WEB EXCLUSIVE: Should higher eds D-I-Y or outsource during construction?

Today’s WEB EXCLUSIVE comes courtesy of The Boldt Company.

In our do-it-yourself world, how do you know when self-reliance will save you money or cost more in the long run? Many higher education institutions are finding their most flexible options and best outcomes happen when they outsource construction projects.

Today’s colleges and universities that are faced with multi-million dollar construction or remodeling projects have to assess the differences between at-risk construction management, fast-track construction, multiple prime contractors, and design-build. Increasingly, they are looking at a solution called construction management–a delivery method that is focused on collaboration, information sharing and shared cost management.

Construction Management—a system built on teamwork

Not all projects are ideal for a construction management approach. But, when projects are complicated, on a tight time frame and require high quality, construction management is the answer. When universities hire construction managers, they are looking for a partner who will step in at the beginning of a project and work in a collaborative setting with the architect, the school, subcontractors and the facilities department. This process is a significant departure from traditional delivery methods.

“Traditionally, the architect designs the project, the school bids it out and awards it to the lowest bidder and you get what you get,” says Rob Meyers, Boldt project manager. “A construction manager acts as an advocate throughout the project and a liaison between all parties and still allows the project the advantages of competitive bids.”

“From our experience, we have found the role of construction manager delivers us efficiency, cost savings, responsiveness and responsibility,” said Dr. Rebecca Sherrick, president of Aurora University.

Sherrick says the decision to outsource this role works best with the existing facilities department. “I believe in separating construction management from daily maintenance,” she said. “It takes different skill sets to do each job and you get the best from both areas when you use this approach.”

Using a construction manager is the difference between being part of a team and playing against an opponent. “A construction manager is part of the team together with the university and the architect,” said Scott Bengston, Boldt project manager. “You’re involved right from the beginning and have input on design, budgeting, scheduling, and constructability. Input from the front line saves time and money,” Bengston said.

For most university projects, construction managers works side-by-side with the facilities department. Facilities managers have a variety of responsibilities and may not be able to perform all the oversight duties a construction manager does.

When facilities departments are included at project inception, Sherrick says the process works in a positive way. “There are a lot of stakeholders involved when you build a building,” Sherrick said. “The faculty is a stakeholder, because they’ll live in a building and the facilities department is a stakeholder because they will operate the building.”

So how does an institution know it needs a construction manager? There are no “Top 10 reasons to hire a construction manager,” but there are some issues to consider. Bengston says you need to assess the complexity of your project, the skills of your facilities department, and the oversight of the finished work.

Bengston says, “When an owner needs to pre-qualify subs and make certain they fulfill their promises, then an owner needs a construction manager.”

What does a construction manager do? (from the Construction Management Assocation of America)
Some of the typical roles a construction manager plays are:
• Establishing general project characteristics and performance requirements.
• Site analysis and selection.
• Acting as leader in forming a collaborative team of professionals.
• Coordinating with ongoing activities and other public and community concerns to minimize interruptions.
• Developing a preliminary budget and comprehensive master schedule.
• Budgeting general funding among a number of individual projects according to specific project needs.
• Establishing a management information and reporting system to meet your requirements.
• Developing detailed and complete bid documents to assure timely, responsive and comparable bids, while avoiding questions and protests.

All parties are quick to say there’s no one “right” approach to determine if a project needs a construction manager or some other delivery method. However, both clients and construction companies agree, problems are minimized and outcomes are maximized when all parties work together in a collaborative setting at the outset.