Ask not what your client can do for you …

In August, I discussed responsible documents, beginning with the OPR and then talking about producing construction documents by the design team. Based on my years of experience working for and with construction managers (CM), it is now time to talk about how they can enhance your business with pre-construction services. It is important to note that since the mid-1990s, many CM firms have staffed up their rosters with in-house engineers to offer more mechanical-electrical-technical leadership through pre-construction services for building owners.

The CM Firm In A Nutshell

If you think about it, approximately 90% of a building program’s finances go through the CM firm, who, as a result, assumes the risk management role required to deliver a building project. Why not increase this leadership role by proactively beginning this risk management process in the design phase? For years now, CMs have been providing pre-construction services more as a paid effort to get the inside track on winning the construction phase work than to assist the client with her building program. If you could win the owner over by being the one to say, “Yes, we can get this done within the budget and by the date you need it,” then why would an owner want to go out and find another contractor when she already has someone committed to her project?

The flaw I see with CM pre-construction services is that they haven’t made the adjustment of being very proactive with these services, even now with their cadre of technical, in-house expertise to rival the design firm’s expertise. Little has changed for CMs who continue to look at the design as if they were simply an estimating firm and not as a manager of the project, with the results being business as usual. Pre-construction services are reactive and not proactive.

If you listened in on the two-part webinar (you can still log on and listen at discussing 21st century design engineering and construction, you will know I don’t think the design community is doing a great job serving their clients. Unfortunately, those engineers who have jumped ship to a CM firm have brought with them an uninspiring attitude that hasn’t contributed in a positive manner to the CM’s pre-construction services. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Bring On The Added Value

Here are my suggestions to CM firms wanting to bring added value to their clients in the pre-construction phase:
  • Issue your pre-construction needs (not requirements), beginning with a request for the OPR (owner’s project requirements). This is a frequently overlooked, LEED®-required document that is really needed for all building programs and is needed at the start of the project. The CM may find that this document has not been produced, and yet the design team is off designing a building.
  • Be prepared to facilitate the writing of the OPR if it hasn’t been done. How can a CM truly help his client if he doesn’t know what the OPR wishlist is?
  • Bring the CM in-house team together and brainstorm the OPR’s, write it down and ensure the client that their goals can be achieved. Then proceed forward with this performance statement document as the roadmap, deliverable for the agreed-upon budget.
  • Request the client’s operating budget so that the CM can be focused on a sustainable, responsible building solution, along with the first-cost solution. If it doesn’t exist, facilitate the documentation.
  • Ensure the client he will have a CMMS system and a PM workorder system in place before day one of occupancy.
  • Ensure that the client’s building system assets will be inventoried and barcoded, whether the client is ready or not for barcoding, and that it will be done within budget.
  • Facilitate a system training program for the client’s operators at the end of the schematic design, design development, and construction document phases, and then continue with this through the construction phase.
  • Include third-party commissioning, third-party TAB, and commissioning of the building envelope as part of the CM firm’s standard quality control process.
Each of these issues is needed to make a building program successful over the life of the facility in the 21st century. What is lacking within standard consulting engineer’s specifications that miss their mark relative to these issues can be efficiently corrected through proactive pre-construction services. What better way to have a positive impact on a building program beginning in the pre-construction phase?
What not to do in the pre-construction services period? Don’t function in a reactive mode. Don’t set a due date or multiple due dates for documents to be submitted from the design team for budget pricing and GMP (guaranteed maximum pricing) and don’t have an estimator do value engineering (value-cutting).That is what most CMs do today. Let’s change that for the client.ES

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