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The FF&E Process Explained

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In this guide, we’ll explain the FF&E process and the tools you need to implement and deliver FF&E projects. 

We’re here to demystify the FF&E process for you. We often think of the FF&E process taking place in showrooms and design meetings. The reality is that the FF&E process takes a lot of detail-oriented, behind-the-scenes coordination.

Regardless of the exact scope of FF&E on a project, FF&E items need to be tracked carefully from the selection stage to their final placement in the building. Options need to be considered. Costs assigned. Final choices need to be approved. Procurement, delivery, and installation statuses need to be recorded. 

Throughout the FF&E process, a great deal of data needs to be gathered and shared among the project stakeholders. That data often resides in disconnected platforms, making it difficult to keep tabs on everything at once.

Our goal is to show you how to implement the FF&E process in an efficient and integrated manner with these 7 key steps:

1: Design the Schematic Layout
2: Gather Specification Data
3: Present FF&E to the Client
4: Procurement
5: Confirm Delivery and Condition Status
6: Installation and Punch List
7: Client Handover

What is FF&E?

FF&E is shorthand for Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment.

In architecture and interior design, FF&E typically encompasses all movable or easily removed objects in a building, not including sellable products. FF&E is often not supplied by the general contractor, but may be installed by them, denoted as ‘OFCI’ or ‘Owner Furnished, Contractor Installed.’

Depending on the scale and type of project, FF&E design may begin schematically as early as feasibility studies. For example, understanding how many desks can fit in an open floor office layout is integral to development of the architectural floor plans both for budget and layout concerns.

From here, the FF&E plan is developed and refined concurrently with the architectural design process

Step 1: Design the Schematic Layout

Designing with FF&E in mind from the beginning enables more human scaled design, accurate client expectations, and responsible budgeting.

It’s easiest to start designing FF&E by looking at the big picture.

You have an architectural layout that may or may not be finalized and now you have to populate it. While there may be times that you will design a space entirely around a very specific piece of furniture, for the most part, you can keep FF&E vague at this point.

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Managing Client Expectations

For example, if you’re designing an office park, the client will want to know the number of hot desks that might be available in an open floor plan. For a commercial kitchen, the head chef will want to be assured there’s room for enough speed racks and an appropriately sized griddle.

The make and model of these furnishings and equipment do not have to be decided yet. However, it’s a good opportunity to get an idea of quantity, required space, and price.

Architects and interior designers will often keep schematic sizing and distribution of furnishings in mind throughout the design process by putting generic placeholder furniture in the drawings. This way, at a glance, both the designer and the client can have a better grasp of the scale of the space.

Budgeting Responsibly

FF&E is also a huge part of the budget and clients need to allow for it from the beginning.

In the end, furnishings are the most tactile part of a project that can make or break the end result. Designing without an accurate FF&E budget in mind from the beginning might lead to catastrophic budget slashing late in the project.

But how can you even start to estimate FF&E quantities and budget when the schematic layout is ever-changing? And how do you communicate these changes with the client?

Looking Beyond Spreadsheets

In our experience, a flexible database tool linked to Revit is the best software solution for capturing, organizing, and sharing FF&E project data. This type of digital tool makes it easy to streamline communication in one dashboard, not in separate documents and folders.

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Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • Room Data Sheets: Create a rich digital profile for each room or piece of FF&E. Upload and organize inspiration images, quantities, desired pricing, and client notes into one flexible form that doesn’t have the limitations of a spreadsheet.
  • Report Builder: See an overview of FF&E items, using it as a quick gauge for capacities of a space. Include pricing, so you can summarize the approximate cost to truly get a space up and running.
  • Revit Integration: Link every piece of FF&E data in the flexible form to Revit. When the model changes, so do your quantities and pricing, instantly. Without the need to update a disconnected spreadsheet or report.

Step 2: Gather Specification Data

You’ve established the schematic layout of the space. You’ve met with the client to understand the design brief. And, you’ve defined an approximate budget for the project.

Now it’s time for the fun part: the hunt. 

Organizing It All In One Place

Regardless of whether you’re an architect, interior designer, or even a medical equipment planner, you’re going to be visiting a lot of websites looking for FF&E options. You might also be visiting showrooms, vendor conferences, or meeting with product reps to gather information too.

In short, you’re collecting a lot of FF&E specification data in the form of photos, cut sheets, and raw numbers, like pricing and model numbers. You may even need to document owner-provided FF&E items or start ordering samples to present to the client. 

Where do you store all of this coordination information? In file folders? In a spreadsheet disconnected from Revit? This is when a flexible database linked to Revit becomes invaluable tool to FF&E designers.

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Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • Product Directory: Create a digital directory of FF&E products with cut sheets, photos, and more. Create fields to evaluate options and to quickly identify missing data. Track changes and create the foundation of the Owner’s Manual.
  • Vendor Directory: Create a directory of vendor contacts linked to the FF&E product directory for easy reference.
  • Communication Tools: Invite vendors and consultants to upload their own FF&E data and cut sheets. Consultants can take control of their scope of work without getting into the Revit model. Use notifications to send reminders when requested items are uploaded.

