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Choosing a Construction Delivery Method for K-12 Building Projects

Construction Administrators

If you’re starting your first building or renovation project in your district—or even your first project in a long time—there can be a hefty learning curve. The processes are nuanced, there are endless acronyms and industry jargon, and many different people and organizations are involved.

For even the savviest of school administrators, it can be a very complicated and high-pressure process, especially when using public funds. One of the most important, and potentially difficult, decisions you’ll need to make during your project is which method of construction delivery to use.

 

What is Construction Delivery?

“Construction delivery” refers to the way in which the construction process is managed and services rendered in order to complete the project. There are a variety of construction delivery methods to choose from, and the one you decide on will determine the steps in the process and your role throughout.

In K-12 school construction projects, Owners typically use one of three common construction delivery methods: Construction Manager as Adviser (CMa), Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc), and Design-Bid-Build (DBB) without a construction manager.

There are several additional construction delivery methods, but we’ll focus on these three most common. To learn about other construction delivery methods, check out our e-magazine.

Role of a Construction Manager

Two of the three construction delivery methods we’ll discuss involve a construction manager (CM). The CM is hired by the project Owner (you) to be the point person who organizes and oversees all aspects of a construction project. This includes:

  • Managing the project schedule, including design and construction
  • Managing the project budget, including preparing cost estimates during the design process
  • Organizing and administering the bidding process
  • Serving as the primary point of communication and a liaison between contractors and the architecture/engineering (A/E) firm(s) that designed the building
  • Ensuring contractors construct the building according to the exact specifications of the design drawings
  • Working with the A/E to review construction work for quality assurance

A CM is essentially a middle man between all major players in the process. They work on behalf of the Owner and are deeply involved in the day-to-day aspects of construction.

When deciding if you need a CM, carefully consider who on your staff would manage the project otherwise. Does this person have recent experience managing complex construction projects and their many details and nuances? Does this person have excellent communication, organization, and project management skills? Does this person have the necessary knowledge of various disciplines involved, including electrical, mechanical, HVAC, carpentry, etc., to be able to oversee such work? And perhaps most importantly, does this person have the time available to manage the construction process in addition to his/her regular duties?

 

Construction Manager as Adviser (CMa)

 

What is it?

In this construction delivery method, the CMa performs all functions described above. While the CMa organizes the bidding process and manages the construction process, the Owner contracts directly with the contractors. Typically, the Owner will hold contracts with five to 10 different contractors chosen to complete the construction.

When do you choose it?

CMa is often used for larger, more complex projects—typically over $5 million. A CMa is paid a fee separate from the construction costs. This is typically 4-8% of the total construction cost. The Owner is essentially paying for a trusted adviser to guide them through the project.

What is your role as the Owner?

As the Owner in the CMa method, you hold the contracts with each contractor. This gives you control over the contractors, as well as the CMa and A/E. It also means you assume the risk associated with those contractual relationships.


Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc)

 

What is it?

In this method, also known as Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR), the CMc performs all functions described above. However, instead of the contractors being contracted with the Owner, they are contracted with the CMc. The CMc is paid a fee for pre-construction services, as well as a management fee, typically 4-8% of the total construction cost. In CMc, a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for the cost of construction can also be used.

This method of construction delivery has been used on privately funded projects in Indiana for many years. Recently, Indiana law changed to permit CMc on publicly funded projects, including public schools. There are specific provisions that must be followed when using CMc.

When do you choose it?

Like the CMa method, CMc allows the Owner to step out of the day-to-day of the construction process by entrusting an experienced party to coordinate and oversee the work. The CMc method transfers the contractual authority and risk to the CMc. This is attractive to many Owners. CMc is often used on projects that require multiple phases of construction, have tight schedules, or have special site constraints.

What is your role as the Owner?

CMc allows you to step back further from the construction process, as you do not hold the contracts with the contractors. You are only contracted with the CMc and A/E. In this method, it’s important to establish the process in which construction costs are determined as part of the selection of the CMc.

 

Design-Bid-Build (DBB) without a CM

 

What is it?

DBB is the most traditional method of construction delivery. “Design-Bid-Build” describes the sequence of the project: the design is completed; the construction work is competitively bid by contractors; and the lowest, most responsive bidder is chosen. Usually, DBB involves the Owner contracting with one prime contractor—typically a general contractor, or GC—who is responsible for managing all construction activities.

The A/E prepares the design, administers the bidding process, and monitors the construction through its construction administration services. The A/E is not considered the CM, however, and does not have all of the same responsibilities.

When do you choose it?

