Your expert project delivery team
It’s convenient if you have a background in some aspect of building. But no one is expert in all aspects of building and even experts may not have recent experience with your particular type of hotel. So, hotel owners work on project delivery with a team that includes architects, designers and purchasing agents, among others.
Architects bring your hotel to life in terms of aesthetics and functionality. Their design shapes the identity of the hotel and the guest experience through volumes, forms, functionality, materials and their combination for each aspect of the property from lobby to guest rooms. The architect considers operational procedures so the property runs efficiently and is welcoming. Concurrently, the architect operates within local building codes, brand standards and ADA requirements. Each hotel is unique and the architect defines that signature experience. Architects also have a vital role working with contractors. The architect’s work can include:
- A building program which provides an idea of space, functional needs and building flexibility. The program specifies building size, number/mix of rooms, who will use the space (overnight guests, event attendees, maintenance staff, etc.) and how the space will be used.
- Schematic designs that are sketches of materials, colors, sizes, shapes, textures and patterns of your hotel project.
- Design development, the process of investigating and researching equipment and materials needed for construction, and what they will cost.
- Contract documents/working drawings which are the final specifications and complete set of drawings for the project. Contractors use these to develop their bid. Building department reviewers and inspectors use them for the building permit and to confirm completion prior to signing off on each inspection. You and your team follow them during construction.
- Architects typically manage structural engineering, MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineering, landscape architects, environmental graphics, and sometime interior design. This puts an expert in charge of coordinating technical specialties for you.
- Architects may also oversee the entire construction and delivery of the hotel.
Architects should be put through the RFP process. It’s important to keep them to task on schedule and fees. And it clarifies what is included and what is not – or what can carry extra fees. Architects work off of AIA contract documents. The architect will provide the documents, but you can read about AIA contract documents and see previews online at: https://www.aiacontracts.org/resources/6150803-list-of-all-current-aia-contract-documents
Architects may charge a percent of construction costs, by the hour, or a fixed fee. How they charge depends on how predictable your architectural needs are. If you know what you want and your project is a standard brand product, a fixed fee is a reasonable expectation. If you are exploring several alternatives with an architect, they may charge by the hour. You are paying for their time and expertise, so you have some control over the cost by keeping control of your demands on their time.
Hotel interior designers bring technical knowledge to each design or redesign. They understand the architecture and individual needs of each room and public space, brand standards, how products will function and fit in the space so they are durable, safe, easy to clean and comfortable. Hotel designers consider staff needs, making it easier to deliver cleanliness and service. They understand regional tastes – mountains are different than beaches and west is different than east. Hot climates require different materials than cold; salty air requires different materials than rooms that will have snow on ski boots. Designers also understand guest needs such as charging multiple devices, traveling with large (or small) wardrobes, or lighting use.
Designers are more than decorators. They work with the entire building program, and should be brought into the project early to be most beneficial. They understand the details of the ADA for hotels and are an ally in planning appropriately. Ideally, you want a firm that:
- Has hospitality experience (a friend or relative who is a residential designer is likely to increase your development costs and your operating costs)
- Values branding and has experience with your brand
- Understands your city/locality
- Works well with your architect and purchasing company
- Pays attention to your design themes (if you like ultra-modern and your designer pushes Rococo, you will not be happy)
Selecting an interior designer is a process like selecting an architect. You may select a specialist firm or independent designer or you may work with interior designers from your architect’s company or your purchasing company:
- Identify a roster of potential designers through referrals from your contractor, brand, architect, other owners, designers you meet, and online research
- Interview firms asking consistent critical questions so you can compare
- Invite about 3 firms to respond to an RFP
- Discuss their proposals with each firm and chose based on trust and working relationships as well as design ideas and price
These are aspects of interior design services. Depending on the scope of your project, you may not need all these services:
- Preliminary planning with the team to assign tasks, establish project scope including brand requirements and recognize owner’s aesthetic goals
- Coordination of design elements with architects, engineers, purchasing agents and contractor
- Schematic design to create a design concept and provide sketches, renderings and design boards (The brand and you will review the concept and adjust until finalized.)
- Design development to add details into the schematic design including FF&E selections and FF&E budgets throughout the design development phase
- Model rooms – these typically showcase different FF&E vendors and design implementations in two hotel rooms so the owner and brand can review in real-life prior to rolling out throughout the hotel (Model rooms are not common for standardized product like Hyatt Place or Aloft, but can be critical in a large re-design or unusual hotel like St. Regis or an independent boutique hotel)
- Design documentation including technical drawings, specifications and finish schedules
- Brand submittals for brand sign off and approval of FF&E
- Bidding and negotiation during value engineering and evaluation of alternatives for items that are unavailable or over budget
- Design implementation, onsite construction administration and approvals related to design
Like architects, interior designers can be paid as a percentage of purchases, by the hour, or as a total price for the project. Percentage of purchases is more likely if procurement is part of their service. A fixed fee for the project is most likely if the hotel is a standardized branded product.
