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Insider Insights: Solving Construction Design Challenges

with Chris Pollock from Zebel


The conversation revolves around the challenges and dynamics of design in the construction industry, particularly in the context of small commercial projects. The transition from a general contractor (GC) role to the tech world is discussed, highlighting the importance of transparency and stakeholder communication. The cost and value of MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) systems are explored, focusing on HVAC. The difficulties of decision-making, coordination, and managing design changes are also addressed. The conversation explores the challenges and complexities of design in the construction industry, particularly from the perspectives of engineers and general contractors. It highlights the importance of collaboration, trust, and communication between stakeholders. The discussion touches on topics such as the role of trades in design, the impact of budget constraints on design decisions, the difficulty of explaining technical concepts to non-technical individuals, the need for contingency planning, and the importance of setting clear expectations in design. In this conversation, Kenny Shultz discusses his transition from being an accountant to working in construction and eventually joining a software company. He highlights the importance of relationships in the construction industry and the challenges of estimating and pricing projects. The conversation also touches on the impact of COVID-19 on the construction industry and the difficulties of dealing with supply chain disruptions. Kenny emphasizes the need for transparency and communication with clients when explaining pricing and variances. The conversation concludes with a discussion about the challenges faced by structural engineers and the potential for collaboration between different professionals in the industry.


  • Transparency and communication are crucial in navigating design challenges in the construction industry.

  • The cost and value of MEP systems, particularly HVAC, are significant considerations in construction projects.

  • Decision-making can be difficult, but making informed decisions with the available information is important.

  • Coordination and managing design changes require proactive and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders.

  • Understanding the limitations and expectations of different project types can help manage costs and deliver successful outcomes. Collaboration and clear communication between different stakeholders are crucial for successful design in the construction industry.

  • Trades' role in design is often overlooked, but their input is valuable in ensuring practicality and feasibility.

  • Budget constraints can significantly impact design decisions, and trade-offs may need to be made to meet financial limitations.

  • Explaining technical concepts to non-technical individuals can be challenging, and it requires finding the right balance between clarity and condescension.

  • Contingency planning is essential in design, especially in adaptive reuse projects or situations with unknown variables.

  • Setting clear expectations and managing them throughout the design process is key to avoiding misunderstandings and conflicts. Relationships are crucial in the construction industry and can help build stakeholder trust and understanding.

  • Estimating and pricing projects in construction can be challenging, especially when dealing with variables such as supply chain disruptions and changing market conditions.

  • Transparency and communication with clients are essential when explaining pricing and addressing variances in estimates.

  • Structural engineers face unique challenges in ensuring the safety and stability of buildings while also considering cost and design constraints.

  • Collaboration between professionals in the construction industry, such as GCs, engineers, and software developers, can lead to innovative solutions and improved processes.

Quotes We Loved

"We throw coordination at you guys and there's all these buzzwords that we just start throwing back and forth with each other." - Chris

"Working for a general contractor has made me so good at making decisions with less than 100% information." - Chris

"HVAC is always the first cost to be cut, but it's also the first thing complained about during the first week of CO." - Kenny

"It's always a person, a people problem. Really, ultimately most things that we think are technical as engineers are usually just comes from a relationship thing that can be remedied outside of the technical world." - Kenny

"When you make something cheaper, you're removing your ability to handle that variability." - Kenny (on value engineering HVAC systems)


00:00 Introduction and Transition from GC to Tech World

07:30 The Art of Decision-Making in Construction

30:59 The Importance of Collaboration and Communication in Design

41:31 Explaining Technical Concepts to Non-Technical Individuals

49:59 Setting Clear Expectations in the Design Process

01:01:44 The Importance of Relationships

01:11:07 Challenges in Estimating and Pricing

01:23:04 The Challenges Faced by Structural Engineers

The Blueprint Tour
The Blueprint Tour
A construction podcast hosted by PermitZIP.
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