Step 3: Present FF&E to the Client

You’ve gathered several options for each piece of FF&E. You’ve created test-fit drawings for each option. Now it’s time to review all of your findings with the client. 

Surfacing Answers Instantly

As a designer, you will create digital presentation boards with design concepts and a floor plan. This makes it easy for clients to visualize where the FF&E is located. 

You will also need to take detailed meeting notes about your client’s feedback. They will likely have questions about pricing, quantities, and lead times. Perhaps they like the fabric on one chair option, but prefer the style of another.

Procuring client approval will likely take several meetings with a client, especially if the project is sizable. Be prepared with up-to-date information for pricing and lead times, so clients can make an informed decision in a timely manner. Storing everything in a flexible database will make it easy to surface this information in real-time right in the meeting. 

Once you have client approval, you will need to update your drawings or Revit model with the final FF&E selections.

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Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • Presentation Builder: Create digital concept boards linked directly to the FF&E products which are easy to reference in a meeting.
  • Smart Meeting Minutes: Create meeting minutes with direct links to FF&E products. This makes it easy to understand client notes after the meeting.
  • Client Decision Tracker: Create a field called “Client Decision” and a date field to track when the FF&E item is approved or rejected. If the item is rejected, create a field called “Client Reason” to detail why it was rejected.
  • Revit Integration: If you have a flexible database tool that connects to Revit, you will be able to easily coordinate any FF&E changes with the Revit model.

Step 4: Procurement

Great news, the client has approved every piece of FF&E. You’re ready to move forward with finalizing drawings and purchasing the FF&E, also known as procurement. 

Defining FF&E Procurement

FF&E Procurement is a laborious process, necessitating an attention to detail and ability to track many moving pieces of information. Depending on the project and scope of work, you may work with a procurement agent or you may do the ordering yourself. If doing it yourself, one of the key pieces of information you will need to track is the “lead time.”

It’s important that things arrive on site when needed. Any later could lead to a domino effect delays, but ordering too early could mean paying for storage space or leaving on site where you risk damage or loss.

Regardless of who is doing the actual purchasing and scheduling of FF&E arrivals, the designer needs to be heavily involved in the process. You will provide a list of specifications, answer vendor questions, and evaluate. You will also propose alternates due to discontinuations, budget, or design intent changes.

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Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • Project Dashboard: Make it easy for the GC, owner, designer, and procurement agent to view one shareable dashboard with up-to-date statuses for each piece of FF&E.
  • Complex Calculations: Update quantities of FF&E and instantly see how those changes affect pricing.
  • Revit Integration: Pull quantities of FF&E items directly from the model without needing to open or know Revit.

Deep dive into the FF&E Procurement Process with our step-by-step guide here >

Step 5: Confirm Delivery and Condition Status

FF&E has started to arrive on site, now what?

Ensuring Quality Control

Inspect the condition of every piece of FF&E before installation. Depending on the type of project you’re working on, you may be responsible for inspecting FF&E. However, for larger projects, this task is usually the responsibility of the procurement agent or contractor. 

If there is damage, take photos and notate who is responsible for fixing or replacing the damaged item. If not, you or the contractor may be liable for damages down the road or miss return windows to the vendor.

Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • Condition Tracker: Upload photos of the FF&E items after they have been unpacked, even if they aren’t damaged. Create a field in each product profile called “Delivery Condition” to track FF&E items that have been delivered and approved for installation.
  • Location Tracker: Create a field called ‘Location’ to catalog items in off-site storage.

Step 6: Installation and Punch List

You likely are not responsible for the physical installation of FF&E, but you may be the primary point of contact to coordinate it. You can help the process run smoothly by providing easy-to-interpret furniture plans, lighting schedules, and installation information from the manufacturers.

Create a punch list to document that everything is installed correctly and without damage.

Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • Punch Lists: Create punch list items with its location on the floor plan. Document the item with photos, markups, and notes. Export a customizable punch list report to share with the GC and owner.
  • Product Manual Directory: Invite vendors to upload installation requirements, files, and videos with the contractor/installer.

Step 7: Client Handover

You’re almost there! Everything is installed and the client is happy. Now what? 

Set your client up for success by providing them with a digital Owner’s Manual of maintenance instructions and vendor contact information for each piece of FF&E.

If you are delivering an as-built Revit model to the client, connect the Owner’s Manual to the digital model via a flexible database tool. Doing this adds even more value to your services and helps your client effectively and easily operate their building.

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Conclusion

We hope that we’ve demystified the FF&E process for you. As you can see, a designer’s job isn’t limited to just design. A lot of detail-oriented coordination goes into making FF&E projects successful. Unfortunately, a lot of that coordination involves capturing and organizing a lot of data and paperwork, which is why we choose to use a flexible database tool to manage FF&E projects more efficiently.

Errors made during the FF&E process can be costly. We recommend using a flexible database tool to create one central source of truth for your project. Doing so, will reduce, if not eliminate, the number of errors that arise from using disparate communication and documentation channels.

Try Layer App, the flexible database tool that connects to Revit

If you’d like to learn more about a flexible database tool like Layer, schedule a demo >
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