Not all projects warrant a CM. Smaller, simpler, lower-budget projects do not require pre-construction services, phasing of construction, or as much paperwork and management as larger projects do. In these cases, a GC can typically get the job done.

DBB is a good option for projects less than $5 million. It is also good for projects that have a relatively straightforward timeline—for example, if work can be completed during summer break—or if the project involves a new building separate from an existing school.

What is your role as the Owner?

The GC is responsible for coordination and communication of construction activities throughout the process. They hold the contracts with sub-contractors and are responsible for the management of cost and schedule. As the Owner, you are responsible for providing the GC with information and decisions in a timely manner to keep the schedule on track. Owners sometimes supplement this by hiring a Clerk of the Works (CoW) or adding Extended Services from their A/E firm.

 

When to Use Extended Services

As a full-service A/E firm, Schmidt Associates provides Owners with Extended Services when needed. Extended Services can include a host of specific tasks during the construction process that typically fall under a CM’s responsibilities. The A/E firm can step in to fill any of these gaps if the Owner deems it necessary.

We recommend utilizing Extended Services when you or your staff do not have the experience or the capacity to oversee certain aspects of the construction process not covered by your GC in a DBB project or other construction delivery method.

The basic construction administration service our firm provides includes A/E representation at the construction site an average of one day a week. Adding Extended Services allows you to customize services to receive a higher level of site presence. This could be anywhere from one additional day a week to full-time on site. This gives you a proactive presence from the A/E to address contractor issues and review the quality of the work as it’s completed.

 

Questions? Check out our e-magazine for more details, or contact us to connect with our construction administration professionals.

 

Q&A Session with Eric Wolf, Field Manager

Fast Facts About Eric

Discipline: Construction Administration

Hometown: Logansport, IN

Education: Purdue University

Who He’d Pick to Play Himself in a Movie: Robert Redford

 

 

From a construction site to a campground, Eric Wolf, construction delivery field manager, feels most at home outside and surrounded by nature.

What drew you to engineering and construction?

Construction is in my blood. My grandfather, father, and sister are architects, and my son is a civil engineer. My dad was a commercial/industrial contractor, so I started working with him when I was a kid. I learned to drive a full-size semi at 13 and still love to operate heavy equipment to this day.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

It is exciting to see a project go from an idea to a design to bidding to construction to a finished product. My favorite part of my job is the interaction with the owners, contractors, and the designers to make the project come to life.

 

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your career?

I think the willingness of everyone to compromise to make a project flow and be built. I like that architects are willing to take advice from me as someone in the field and incorporate it into their designs. Constructability is the biggest key. They may design something that is difficult to construct, and in the field, I have to figure out a way to make that work.

 

We’ve heard you love the outdoors. Where did that come from?

I am one of 10 kids—five girls and five boys—and grew up in Logansport. We loved to camp as a family when I was young. I remember we had a school bus that we used as a camper when I was small, but it just wasn’t big enough for our whole family. As a result, dad constructed a 35-foot RV. My mom was an artist and painted a wolf logo to hang on it. That was 55 years ago, and I still have that wolf and hang it when I camp with my family.

Eric Wolf sign

Wolf Family Camping Sign

Where’s your dream destination to take the RV?

The United States is so beautiful and amazing. I have seen 48 of the 50 states. You go out west and there is nothing out there. It is just awesome! My dream vacation would be to take a rough terrain camper and just go west; see the mountains and just go out on the back roads. I love the idea of just getting out and being gone.

 

You used to ride motorcycles. Any crazy stories?

My Dad was an avid motorcycle rider. I learned to ride when I was five, so I have plenty of stories.

When I was 16 and my brother was 17, we rode Yamaha motorcycles from Logansport to Daytona Beach, Florida. We camped on the beach a couple days and then rode back.

 

What is your family like?

I have been married 40 years to my hometown honey, Patti. She is the principal at Landis Elementary School in Logansport. We have four sons, Allan, Jacob, Andrew, and Evan; two grandkids, Payton and Jack; and two dogs, a yellow lab (Bella) and a miniature pinscher (Samantha).

Eric and his wife, Patty

Eric Wolf and his wife, Patti

Q&A Session with Robin Leising

Robin Leising

In an industry where only one in ten workers is a woman, Robin Leising, Construction Administrator for Schmidt Associates, shines. Whether it is her quick wit, her strong confidence, or her amicable personality, Robin fits right in on the job site and is well respected.

 

 

 

Tell me about your background.
Growing up in Elkhart, I remember my dad bringing home a set of blueprints one night. That started me down my path, and I have never looked back. I attended Ball State University for architecture, but realized that I enjoy helping a building come up from the ground, not just drawing it. Unfortunately, there was not construction management degree back then, so I finished my degree in environmental sciences and moved to Vegas to work in drafting for a developer.

