Why You Should Use a Construction Manager
Why select a construction manager for your next project? Put simply, the key issue is “which ‘side of the table’ do you want your builder to sit on?”
Let’s first keep in mind that while some people use the terms general contractor and construction manager interchangeably, these are actually two different jobs.
General Contractor 101
Looking at an organizational structure, it is often clear that a general contractor (GC) is a typical business operation. A GC usually has its own complement of employees. Many times, they have foremen who work predominantly at the jobsite and they also tend to have general laborers, carpenters or other skilled trades.
A GC is usually brought in after a full set of finished drawings have been created. The general contractor then bids out various aspects of the job and presents the owner with one final number – a complete package deal.
Construction Manager 101
A construction manager is actually an alternative to hiring a general contractor. As the property owner’s representative, the construction manager oversees the subcontractors, making sure that the work is done correctly, follows the plan, stays on schedule and is free of monkey business around change orders and other upcharges.
Generally, a construction manager could be an individual or a group of persons. The key difference is that the people on staff with a construction manager are not usually rank and file employees who perform the actual building.
Rather, construction managers will work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, engineers and a variety of trade workers including carpenters and electricians. They may also connect with specialists in everything from structural metalworking and painting, to landscaping and site excavation. Depending on the project, construction managers may have to interact with attorneys and local government officials.
Now, these two descriptions might be a bit oversimplified, plus we could spend paragraphs describing each, but you get the gist.
Another key difference between hiring a construction manager and a general contractor is financial.
For example, in a traditional homeowner-GC arrangement, the GC calculates his costs, gets estimates from subcontractors, and then marks each of these up to give you a single price. The construction manager, however, won’t give you one price – your checks won’t be payable to one payee. Instead, you will hire all the contractors and there won’t be any middle man to mark up the costs. You will pay the construction manager a fee, but that will be less than the GC’s markup would be.
If you choose to work without a construction manager, you are relying on the word of the architectural partner or GC. But since money is a main factor in many construction issues, there is potential for the relationship to become contentious. Hiring a construction manager puts a knowledgeable professional on your side.
Possible responsibilities of the construction manager might include:
- Project management planning. This initial stage involves laying out a plan for the entire project, including the variety of jobs that need to be done, the materials required and the requisite timeline.
- Cost management. Construction managers must constantly keep tabs on costs, making adjustments, if necessary.
- Quality management. Projects often involve numerous contractors and subcontractors; as such, construction managers must make sure they’re all doing a good job and not cutting corners.
- Contract administration. Lengthy contracts with the client are part of all construction projects, and it’s the construction manager’s job to assure all of the contract provisions are being met and all parties are satisfied.
- Safety management. Construction sites are filled with potential safety hazards that construction managers must be aware of and guard against throughout the process.
Construction managers are a lot like mothers, really! They need to set schedules, keep an eye on finances, make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be every day (and doing what they’re supposed to be doing), ensure there are no safety hazards on the job and, in general, keep everyone happy!
Let’s look a bit more closely at some of the advantages of employing a construction manager.
The Benefits Actually Begin Prior to any Actual Construction!
Unlike GC’s who enter a project after the building plans are drawn and approved, a construction manager is part of the project from conception to completion.
For example, during the pre-construction process, the concept of “constructability” is key. In short, is it possible to build what you want, the way you want it, in the location you want and within your budget? How exactly will the finished product look? What obstacles are likely to crop up and how will you handle them?
The construction manager will answer these questions and more. He/she will help the owner determine the size and shape of the finished building, as well as what systems are needed (HVAC, conveyers, etc.).
Critical decisions, such as choice of building materials, are also made during the pre-construction phase.
The construction manager will hire subcontractors for actual construction. Using his/her expertise and connections, the construction manager will secure crews essential to every aspect of the job.
Construction managers at this phase benefits all owners, regardless of their experience. Novices will receive guidance and advice needed to avoid pitfalls later on. Experienced owners will eliminate hassles by delegating day-to-day management to the construction manger to handle on their behalf.
How Involved Do You Want to Be?
Another advantage of the construction manager is that the owner will retain a high degree of control and involvement in the project. The construction manager can be looked at as a consultant who lends a professional hand. He/she will help solicit bids, review estimates, coordinate schedules and oversee construction. But the owner will be closely involved in every step along the way.
