When a building, HOA or an individual apartment owner starts a big project, coordinating phases of work, construction schedules, and other logistics can seem like an extremely daunting task. It’s a lot to orchestrate and keep track of – so busy boards, managers, and residents often hire a construction manager or owner’s representative to be on-site, to keep the work on schedule, to ensure that agreements with contractors are fulfilled, and to act as a liaison between board members and workers. Not everybody uses an owner’s rep or ‘CM,’ but enlisting one can help a project go more smoothly – and it can eliminate a lot of pressure on board presidents, committee members and managing agents.
Knowing the benefits of using a CM on major capital projects is important for members of the board of directors, but also for other members of the building community, too. While CMs are the logistical managers of projects and should know what they’re doing whether anyone on the board does or not, any wise resident should be at least familiar with the duties and obligations of CMs, just as a single-family homeowner would want to know the expertise of a plumber fixing their pipes.
Choosing a CM
On a big capital improvement job, the CM is, in a word, the point-person. He/she answers to the board, (or to whoever the board designates as their agent or agents, such as a building committee), and is essential to running a complex project efficiently when there are multiple phases of work to be completed, or a variety of different contractors involved.
“There are a lot of different uses of the term project or construction management,” says John Colagrande, project manager with Pennoni, a national engineering and environmental consulting firm. “The terms are often used interchangeably. A construction or project manager is hired to oversee exterior renovation, coordinate with contractors, facilitate local permitting, and review change orders on behalf of a client. A lot of times, a board does not have anyone who is competent in that area of work or who has the time to do it, so it’s in your best interest to hire someone to represent you with the contractor,” he says. “This is your representative at the construction site. Most construction managers have spent a lot of time doing construction work and have a background in it. They are able to share their experience and knowledge with their clients.”
The first question for many communities is whether or not they need a CM at all. Several factors should be considered when judging whether a project needs the help of a construction manager, including the project’s size, the size of the building, project length and cost, and complexity of the project. In the case of minor projects, like a small canopy replacements or a hallway carpeting upgrade, a CM is probably not needed, since an association manager or another professional appointed by the board can likely handle overseeing the job. Larger and more complicated projects, such as perhaps a major façade repair or roof replacement, could run best if managed by a CM.