What brought you back to Indiana?
As I sat in Vegas, I remembered a former roommate asking me if I really wanted to be in Vegas on my own or back in Indiana with my boyfriend, Joe. Turns out, I wanted Joe. I moved home and started work for a mechanical contractor. Joe and I eventually got married and have two kids, Olin (18) and Sydney (16).

Robin Leising Family

How did you land at Schmidt Associates?
Well, I was delivering a bid on a project for the mechanical contractor I was working for at the time. When the elevator opened, I came upon a friend I had known from the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) from Ball State—Anna Marie Burrell (K-12 Studio Leader at Schmidt Associates). She invited me to play sand volleyball with her, and we became good friends. Eventually, I ended up working with her at another firm. We both left and joined Schmidt Associates around the same time.

What’s it like, doing a “man’s job”?
I like my job and I like being out in the field. But I find people in the construction industry try to put me on a different level because I am a woman—they treat me differently somehow. But the truth is, I will tell you if I don’t like something. I am no different than any of the men out there.

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
While I was at Ball State, my dorm sponsored a date auction. One of my male friends was one of the prizes, and I thought he was kind of cute. So, I bought him and we went to Fazoli’s and a Wynonna Judd concert. We are still married over 20 years later.

And you have another story to tell …
Yes, I am a walking survivor story for Breast Cancer and an advocate for annual screenings. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 in September, 2014 at the age of 44. They did a lumpectomy and 30 days of radiation. Thankfully, I am cancer free now, though I still go yearly to ensure no new spots appear. My mother is also a survivor, but I have two grandmothers and an aunt who passed away from it.

What do you do in your free time?
My kids are very busy, so I am typically at a soccer game with Olin or ballet practice with Sydney. But when I am not doing that, I enjoy watching all sports (even golf!), as well as going to the movies. I also volunteer at my church.

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle MillerSteve SchaecherMyrisha Colston Drew Morgan, Steve Spangler, Bill Gruen, and Cindy McLoed

Q&A Session with Steve Spangler

Steve Spangler - Construction Administration

Steve Spangler, Construction Administrator, is a big eater with an even bigger heart. He can often be seen walking around the office with a carton of ice cream in hand and a big smile on his face.

 

 

 

 

 

Tell me about yourself.
Growing up in Greenfield, I had an uncle and a grandpa who built homes, so I began working with them framing houses in middle school. Though I worked as a fry cook at an MCL while I was in high school, I went back to framing shortly thereafter. I joined the Carpenters Union in 1978, and my first job was building the second bank of Coke Ovens for Citizens Gas in the late 70s. Its all come full circle now, as I am on the team constructing the new Community Justice Center on that same site. I also worked on the concrete crew of the original Hoosier Dome and was part of the team that attached the fabric roof. I worked as a contractor and clerk-of-the-works for years, and then I joined Schmidt Associates full-time in 2000.

What do you do in your free time?
I grew up around farms, and my aunt and uncle had horses. As a young adult, I lived away from the farm life in Castleton. When I married my wife, Debbie, in 1983, I moved back to the country and started raising kids. When my daughter turned 10 in the early 90s, she wanted a horse. We bought a couple Arabian Horses to show in 4-H, and we’ve had horses ever since. I now have six horses keeping me busy—Reagan, Molly, Ghost, Victoria, Butter Bee, and Wendy. When I am not at work, I spend my time with family, working with the horses, putting up hay, or working on farm equipment.

My wife, Debbie, and I live in a log home we designed and built in 2002. Life on our farm keeps us very busy.

Tell me about your family.
My wife and I have three daughters, one son, two granddaughters, and two grandsons. One of our daughters and four-year-old grandson live with us, and my four-year-old granddaughter comes to stay with us four days a week. They keep us busy all the time!

Along with the horses, we have two dogs—Murphy (a rescued mutt) and Tinkerbell (a Cairn terrier).

Steve Spangler horses

Do you have a favorite book?
Right now, I am learning about horse hooves. I am going to two clinics to learn about hoof management, so I really need to get the books for the clinics before I go.

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
In my 20s, I modeled clothes at fashion shows in a night club near Keystone at the Crossing.

It sounds like you are always on the go?
I had always planned that after the kids moved out, I would have tons of time to fix my equipment and ride horses every day. But the truth is, we are busier now than we have ever been it seems like. The days, weeks, and months just fly by. I plan to retire at 65, but I don’t think I will ever slow down.

