What is Construction Management and Why is it Important?
The Construction Management Institute defines Construction Management as:
“The art of directing and coordinating human and material resources throughout the life of a project by using modern management techniques to achieve predetermined objectives of design, scope, cost, time, quality, and participating objectives.”
Construction Management is a professional service that provides either a residential or commercial project’s owner(s) vision. All this with effective management of the project’s design, schedule, cost, quality, safety, scope, and function. Construction Management is compatible with all project delivery methods. No matter the setting or surroundings, a Construction Manager’s responsibility is to the owner and a successful World Class project.
At its core, a project is made up of three parties (excluding the Construction Manager):
- The owner and the facility manager, who awards and contracts the project and either fund the project directly or finances it through other methods.
- The architect/engineer/general contractor planner who designs the project.
- The general contractor, who oversees day-to-day operations and manages subcontractors.
The Construction Manager represents the owner’s and/or the facility manager’s interests, and watches the entire project for the owner and/or the facility manager.
His/her mandate is to work with all parties to deliver the project on time, at or under budget, and to the owner’s expected standard of design, quality, scope, and function.
What’s so great about Construction Managers?
Construction Managers are uniquely qualified through combined education and experience to work with the owner, architect, contractor(s), and other stakeholders to determine the best possible sequence of construction operations. As well as develop a detailed schedule and budget, while also establishing project sketches, plans, or design for project milestones, safety, and helping the owner’s and/or facility managers manage risk. This requires using project management information systems or software, and involved planning techniques, like detailed process methods, as well as knowledge of construction methods.
A 2013 study by Construction.com and supported by the CMAA Foundation showed that professional Construction Management firms saved money, avoided or mitigated problems, and produced higher quality results for residential and commercial owners.
Professional Construction Management firms use industry-standard practices to successfully manage projects. Construction Management firms use their knowledge and practice standards to address all seven areas of construction management services: design, schedule, cost, safety, quality, function, and scope.
Construction Management in the Construction Industry has been booming in recent years. Specifically, the demand for high-end exterior lifestyle living spaces continues to grow each year. This makes it one of the most popular Construction Management categories for home improvement. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the demand for outdoor living spaces is on the rise, as more than 60% of architects responding to an AIA survey said they had seen an increase in outdoor living space requests.
Of the 80 million homes in the U.S., 60 million still need outdoor remodeling!
Retaining Walls – Pavers – Decks – Lighting – Fire Pits – Synthetic Turf – Hardscapes – Stone Cladding – Rockeries – Irrigation Systems – Water Features – Landscape Designs – Plantings – Fences – Pools and more! Luxurious outdoor living spaces are featured elements of Construction Management lines, because they add value to the client’s home over their cost.
However, there are areas where it goes wrong in the Construction Management industry.
These are common obstacles to Construction Management completion and what a Project Manager can do to keep construction on track.
To prevent undefined goals, the Construction Manager is careful to ask the right questions to establish and communicate clear goals from the start.
Changes in the “Scope of Work”
Also known as “scope creep,” this describes the extension of the scope of work beyond the original objectives. Since these changes are unplanned, they typically cause delays and cost money that isn’t in the budget. It is up to the Construction Manager to evaluate change requests and decide how and whether to implement them. The Construction Manager then communicates to all stakeholders the impact the change will have on the schedule and/or budget.
Inadequately Skilled Personnel
The Construction Manager will determine the competencies and assess the available contractors and/or skilled tradespeople. If needed, training can be recommended, as can re-outsourcing the job and hiring additional workers.
Lack of Accountability
If the assigned contractors aren’t taking responsibility for their goals and activities, the Construction Manager will provide the leadership. So, the manager can direct (or herd) the contractor team towards the goals laid out in the plan.
Improper Risk Management
Risk tolerance is part of the make-up of the Construction Manager. To avoid risk management shortcomings, the Construction Manager learns to gather input, develop trust between contractor team members, and have a good idea which parts of the project are likely to veer off course.
Ambiguous Contingency Plans
Part of the Construction Manager’s planning includes what to do for scenarios when things aren’t going according to plan. These contingencies should be identified ahead of time. A good Construction Manager learns to ask others to help identify potential problems.
Poor communication is a morale killer and a project delay mechanism of the first order. It is up to the Construction Manager to keep communications and feedback open between client and contractor team leaders, as well as other stakeholders.
Another morale killer, impossible deadlines could result in a loss of productivity. The Construction Manager is there to respond to unreasonable requests and negotiate a more realistic deadline.
