By Jeff Davis
Do you really want to tackle something you know so little about?
Even though they lack the time and experience, business owners often attempt to manage their own construction projects. At best, they are left beleaguered and distracted, but more likely, both their business and construction project will suffer. Their business may not get the attention it needs while risking declining sales, operations lacking oversight and business objectives being neglected. At the same time the construction project may experience cost overruns, delays and problems mounting while awaiting solutions.
Owners who are looking to expand their business by leasing additional office space, building their own building or expanding existing space, will need to decide where to focus their attention. They can spend their time either building their business or construction project, but not both. Those who employ the unique set of services available from a professional construction manager (PCM) will spend their time building their business while putting the day-to-day project management details in the hands of the professionals.
PCMs understand that project owners confront complex issues in every facet from planning and design through construction and move-in and that handling these issues competently insures a project that is delivered on time, within budget and meets the quality and project objectives. But it also puts huge demands on the owner’s time and requires skills and expertise that few possess.
Professional construction management has evolved as a discipline separate and distinct from design and contracting that provides business owners with an experienced professional whose role is to act solely in the interest of the owner. PCMs support owners with a proven strategy to deliver the best possible construction projects.
PCMs are the owner’s advocate and representative, combining years of technical knowledge and experience with a commitment to achieve the project goals. Not affected by conflicting interests, they represent owners through all facets of planning, design, permitting, construction, fixturing and move-in. PCMs are the owner’s eyes and ears on the project.
The construction team needs constant input and guidance from the PCM to ensure the design meets the tenant’s needs. Along the way, decisions are made that avoid the typical pitfalls inherent in the design, bidding, permitting, construction and move-in phases. PCMs are there to guard the owner’s checkbook, help manage risk and ensure the owner is being treated fairly. Contractors sometimes make unapproved changes or subs and suppliers substitute inferior products, all of which can slow down the progress. A business owner may be a leader in their own industry but not in the world of construction. PCMs use their personal experience, proven systems and controls to do what it takes to get the project back on track.
Project management is not all about protecting an owner from unscrupulous contractors because most are good, honest folks. PCMs are a huge asset to the contractor and architect as well because they help facilitate better communication and educate the owner as to their risks and responsibilities. PCMs help the owner make timely and informed decisions. The most effective PCMs seek to form a team with the contractor and designers and not be the adversary. PCMs help all to understand that the most successful projects require that everyone be treated fairly and that also means helping the owner know how to fairly deal with the project team.
When you determine the need for a project, your PCM will start the project on the road to success by:
• Taking the lead in forming a team of professionals, including architects, space planners, designers, engineers, contractors, real estate agents, vendors and technology specialists.
• Assisting with site analysis and selection.
• Working with the design team and the owner’s management staff to establish the project requirements.
• Developing preliminary budgets and schedules.
• Evaluating and recommending contracting and project delivery methods that will best achieve the project goals.
In the design phase, your PCM will help:
• The design team meet the project goals and program requirements.
• Develop bid documents to ensure competitive bids and minimize questions and delays.
• Prepare budgets and perform cost analyses and value engineering to maximize the return on the construction investment.
• Coordinate technology systems with construction plans to assure the finished project meets the business needs.
• Develop a detailed design schedule and supervise its implementation.
• Perform constructability reviews to minimize change orders, coordination problems and delays.
During the bid process, your PCM will:
• Prepare proposal requests and pre-qualify potential bidders.
• Conduct pre-bid conferences to clarify project requirements and answer questions.
• Review bid documents to improve constructability and help minimize discrepancies and change orders.
• Evaluate bids, make recommendations for awarding contracts, and prepare construction contracts.
While the construction is underway, your PCM will be your advocate and will:
• Administer the construction process and monitor adherence to quality standards, budgets, schedules and objectives.
• Coordinate with the general contractor, certain subs and suppliers to help them fully understand the project requirements.
• Inspect the work and meet regularly with the designers and contractors to resolve problems and keep the work progressing.
• Manage change orders and evaluate unforeseen conditions, offer alternatives and minimize costs and delays.
• Coordinate the design, procurement and installation of the owner provided furniture, fixtures and equipment, including employee amenities, material handling, kitchen equipment, technology and security systems, artwork and décor.
• Regularly update the budget and review progress payments to document performance, satisfy lenders and minimize risk.
• Coordinate the final stages of construction, including the contractor’s punch list and owner’s move-in and startup.
Owners can use their PCMs as much or as little as needed. They can continue to attend meetings and provide significant input or just show up on opening day. Their involvement will depend on how experienced they are with the process, parties involved and their own time constraints. PCMs can be used to just bid out the work and award contracts or they can manage every detail, including the furniture, fixtures, equipment, technology and security systems not included in the contractor’s work.
Business owners who take advantage of the services offered by a PCM generally agree that the fees paid to their PCM came back to them in savings far exceeding the cost of the project manager. Ultimately, PCMs are problem-solvers. It’s not whether there will be problems; it’s how they are solved.
Jeff Davis is the president of Management Consultants Inc., which he founded in 2004. In his 40 years of construction experience, he has managed over $450 million in projects.