If you ever have questions about the construction process or horses, give Steve a ring!

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia Brant, Liam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle Miller, Steve SchaecherMyrisha Colston, and Drew Morgan

Red Flags for your Construction Project: Part 2

Everyone involved with a construction project hopes to avoid challenges or hiccups along the way. What warnings or red flags should you look out for if “smooth sailing” doesn’t seem to be the direction your project is going? We came up with a list of 12. We’ve touched on the first half, lets look at the last six:

RED FLAG #7: Ignoring or dismissing General Requirements (Division 01)
General requirements order how a project is to proceed, including payments, changes, substitutions, meetings, coordination, mockups, and closeout. Part of the contract documents, these requirements often are dismissed by a contractor when challenges surface.

 

RED FLAG #8: Unrealistic construction schedule
The construction schedule is a map the contractor makes to spell out how to get from here (incomplete project) to there (complete project). It provides direction on when tasks are to be completed. Unless the construction schedule has subcontractors’ agreement, it is unrealistic. The bigger problem may be that each subcontractor (or crew) determines what to install when it sees fit, at the expense of the project as a whole.

 

RED FLAG #9: Slippage from unrealistic construction schedule
If work durations expand or milestones are missed, the contractor must present a corrective action plan to get back on schedule, or the projected completion date will slip further behind.

 

RED FLAG #10: Ignoring or dismissing an updated construction schedule
If the contractor is reluctant to update and distribute the construction schedule when it needs to be changed (see red flag #9), all parties are forced to get from hereto there without a map. This is not a good idea and will likely result in rework.

 

RED FLAG #11: Blame-shifting
A contractor who resorts to blaming anyone (Owner, architect, subcontractors) or anything (weather, material availability, existing conditions) else for poor performance is usually grasping at straws. There are legitimate reasons why a contractor may have challenges, but resorting to blame-shifting for their contractual responsibility indicates you may be past the point of expecting a good outcome.

 

RED FLAG #12: Taking excessive risks relating to sequencing/weather
Installing products out of sequence (i.e. installing drywall before the roof), and failing to protect installed work (wet drywall) indicates the contractor is taking too great a risk by gambling on the weather.


Our list of 12 red flags is not exhaustive, but they are the ones we consider to be the most common when a construction project goes awry.

Have you observed these red flags (or any others) on your projects? Let us know. We’ll share your experiences on our blog so others can learn from them.

Read Part 1 here

 

 

 

Red Flags for your Construction Project: Part 1

Everyone involved with a construction project hopes to avoid challenges or hiccups along the way. What warnings or red flags should you look out for if “smooth sailing” doesn’t seem to be the direction your project is going? We came up with a list of 12, but let’s start with the first half:

RED FLAG #1: Incomplete Bidding Documents or Qualifications
When specifications require the contractor or its employees (project manager or superintendent) to submit “similar project experience,” verify the submitted documentation. Visit the contractor’s website, check references with Owners and subcontractors, search Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook. You’ll never again have more leverage with a contractor than you do before you sign the contract.

 

RED FLAG #2: Incomplete Initiation Documents
Executing initiation documents, such as submittal and preliminary construction schedule, subcontractors and products list, LEED action plan, performance and payment bonds, and certificate(s) of insurance, before the contractor mobilizes is critical to starting the project on the right foot. These documents are not just “hoops to jump through.”

 

RED FLAG #3: Slow Mobilization
Most contractors are eager to begin construction since it provides operating cash flow. If your contractors are slow to begin (or mobilize), they may be revealing a general lack of initiation or an incomplete project plan.

 

RED FLAG #4: Slow Submittals
In general, subcontractors will not begin work until they have an executed contract from the contractor. If you do not have a flurry of submittals in the first month, it may indicate your contractor is unable to get subcontractors to commit for their proposed bid amount—a tell-tale sign their bid may not cover the cost of the work.

 

RED FLAG #5: Changing Subcontractors
Once contract(s) have been executed, the construction team (contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers) should be fixed, barring bankruptcy, legal action, or other unforeseen catastrophic event. Changing subcontractors for other reasons usually indicates your contractor is “shopping the job”— attempting to reduce costs and pocketing the difference.

 

RED FLAG #6: Installation Proceeding Without Being Previously Approved
Contractors propose submittals (product data, shop drawings, etc.) indicating what products they intend to furnish and how they intend to install those materials. If products are delivered to the site and (even worse) installed without being properly submitted and reviewed by the architect, this may indicate your contractor is worried about the progress of the schedule and attempting to cut corners. The architect’s review of submittals is a critical quality-control measure that should not be omitted.

 

Read Part 2