If resource needs are inadequately defined in the beginning, this will become an issue. The Construction Manager assesses need, and then assigns and prioritizes resources throughout the project.
Lack of Stakeholder Engagement
The Construction Manager will strive to keep communications open and encourage feedback from everyone at every step of the project.
Construction Management Basics
4. Performance Monitoring
The Construction Manager begins by creating and evaluating a business case to determine project feasibility. Along with the stakeholder, a project initiation document is developed.
Planning includes creating a “map” for everyone to follow. The Construction Manager creates a project management plan that guides the control and execution of the project. It includes the scope of work, cost, and schedule baselines, as well as objectives, deliverables, and key milestones.
With execution, the work begins. The Construction Manager will assign resources, execute plans and tasks, set up tracking systems, and keep the schedule up to date. This is where records management, contract management, and contract procurement are housed.
Performance and monitoring typically occur in conjunction with execution. Progress and performance are measured to ensure the project is tracking to plan.
Closure occurs when the project is complete. The Construction Manager may hold a post-meeting, and the team creates a punch list of items unfinished.
Well, then how do Construction Manager’s make the owner’s and/or facility managers feel more comfortable during a construction project?
For many Construction Manager’s, a construction project is just another day on the job. But for the owner’s and/or the facility managers, it’s a big deal, a possible intrusion into their daily lives or business budgets. From cost overruns to scheduling issues, a construction project is filled with potential land mines that could hurt your relationship with homeowners and/or the facility managers. Here are some proactive ways to make your homeowners and/or facility managers feel more comfortable throughout their construction project.
Give a Realistic Estimate
Everyone wants to land the job, and it can be tempting to provide a “best case scenario” estimate. In reality, though, the best-case scenario is not usually what actually happens. Use estimating software to create a realistic budget for the project, and then add 10-20% for overruns. If your “best case scenario” comes to pass, the homeowners will be thrilled that their final payment is lower than expected. If not, you won’t be dealing with angry homeowners and/or facility managers, sick of skyrocketing expenses.
Pad the Timeline
Like the budget, the timeline never follows the most hoped-for course. Materials delayed, workers call in sick, or subcontractors prioritize a larger project. Use planning software to predict the timeline as closely as possible, and then pad a few days. It’s better to have excited homeowners and/or the facility managers whose project is completed early than upset homeowners and/or the facility managers whose house or facility is torn up longer than they expected.
Set and Follow Expectations
Every homeowner and/or facility manager has their own individual quirks, personal schedule, and preferences. Take some time to sit down and talk about the details! As a residential example, if the homeowner is a night owl, they won’t be happy about your crew showing up at 7:00 a.m. If the outdoor luxury living room is not part of the project, subcontractors shouldn’t track mud across that room’s wood floors. Ask the homeowner what you can do to minimize inconvenience, and explain your processes as well as you can. Be sure to ask about such details as a bathroom your crew can use, and whether you should lock up if the homeowners aren’t home when you leave for the day. Be sure to keep your subs and your employees on the same page about agreed upon expectations – this is easy when using a construction logging software.
Clean as You Go
On a new custom home build, you can leave tools, supplies, and debris around. But, when you are doing work in a home that someone lives in, it’s important to leave the job site neat and clean each day. Take out your trash, stack supplies out of the way, and clean up after your breaks.
No matter how well you plan the project, life happens. If there is a delay, if you uncover hidden damage, or if anything happens to change the plan, tell the homeowners and/or the facility managers ASAP. Most people are reasonable, but lack of communication can erode trust. If the remodel is extensive, update the homeowners and/or facility manager at least weekly, even if you are still on track. This communication is easy with a construction customer portal, where your homeowner and/or facility manager can get all project updates on their own time.
What binds all these demands and opportunities together is the concept of professionalism in construction management. The core of that concept is the professional Construction Manager’s combination of focused education, defined skill, and high ethical standards, together with the obligation to serve first of all the client’s needs and those of the larger society. These changes, of course, mean a continuing challenge for Construction Manager’s as they will be expected to provide expert counsel and effective management of an ever-wider range of services in an ever-larger arena.
This evolution will also bring Construction Management into an ever-closer collaboration with other industry organizations. Instead of clear demarcations and hand-offs between distinct disciplines, today’s owners and facility managers want a more collaborative approach to project delivery, with the various specialists all focused on delivering a project that works for the owner, now and in the future. The professional Construction Manager positions themselves well to manage these collaborative teams. Earning that central role for the Construction Manager, and equipping Construction Manager’s to perform it well, remains the most important challenge for the for professional Construction Management.