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Selecting the Right Construction Manager

Often times, in Capital Improvement Programs (CIP), Facilities Managers (FM) must modernize an existing facility or build a new one. You may have the resources such as designers and project managers that can handle the work but what if you have a major project or many projects and you need to hire a consultant?

Owners are faced with this situation and will often turn to a consultant such as a Program and Construction Manager (PM/CM). The PM/CM should be able to provide specialized professional services that can be tailored to the owner’s needs. But how do you know which firm? How do you know which team?

Construction can be complex. There are processes in programming, design, planning, and construction. There are constraints in time, budget and quality performance. All of these tasks require experience and knowledge to carry out. If your program or project isn’t properly set up, you will have a lamentable experience. The selection of your PM/CM is crucial.

It has been standard practice to hire the architectural/design team separately from the PM/CM. On large programs this is the case. On medium to smaller CIP’s, owners are hiring the PM/CM to assist in the selection of the architects/designers and other consultants. The benefit is that as an agency PM/CM, the firm is an extension of the FM and will look out for the benefit of the owner. There are many criteria a FM must take into consideration. In this article, we will discuss some of the main ones.

1. Request for Qualification – Make sure you issue a Request for Qualifications to as many firms as you can. Include the larger firms and the smaller ones. In general, the larger firms have more resources but are also more expensive. When looking at the smaller firms, make sure the team members have a broad range of expertise.

Provide a detailed explanation of what you are doing and what you are looking for. Make sure to include the requirements you think are needed for your program/project. The expertise you may need should be advertised. Include language such as Cash Flow Management, Design Management, Value Engineering, Budget Development, Project Controls and Quality Controls just to name a few. Also, include language that the firm will not “bait and switch” personnel if hired. In today’s market, this is a common practice because of shortage of qualified personnel.

2. Knowledge and Experience – There is no substitute for having the experience and the practice in the type of project you are building. Carefully review the resumes of the firms and make sure that the individual/s being proposed have a broad range of experience in the programming and construction aspects. They should show demonstratable experience in managing designers, other consultants, contractors and understand the multiple agencies that may be involved in your program. Whatever the FM needs, the PM/CM can be leveraged to provide the necessary skills needed.

3. Cost and Best Value – The FM must know what the disciplines and professional services that will be required. In general, the larger the firm, the more expensive they are. These firms may have in-house architects, engineers, environmental, schedulers, and estimators. The smaller firms will assist you in selecting professionals that provide these services and at a reduced cost. Then again, you may be looking for staff augmentation in which case the FM should be able to contract the right person for the right price.

Ensure that your budget will be able to accommodate the size of firm. Bringing in a PM/CM early in your journey can benefit you in analyzing and determining what is the correct fit.

4. Leadership – The selection of the PM/CM must also be based on ability to lead. The PM/CM must have a plan which will show the roles, responsibilities, procedures in the programming and the construction stages. The PM/CM must hold all parties accountable because if there is a weak link in the chain, then all others will be affected. The leader should be able communicate and build relationships. The PM/CM must know how to communicate. This is more than sending out emails and calling people. The PM/CM must have key performance indicators to be able to show the owner where your project is at any given moment. The PM/CM must have the ability to build relationships with the owner and staff, stake holders, consultants, and contractors.

This article is courtesy of Raymond Esparza, President of Sylmar Construction Management at, a small, Southern California, minority business enterprise which was established to provide construction management services to clients that are looking for expertise in their Facilities and Capital Programs.

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