News & Insights

Optimizing Collaboration: The Power of Co-Located Teams

MILFORD, MA – Consigli’s construction professionals are constantly exploring—looking for the smartest ways to use the tools and techniques of today’s construction management world to help our clients.

“Co-location”—establishing one shared physical location where all members of a construction project team collaborate—is one of these techniques. Seemingly a simple concept, it only truly works with foresight and commitment. When done well it saves projects time, money and headaches of all kinds. For Consigli—with examples that include savings of over 5 months and $2 million—when done well, the co-location (“co-lo”) process really works.

Read on for a look at our optimized approach to co-located project teams:

  • How to Reduce Schedules and Changes
  • How to Integrate Co-Location within Chapter 149A
  • How We Shed 5 Months and $2 Million from our Last Project in Kendall Square

In a recent conversation about what “innovation” means at Consigli, Andy Deschenes—Director of the firm’s cross-disciplinary Project Services Group, and team leader of the firm’s Innovation Initiative—highlighted the example of the firm’s creative tailoring of project team “co-location,” for several distinctly different clients and projects.  Andy explained, “The most important steps to using a co-located team effectively is to fine-tune support of the process at the most senior client level, coach and encourage subcontractors who are new to the process and make the time commitment financially feasible.”

Recent examples of Consigli’s optimized approach to co-located project teams include:

How to Reduce Schedules and Changes

Four-Week M/E/P Coordination Reduced to Three Days, Creates Strong Team Bond for Worcester’s Telegram & Gazette Building Renovation

On the Worcester Telegram & Gazette building renovation, the coordination of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (M/E/P) systems had begun in the traditional manner, but once the team had coordinated the first two levels of the building—it was clear a faster process would be needed to keep pace with construction. Consigli’s M/E/P Manager, Larry Byron, set up a three-day co-location session with the M/E/P subcontractors at Consigli’s field office in downtown Worcester.

Initially there was some concern and hesitation on the subcontractors’ part to participate. As a new working method for the project’s subs, some team members were concerned that it would be a wasteful, time consuming process, rather than more efficient; while others were worried about not having portable computer equipment to use in the shared working space.

To respond to these worries, Consigli prepared the team for the collaborative session by talking through what the working sessions would cover, before they began, and removing issues like lack of field computers and monitors, by providing computer monitors for the subcontractors who were bringing desktop computers.  Feeding the team each day— helping them stay focused and together—didn’t hurt, either.

Once the process was underway, the results were excellent. Because the team had the primary decision-makers in the room, they worked floor-by-floor to resolve conflicts and charged through the coordination of the remaining four floors of the building in just three days, an effort that normally would take at least four weeks.

How to Integrate Co-Location within Chapter 149A

Accelerated M/E/P Coordination for Worcester State University’s Sheehan Hall

For Worcester State University’s (WSU) new residence hall the project team—client, architects and construction managers—were in happy accord about using building information modelling (BIM) from the project’s very beginning, as well as its continued use for building system coordination with the M/E/P subcontractors. At first glance though, it seemed Consigli’s ability to bring other management innovations to this project— like the early co-location of the full construction team— would be limited because of the State’s Chapter 149A public bidding legislation, which requires that the trade contractors are selected later, after the construction management firm has been selected. This sequential award process limits the pre-construction involvement of the subs and puts a crunch on construction coordination. This didn’t stop Consigli’s M/E/P Coordinator, Matt Ward, from thinking creatively—Matt realized that while the M/E/P contractors would not be available as early as is preferred, if Consigli initiated weekly co-located working sessions with the M/E/P trades, as soon as they were on board, significant time could still be saved.

And this is exactly what the team did. Initially some of the subs resisted, their concerns varied: it was a new and different way to work, they didn’t necessarily have mobile equipment, they were concerned about their participation limiting their availability on other projects—most of all they were concerned it was going to be a waste of time.

To smooth the way, the team provided hardware and software to the subs that couldn’t relocate their own equipment, setting up a collaborative work space in the job trailer. Additionally, the project architect and engineer were invited every other week for direct design team input. Despite the initial doubts, it quickly became clear that these sessions were in fact productive, and without them, coordination would not have been completed in time for the M/E/P system rough-ins to be built. A notable success of this co-location team process was in the coordination of the new residence hall’s densely packed ground floor mechanical space. This complex coordination, which typically would have gone on for months with a continual back and forth between the subs, multiple drawing iterations, and countless RFIs—was completed in just four weeks, with minimal revision.

How We Shed 5 Months and $2 Million from Our Last Project in Kendall Square

Full Team Co-Location—a Key Component in the Success of 225 Binney Street, Kendall Square, Cambridge  

As part of Consigli’s innovative project strategy for Alexandria Real Estate’s Kendall Square development of the six-story 225 Binney Street bio-tech building, the full team was co-located at the project site—with the encouragement of the private development team—during the project’s pre-construction phase. This skillful collaboration led to an almost five month reduction of the schedule and over $2 million in project savings.

Jeff Navin— Consigli’s Project Executive for the 225 Binney Street project— is enthusiastic and clear about the benefits to clients and the overall project process, when the project team is co-located. “The co-location of the full project team is invaluable—there are so many ways this creates project efficiencies and savings.”

Jeff sees the top four benefits of co-location as: 1) reduced inefficiencies associated with waiting for answers in a non-co-located team experience, 2) allows easy access to all design team members in one room, 3) reduced coordination time, and 4) reduced Requests for Information (RFIs). He also explained that, “During our Binney Street experience, we also identified the steps that lead to a successful co-location process.  We recommend the following guidelines for others interested in using a co-located team approach.”

Guidelines for Successful Project Team Co-Location

  • Define the overall duration of co-location, and set realistic goals each day
  • Leave egos at the door. Need team players and good communicators in the room.
  • Have a comfortable working environment/make it enjoyable
  • Identify an overall leader or director in the room
  • Consider cost and schedule in every discussion or decision
  • Define roles at the beginning of the process
  • Involve managers in the process, not just designers or coordinators
  • Measure progress and action items daily
  • Hold weekly lessons learned sessions for the team
  • Use the technologies that fit the needs of the group


Because It Works: Consigli’s Commitment to Co-Located Team Collaboration

Today— when innovation in construction management can be obscured by industry jargon, or seen as simply the newest version of a software package—at Consigli, industry practices and software are where innovation begins—not ends. For this construction management company, true innovation is in the creative thinking that lies behind the day-to-day inspirations and decisions about the ways that move each project to its best conclusion, as efficiently, and as innovatively as possible. Co-located project teams are definitely one of those ways.