Top Tips from the Book

This practical guide gives you what you need to know to finish your project on time, on target and on budget.

To get what is want at an affordable price, a systematic approach is required for planning, design, construction and occupancy/operation. Using the Project Planning and Management Approach (PPMA), the owner can be confident that all aspects of the building project have been thought through and the likelihood of surprises minimized.  See the PPMA Design and Construction Summary Chart:

Skipping the step of setting up a PPMA is the number one project pitfall!

Poor communication of design objectives can cause costly delays. Communicate with your architect and validate that the direction they are going is what you want. I have insisted that my owners have the opportunity to sign off on the drawings at all stages. This eliminates ambiguity and a lot of time spent redoing the work.

Challenging assumptions is a means of achieving the desired values. Cost saving opportunities including less costly building construction methods and materials should be considered. As one forward-thinking contractor once said, “ The use of glues and adhesives for binding and joining may be one of the biggest cost-saving item”.

By putting in place a rigorous budgeting process, we completed projects on budget. As rule of thumb, the hard construction costs about 70% of the total project costs. It is critical to budget the remaining 30%. Don’t get caught short and forget to budget the (soft costs) other costs, the A&E fees, permitting, data and furniture, and moving expenses.

Renovations can be more complex than new buildings, as old systems and structures have to be married to the new. When a wall is knocked down, you don’t know what is behind it until the process has already begun. This can result in unexpected costs as loss of time. Understand the direct and indirect costs of renovations and have a sufficient contingency. Just remember that renovations always take more time than you expect!

There are five major steps in selecting the Architect and the Project Manager and selection committee should actively participate in each step. They include reviewing proposals, evaluating fees, developing a decision matrix, conducting interviews and negotiating the contract.  You will need legal expertise, and someone experienced in knowing what prices and services are negotiable. I have to remind myself that negotiating is fun and that everything is negotiable!

The contractor manages the construction from a budget and scheduling perspective. As an owner or PM, it is important to know some of the specialized terms and abbreviations of the industry, so you can follow when discussions occur. Know the term superstructure (that is the part of the building above the ground)!