An alternate to all the above is hiring a design-build firm. A design-build firm will cover the architectural, building, and interior design components. That means just one contract to deal with and one company lead in charge. That way, you communicate with one project lead and the information should flow to everyone appropriate in the chain of command. Design build firms should have extensive and valuable experience in the area you are building. This means they should give you a significant advantage due to their familiarity with state and local regulations, permits, fees and more which can aid in keeping projects on time. For a hotel, they should be highly experienced and have strong references from your brand. The design build firm should have the knowledge and resources to work with you on value-engineering your hotel.
Procurement is the selection and purchasing of FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment). FF&E are those components of a space that aren’t permanently attached to the actual structure — in other words, moveable things. Examples include:
- Guestrooms: decorative items, beds, desks, chairs, window treatments, shelving, headboards, televisions, draperies, lighting, PTAC units
- Conference rooms: tables, podiums, chairs, desks, partitions
- Restaurants: kitchen and bar equipment, cash registers, dining room furnishings, decorative items
- Business centers: Desks, chairs, tables
- Technical equipment: telecom systems, computers, printers, projectors and audio-visual components
- Although they are attached, procurement also involves products like wall covering, bathroom fixtures, tile, carpet, etc.
For a hotel project, FF&E is typically purchased through a purchasing company (procurement provider). The purchasing company works with you and a large group of manufacturers to identify the right products to match market, location and brand requirements. Purchasing companies implement the work of the interior designer and the requirements of the PIP.
To select a purchasing agent, you should identify and interview several companies and compare their resources and references. You will go through some stressful situations with your purchasing agent so you also should interview the person who you will be working with. You are choosing both a company that can meet your needs and a person you can trust and ask questions. Your purchasing agent should provide a proposal in response to your formal RFP. As part of their work, they will also provide you with detailed lists of the items they are purchasing for you and technical specification sheets for those items (usually in pdf).
Purchasing agents make sure that the products you get meet specifications. They advise you about quality and durability, contract for purchases at bulk prices that may not otherwise be available to you and recommend more durable or less expensive variations of the product suggested by the designer. They also follow up with vendors throughout the manufacturing process to ensure you receive your products in a timely manner and to resolve any potential conflicts that arise in the manufacturing process. The purchasing agent will work with you to develop a product list that assures you have everything you need to open the hotel. For instance, your purchasing agent will make sure that you have light bulbs to put in the light fixtures they order for you.
Procurement of materials and FF&E happens throughout the project. Initially, the labor, equipment and materials required for construction are procured, usually through the contractor. The contractor will order most items in advance so they are delivered on time for installation. The contractors will also purchase tools and materials locally as needed.
If you want to provide a particular item, like a custom shower or carpet from a relative who is in that business or a particularly good value from your purchasing agent, you make that part of your contract with the contractor and commit to delivering the specified material at the specified time.
Procurement firms provide you a detailed proposal at the beginning of the project and deliver your FF&E within that budget. They are often also engaged to manage the delivery schedules. You do not want to store 300 beds on your hotel site for six-months, you want them delivered when they are ready to be installed.
Either the procurement firm or the contractor is responsible for installing all the items that are purchased on your behalf. You may use the contractor for items that are attached, like shower doors, pictures and lights. You may use the purchasing firm to install FF&E, which consists of items that are not permanently attached, like furniture and decorative items.
There are independent procurement firms. Brands and franchise companies also provide procurement services. Procurement:
- Saves time and effort through a one-stop shop
- Saves money on hospitality-grade durable products that will last
- Provides guidance from experts who understand materials as well as hotel operations and your brand
Procurement services include:
- Translating a PIP (Property Improvement Plan)
- Design assistance, interpretation, space planning, translating construction documents
- Preparing project plans and budgets for purchased items
- Identifying products that meet technical specifications, for instance, the double rubs rating for a fabric
- Value engineering, for instance recommending a $200 chair that can be substituted for a $1,000 chair without negatively impacting the guest experience or durability
- Vendor bidding and negotiation
- Preparing and tracking purchase orders and production schedules
- Managing shipping and delivery dates to fit project schedules. Expediting
- Pricing and managing freight and storage
- FF&E installation management
- Financial reporting
Purchasing involves detailed tracking, record keeping, and incredible minutiae because there are so many items involved. Purchasing firms remove the need for you to micromanage many aspects of the project.
Procurement firms typically charge a percentage of their purchases for their fee and the cost is built into the pricing they provide. You may be able to buy some items less expensively on your own. However, when you buy on your own, you are also responsible for shipping, delivery, expediting, storage and timing. It may be worth the savings for high dollar items or a specialty piece of art. For most things, however, you are likely to come out ahead by consolidating purchases through the procurement company.