A project can be on the drawing board for several years with intimate involvement from the architect, engineers, and owners. The contractor, however, is often left to interpret and implement the intent in rapid fashion. Review by a construction manager ensures that items are properly spelled out, which helps to avoid change orders and schedule delays that add cost to a project. Photos: H.R. Gray
Owners must clearly articulate their goals for the project to all members of the design and construction team. Construction management firms can help aid in this quest by leveling the playing field between the owner and the contractor, and ensuring that everyone is informed and understands their role, expectations, and schedule for completing the project on time.
Documenting Success

Another area where the construction manager can offer considerable expertise is with the contract documents. Often, the contract that architectural firms use is a standard document available from the American Institute of Architects (AIA): therefore, it is ultimately serving the best interest of the architect. While these standard agreements provide a good starting point, the owner's best interests are achieved by reviewing and altering the document to ensure the best position for the owner. For example, AIA documents are not specific about timing. The document states that the architect will review contractor questions or change orders but does not cite a time-frame for this response—a slow response can become a source of claims.

A construction manager's expertise also extends to coordination with the contractor. Often on public works projects, the firm with the lowest bid secures the work. This philosophy provides contractors with the necessity of maximizing their profit on change-orders since they have already been asked to skinny-down their profit in the low bid. An “owner-friendly” contract can provide more specific language for the owner to control their project and limit their risk. A construction management firm can incorporate schedule milestones into the documents to provide accountability for the contractor. When goals and requirements are clearly explained in the documents, the risk of claims and change orders is dramatically reduced.

One of the most important elements to consider when hiring a construction management firm is experience. Examine the firm's experience in projects similar to yours and be sure that it served as the construction manager for those projects, not merely as the contractor or another member of the team. Also, be sure to check references. Ask for a list of owners that the firm has worked with and contact them to evaluate performance. Finally, make sure that the firm provides comprehensive management with preconstruction, construction, and post-construction services. The proper firm will help level the playing field between the owner and contractor to ensure project success.

James Joyce, P.E., is president and CEO of H.R. Gray, Columbus, Ohio.

What can a construction management firm do for you?

Many construction management firms offer the following services:

  • Audits and cost-to-complete estimates
  • Budget management
  • Change control and management
  • Critical Path Method schedule development and monitoring
  • Constructability reviews
  • Contract administration
  • Contract bidding, negotiation, and award
  • Contract document development
  • Cost and resource scheduling
  • Design and construction schedules
  • Final billings and contract close-outs
  • Final project walk-through
  • Master plan implementation
  • Onsite management and coordination
  • Operation and maintenance manuals
  • Owner training and orientation
  • Project completion and close-out
  • Quality control and inspection
  • Safety monitoring
  • Value engineering