in a patient room. We’ve applied this same benefit to other specialized buildings to gain valuable insight from the end users. While building a new courthouse in Savannah, we built interior mock-ups of the judge’s bench, witness stand, jury box, and gallery seating in each courtroom to allow the judges to ensure sight lines were clear and the scale and position of everything was correct.
Considering using mock-ups on your next project? Here are three specific ways we’ve found that mock-ups can add value to any project.
- Expectations Align with Reality: A full-scale mock-up does more than a drawing or rendering can. It places the owner and design team in the space where they can touch, see, and interact with the finished product while it’s still early enough to make changes without cost impact. We’ve been able to build a kind of “materials menu” for clients with our mock-ups that allow them to see multiple finishes and material options and how they will actually look and feel in the finished building. We’re able to provide multiple options along with the associated cost impact so our clients can make decisions based on how each option will impact the budget and schedule. Using mock-ups, we’re able to meet our owner’s expectations while maintaining their schedule and budget.
- Speed: When new team members join a project, there is inevitably a learning curve. Mock-ups are a lean shortcut to help our trade partners get up to speed with a complete, to-scale training room. This allows them to see how to complete the work, how it should look when finished, and in what order each task should be completed. Mock-ups aren’t just a tool for the construction team to increase speed on a project. On a recent project, our client took photos of our staged, full-size mock-up to use for leasing and marketing purposes – allowing them to increase their speed to market by showing what the actual units will look like once construction is complete, months ahead of schedule.
- Quality: Quality can be subjective, but expectations are not. When we present a visual representation of the expected finished product, it unites the entire team on the end goal. Our superintendents can test and problem-solve on a mock-up ahead of time, rather than waiting to test our products in real time in an actual unit. Trade foremen are better prepared because they have been given the time and space to work out kinks before they start, allowing us to begin work confident in the quality we are delivering.
We’ve had great success using mock-ups across many market sectors, on a variety of project types. If you want to increase the speed and quality of your project while ensuring your expectations are being met, consider using mock-ups during the preconstruction process.