Submitted by Laurie Blumberg

What is Major Projects? Major Projects is one of four divisions within the Department of General Services for which some of our colleagues and coworkers may need a little explanation of its mission.

Here goes:  The short definition is that the Division does design and construction management of City owned buildings. 

How do we do it? Employees participate in capital planning which tries to anticipate needs of all departments except the school system over a six year period (the Capital Improvement Plan), taking into account critical needs like structures which have exceeded their useful life; necessary improvements mandated by growth and /or change in programming; life safety issues. Examples of each of these as either a completed project or one currently in process are the Fallsway Homeless Shelter, the Hampden Library, the Able Wolman Municipal Building elevator replacements, and the Police Headquarters fire safety project.

Major Projects is staffed by three architects, two engineers, four construction project managers, and five field inspectors who oversee design and construction activities. Bambi Stevens, the Division Chief, holds a degree in architecture as well as a juris doctorate law degree.

After a project is identified and financing is established, the team selects a consulting design firm that is best suited to the requirements of the project and is selected from a prequalified list of companies. Similar to medical professionals, different firms excel at different types of projects. The extensive background and knowledge of a firm’s capabilities and their strengths helps Division architects and engineers guide the selections. In some instances only one designer is suited and qualified to take on the project (an example is the stonework restoration to the City Hall).

At the same time, a project manager from the Major Projects staff is assigned. He or she will lead the design process until completion. The design team will seek input from the end user and from citizen users depending on their role in the final design and program. Often, the Facilities Maintenance Division is included in these discussions encompassing practicality and pitfalls.

The selected designer goes through a three part process which is standard in the construction industry:

  • Schematic Design – the development of the program and general characteristics and space use of the project. Usually at the end of this phase we have drawings which are about 30% complete.
  • Design Development – refining the program and defining methods, means and materials to construct the project. Usually at the end of this phase we have drawings which are about 65% complete.
  • Contract Drawings – the documents, working drawings and a written specification which delineate exactly what is to be built and how. These are 100% drawings and written specifications of several hundred pages that are used to bid the job and then build it. A schedule of the scope of work is usually developed at this time.

At this point neither a hammer was picked up nor did a shovel get put in the ground! This is such an important process, though, that done well or poorly it can mean the difference between successes, waste, or struggles of all kinds.

Next month we will continue the examination of Major Projects processes. 

Related Stories

DGS is Winter Ready

The Department of General Services is ready to keep Baltimore running through snowy weather.

DGS Announces the Creation of the Energy Division

The Energy Division is responsible for energy purchasing, tracking energy cost-savings, and renewable and energy-efficient projects for the City of Baltimore.