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PCI BLOG

Owner's Project Manager
vs.
Construction Manager

One of the most common questions we receive from prospective clients is “Do I need  an Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) if there will be a Construction Manager (CM) assigned to the project?"

 The answer is 100% YES!

An OPM works on behalf of the Owner’s interest, serving a broader role, by overseeing the entire project-planning and execution process.

Over the course of a project, the OPM will be able to share a wide range of  experience and expertise gathered from years of previous projects. Many times, an OPM advises the owner not only on site selection, proper permitting, and identifying Owner costs outside of the CM budget, but also key design considerations of which many owners may not be aware.  All of this can save the owner considerable time and money on the overall project.  As the construction industry continues to become more detailed and technical, both with construction and technology upgrades, it is increasingly more difficult for an owner to know how a critical decision will affect a project in the long term.  

 

While a good Construction Manager will perform the work with the interest of the Owner in mind, having a knowledgeable advocate on the Owner’s team, can be invaluable. As OPM’s, our interest is in protecting the Owner and ensuring the Owner’s project Requirements are successfully met. 

Here are some key considerations on why OPM’s should be on each project:

  • An OPM is involved with the entire project including, site selection, design and contractor selection, permitting and move in.  This allows a project-wide perspective to prevent costly delays and set realistic expectations to the owner as the project progresses.

  • An OPM works on behalf of the Owner’s interest, acts as the Owner’s eyes and ears on the project,  and can advise the owner on all aspects of a project.  Bottom line, an OPM has no hidden agendas and protects the owner during all stages of the project.

  • A CM’s primary goal is to get a project built at all costs. CM’s track the construction schedule with input from the construction sub-contractors and the Owner’s Project Manager.  

  • CM’s manage personnel issues as well as proper job performance from each trade allowing OPM’s to focus on aspects of the project for which the owner may require additional attention.

  • An OPM’s primary goal is to protect the owner’s time, budget and overall project performance.  An OPM tracks the entire project schedule with special attention to owner related items.

An OPM works very closely with the client to gain a collective knowledge of the project.  More than knowing just the physical space needs of the client, an OPM has deeper knowledge from close collaboration with the client that brings an understanding of specific needs. It is this client relationship that yields a final result that is precisely what the client wants.

Paul Stafford is a new Project Manager at PCI Capital Project Consulting and wrote this article.

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Capital projects can be complex endeavors. They require an immense amount of planning, strategizing, and coordinating from conception to closeout. (And take note: Capital projects are NOT the same as Capital Campaigns. More on that in future blog posts.)

The first stage of a capital project is referred to as pre-construction and this is where the foundation of a successful project is laid. At the beginning of the pre-construction stage, the Owner assembles a team of project managers, architects, engineers, and in some cases a construction manager. This is the team that will work together to bring your project from concept to completion. As Project Managers we may be a little biased, but we believe the Owner’s Project Manager should be engaged as early as possible in the process.


In short, the role of the Project Manager is to advance your capital project while allowing your staff to focus on your organization’s core mission. In the very early stages your Project Manager can help your organization build a preliminary project schedule and help you assemble a design team that is a good match for your project. Then, as your project team develops they can help you determine the best Project Delivery Method (PDM) for your project. (PDMs will be the subject of an upcoming blog post.)


Other activities that take place during pre-construction can include (but not limited to):

  • Design charrettes with stakeholders

  • Determining permitting requirements and submitting permit applications

  • Establishing a project schedule

  • Design, including Conceptual, Schematic, Design Development, and Construction Documents

  • Producing detailed budget estimates at strategic points along the design path

  • Providing continuous updates to stakeholders


Depending on the scope and scale of your capital project, the pre-construction stage can take months, and, in some cases, years. That may sound daunting, but the time, effort, and focus that is applied during the pre-construction stage will go a long way to ensuring your project is successful.


Follow along with our “Stages of a Capital Project” blog series on our website at www.pcivt.com/blog


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For any organization, a capital project reflects a belief in the future of that organization, and the desire to address its ever-changing needs. Investments of this scale always bring challenges, including clearly identifying the need, allocating resources, and assembling a project team - all before an architect draws a line or a single shovel of dirt is turned over.


Before pursuing a capital project it is important to consider all the components involved. Why is this project necessary? What are the goals of this project? Is funding in place for this project? What is the scope and cost of this project? How long will it take to complete?



Sometimes the project need is clear, other times it is more elusive with multiple approaches possible or diverse interests to manage and fulfill. The first step for the Owner, often in collaboration with consultants, is to establish the Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR). After that, it is essential to establish the budget, and then reconcile the OPRs with the budget. This is the beginning of the first stage of a capital project, often broadly referred to as pre-construction.


Once the OPRs are clearly established, the Owner is ready to proceed with building out the project team to take the next steps in bringing the project to fruition.



Follow along with our blog series, “Stages of a Capital Project” starting with the first phase, pre-construction on our website at www.pcivt.com/blog. In this series we will break capital projects up into the three primary phases: pre-construction, construction, and project close out. Pre-construction is an extremely vital phase to ensure that all of the proper planning is in place before construction begins.


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Over the years that we have been in business, we’ve heard variations of this question dozens of times. Fundamentally it’s really a very good question and one that we are happy to answer. Sometimes the best answer is another question. Here are a series of questions that project owners might want to ask themselves when starting to put together their project team:






Do you have the knowledge and experience required to manage all of the details of a construction project?

Do you have a project team? If so, is there one person on your team whose sole purpose is to watch out for the Owner’s interests?

Do you have the time and/or expertise to manage all of the details of a construction project?

Do you know how to determine the best project delivery method for your project?

Do you have the data and experience to produce detailed and accurate budget estimates?

Do you know how to determine, without a doubt, if a contractor is qualified to build your project?

During construction do you know what to look for and what questions to ask to ensure good quality and contract compliance?

Do you have the experience and time to make sure the contractors have met all their obligations and the project is closed-out properly?

If you’re a homeowner contemplating a project do you have the expertise and time to manage your project and still leave time for family and work obligations?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you may need an Owner’s representative / Owner’s Project Manager.

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