You Really Want a Single Point of Contact . . .
Whether a small project with a handful of contractors or a large national project with various contractors from each market, hiring a construction manager means that you only need to work with a single point of contact.
The construction manager handles the communication between each contractor and funnels the information back to you, preserving both time and resources.
Throughout the entire project, the construction manager’s primary role is one of owner’s advocate, assuring that the owner’s interest are best served
Remember, the construction manager is the owner’s representative who is onsite during all phases of construction, providing early dispute resolution, aggressive yet fair change order negotiations and elimination of conflicts of interest since the construction manager does not perform design or trade-contracting through his own workforce as some contractors do.
. . . You Really Need Open, Effective Communication
Communication is perhaps the most important aspect of any project, especially one on a larger scale. Establishing effective communication channels is hugely important to the success of a project, especially in such a dynamic environment like that of a construction project. Such open communication can lower the potential for problems and disputes among parties and enhance quality control in the building process.
Construction managers act as a liaison among the contractors, the owners and the designers. They make integration among all parties seamless while promoting useful feedback during design and planning.
For example, a construction manager’s role will include scheduling regular project status updates, allowing all concerned to effectively follow everyone’s progress.
Bids, Bids and More Bids . . . Bid Them Adieu
If hired early, the construction manager will help you with your bids. How else can you be sure you are getting good price for the quality you are expecting?
Because of their backgrounds, construction managers are experts in providing the lowest possible project cost based on selecting the lowest bidder from different bid divisions and he/she has the network to secure the right local contractors.
The construction manager has most likely been involved in similar projects and will have a good eye for how the estimate comes together.
Value Engineering is Valuable
Through value engineering analysis, alternate systems are evaluated to determine the best combination of price, schedule, constructability, function and aesthetics for each segment of the project. With a construction manager, value engineering savings have amounted on average to 10% of the construction cost, far outweighing the fee that the construction manager is paid.
Remember, construction managers are present at the project site to assure the contractors and sub-contractors follow the plan and schedule. They also have the necessary experience to be able to judge the competency of a contractor’s workers and have a deep understanding of jobsite safety.
Maybe the best thing about having a construction manager is that he can find and correct problems before they impact the schedule and completion date.
Efficiency, Productivity, Proficiency . . . No Matter How You Describe It, It’s Important!
There is no denying that effective construction management improves the efficiency of a project. You don’t want to waste your own time making sure your GC has the right bonding, insurance, credit lines, etc. A good construction manager will fill in these blanks, as well as make sure the city you are in has the proper documentation for the project (including making sure all inspections are properly scheduled and chaperoned.)
Keep in mind, too, that many GC’s are too busy dealing with their businesses and/or the multitude of projects they are working on simultaneously. If there is a time-sensitive phone call, you will be thanking yourself for the decision when the construction manager answers 24/7.
Meetings and walk-throughs san also be difficult with a GC. Most GCs just want to be left alone while they do “their thing” and if you work 8-5, you will find it problematic to properly go over the ongoing project, which is key especially if you (the owner) are not construction savvy.
The construction manager can handle all the keys. This might sound silly to someone who has not done large renovations, but the keys for all the doors and access points can be a genuine headache. Many GC’s only have the owner to go to when someone loses a key or, let’s say, the plumber is two hours early and needs to get in or what about a hundred other events that involve accessing the building.
The first priority on any construction site has to be safety.
That, too, is the first priority for the construction manager.
The construction manager will work to protect the reputation of the job owner and the safety of workers and visitors on the jobsite by ensuring every step of the process uses the best safety practices. He/she will ensure jobsite safety by:
- Enforcing agreed-upon safety standards (such as OSHA) throughout the project.
- Making the final call when weather or other unforeseen conditions compromise jobsite safety.
- Setting a realistic timeframe that allows all work to be completed safely and on time
No Post-Construction Hangovers
The construction manager stays on the project until all aspects of the job are complete, including filing paperwork, cleaning up, returning rented equipment and ensuring outstanding invoices are paid correctly.
At project’s end, he/she will turn the keys over to the building owner and answer any questions about features or aspects of the project. If the owner decides to expand or make changes to the building in the future, the construction manager will have the knowledge of the project and provide similar services for the expansion.
Have we piqued your interest in retaining a construction manager on your next project?
Simply contact PDDM Solutions for complete information.