Interview with Wayne Boy (Part 1)

Wayne Boy is unexpectedly soft spoken, given his background.

For the last 14 years, he has been a fixture on virtually every construction site on the College of William and Mary campus, supervising the planning, design and construction of over $700 million in capital budget projects, but this was not his first industry gig. Thirty years as an engineer in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Colonel and alternating assignments commanding combat engineer units from platoon to brigade, provided him with ample professional experience and an opportunity to manage multi-state, complex Army construction projects.

His military background is evident in how he approaches a job. “The academy motto pretty well sums it up – ‘Duty, Honor, Country’,” he says resolutely. “Our job as soldiers was to defend the nation and put service before self. That philosophy influences me now.”

During his career at CWM, he’s amassed a wealth of knowledge, and a healthy dose of humility. “A team approach…designer, builder and owner…fosters transparency and advocacy for the client we all serve.

In this three-part interview series, HG sat down with Wayne to get an insider’s view on how firms are chosen for projects, and why having the technical expertise for a given project is not enough to win a job.

 

HG:  You’ve spent the bulk of your career at one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges in the country. What do you think the next generation of planning and design will look like?

W:  I’ve been fortunate to be involved during the “Golden Years” of building on campus, and had the opportunity to work on multilayered and historically rich projects. Buildings have a life-span, so renovations and new construction will continue, while possibly not at quite the same pace. Development of alternative sources of funding to augment more measured state support will be key to future investment.

HG:  Virginia’s institutions are still in demand, but what do you think the effect online universities will have on higher-education?

W:   Before I left, CWM had begun investing in online class options, so clearly the college community is taking note  – particularly within the professional schools. It’s likely that distance learning will become the norm for many survey level undergraduate courses, even at legacy institutions built upon a residential model, and for many graduate programs which are not laboratory/research based, in order to reduce time on campus as a means to reduce costs and student debt. Bottom line – online education can increase return on investment by changing the type and quantity of on-campus facilities to support the educational mission.

“Technical and project management expertise is crucial. Colleges simply cannot afford the time and cost associated with redesign and/or multiple drawing reviews.”

HG:  Do you think it will have an effect on admissions?

W:  It may affect prospective students who are evaluating their educational return on investment. This may be particularly true for out of state students who already carry a disproportionate share of the cost of tuition.

HG: What do you say to critics that scoff at the lavish amenities at student housing?  

It’s reasonable in order for colleges to keep pace and avoid a competitive disadvantage. The key is to ensure that bed space quantity can be built and maintained at a level of quality that is affordable within rental rate elasticity. It may also mean greater reliance on community resources if needs exceed campus capabilities – another avenue for business.

HG:  What is the single-most important attribute of a design firm to a higher education Director of Planning, Design, Construction?

W:  Corporate expertise must be underwritten by individual qualifications and experience on similar projects. Firms that anticipate and accommodate customer concerns are premium. The response to an RFQ will establish your expertise and experience sufficient to secure an interview. The RFP and the associated interview must convince the Building Committee that you are the “best fit” in terms of a superior design approach and a compatible corporate personality. Bottom line, it’s all about people – their expertise, their experience (individually and, if possible, as a team) and their compatibility with the user.

HG:  What are some things firms can do to increase their competitive edge?

W:  Exploit every interview – especially those where you don’t succeed. Successful firms learn and adjust. No college/customer knows all the answers but they do know what they like, so debriefs matter! Only about 30% of the firms schedule them and, of those that listen and implement what they’ve heard, they often ultimately win work at the campus.”

HG:  Anything else?

W:  Know the campus. Understand the project’s relationship to the Master Plan. Understand the physical, fiscal, operational  and infrastructure context/constraints for the project. Pay particular attention to potential site impacts which can disproportionately increase expenses. In the end, costs rule, so customers will appreciate due diligence to address potential issues/opportunities as early as possible.

 

Next time…Wayne opens up about how to make your A/E Forms stand out, who on the selection committee you should try to impress the most, and tips on tracking upcoming capital projects.

HG Design Studio is a creative civil engineering and landscape architecture firm. We currently have multiple active civil and landscape architecture projects at seven campuses in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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