How Construction Managers Drive Projects Forward
Construction managers are specialized project managers. In real estate improvement projects, a good construction manager and team keeps an eye on big-picture factors while paying close attention to details. In general, construction managers oversee a handful of key factors: cost; time; scope and quality; safety and risk; and team and information.
Since most projects have limited funds, construction managers initially estimate the costs of a project to prepare a detailed budget. Managers decide how the various phases of the job will be accomplished, who will do that work and then negotiate contracts with appropriate pricing structures. During construction, the construction manager reviews invoices, making sure amounts requested align with work completed and materials purchased. At the end of the work, the construction manager reconciles final quantities and any changes along the way that may have affected the budget and ensures that all final payments are made.
Another important aspect of budgeting is value engineering. The construction management team should review feasibility and recommend cheaper or better value alternative solutions and materials to keep a project within budget.
Watching the Schedule
Time is almost always as important, or more important, than costs for many projects. So, the construction manager either refines or prepares a schedule for the project to best achieve milestone dates. Real estate improvement and renovation projects are complex: A good construction manager tracks the engineering, manufacturing, installing and set-up for all the necessary materials and equipment. The manager must also coordinate the work of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people working on the project to ensure that the necessary resources are on the job in the right order and at the right time to get the work done.
Tracking Scope and Quality
And since improvement projects involve many technical elements that can’t be done by one entity, construction managers must delegate various work scopes to the proper contractors. The management team breaks down the project and contracts with tradespeople and suppliers to take on clearly defined elements of the project. During the project, construction managers coordinate and doublecheck the quantity of materials and work. They also consistently review quality, taking care that each element complies with the standards set out by codes and the original plans and specifications. They ensure that every part or system installed is functional and that all the pieces integrate as one.
Managing Safety and Risks
Construction is notoriously hazardous. Good construction management mitigates the inherent risks as much as possible by engendering a culture of safety awareness and developing plans and policies focused on prioritizing safety of people and property. Construction managers should be OSHA-certified and hire subcontractors who emphasize safe practices and are properly insured.
Beyond physical safety, construction presents other risks: Especially with building improvement or renovation, unknown or hidden conditions can throw off schedules or budgets. Construction managers should try to identify and understand existing conditions by opening walls, digging holes, inspecting a property or running tests before having contractors estimate the time and cost of work. They must also negotiate the best allocation of risk-sharing among the parties based on who can best control the factors and impacts.
Professional construction managers and teams must always be looking ahead to anticipate and proactively do their best to prevent or contain customary or unique potential problems. And, at the close of a project, they are tasked with making sure all work is compensated properly and documentation is collected to eliminate the risk of a subcontractor placing a mechanic’s lien on the property.
Leading an Informed Team
Managing internal and contracted personnel is a large part of construction management. Construction managers identify companies and contractors that can successfully provide products and services. They then contact those providers and collect and evaluate bids. Contract negotiation follows and is a critical factor in managing a project. The construction manager must understand any standards or regulations that apply to the project in terms of soliciting bids or hiring.
Once the team is in place, the construction manager communicates with all parties to keep everyone moving in the same direction and making timely and sound decisions all along the journey. Facilitating and memorializing numerous meetings, phone calls and reports on progress and issues is part of the job, as is keeping an accurate record of close-out documents including “as-built” drawings, operation and maintenance manuals, warranties, lien releases, final cost records and any other historical materials to assist with operating the property and for reference on future improvement projects.
Relying on Experience
With this high-level look at what construction managers do, it should be clear that this role is essential to successfully accomplishing real estate improvement and renovation projects. A construction manager or management team that is proactive, experienced and tenacious can drive a project forward while avoiding pitfalls.
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