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5 Construction Project Manager Duties you Should Never Assume as the Owner

Are you an owner-builder? Are you thinking about managing your own construction project?
In this post, we will try to talk you out of assuming 5 crucial responsibilities that only a skilled project manager should perform. They are:
  • design coordination
  • scheduling
  • bid review
  • risk management
  • change management
By delegating at least these 5 duties to a construction project manager, you will actually gain more control over your project. At the very least, you won’t feel overwhelmed by snowballing budget, schedule, and quality issues.
So, let’s see what these vital duties are and how they can impede your project if attempted without expert guidance.

1. Design coordination

A building’s design covers a range of components and takes several disciplines to produce. These include:
  • civil and structural engineering
  • architectural design
  • Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) engineering
On complex projects, each discipline can assign several professionals to work on their part of the design. To reduce changes during construction and end up with a building that works, all these parts must integrate harmoniously in the final design package. When they don’t, the building can suffer from embarrassing “clashing” errors, like structural columns obstructing doorways or stairways leading to nowhere, or more commonly ductwork that doesn’t fit or clashes with other services. These examples may sound extreme, but sadly they’re all too familiar on projects where coordination is lacking.

Making sure that these pieces ‘fit’ together takes thorough coordination. This job is best left to a seasoned construction manager with years of field experience under their belt. Without expert guidance, the owner may miss design glitches that lead to costly flaws and changes during construction.

2. Scheduling

Key to finishing on time, a schedule not only sets timelines for activities but also serves as a tracking tool for progress. When things go wrong, the right schedule changes may save the project from costly delays. Conversely, scheduling the least amount of resources for any given task helps curb the building’s cost and carbon footprint. It’s a tricky balance.

Most owner-builders lack experience with various construction tasks to create a schedule unaided. And while the owner must make some inputs, such as the completion date and certain milestones, the rest should be left to a skilled project manager.

These professionals know which tasks can run concurrently, and which must stay on the critical path. What’s more, project managers have the know-how for accelerating schedules and making do with limited resources. Trying to learn and apply these measures on your own, you’re bound to make expensive errors. It’s best to leave the schedule to the pros.

3. Bid analysis

Regardless of the project’s delivery method, you will have to obtain bids for either various scopes of work or a General Contractor’s (GC) services. The contractors price the job based on the bid set you provide – a package of specs and drawings that spell out the design requirements.

When they return their quote, contractors typically attach a list of inclusions – what the quote covers; and exclusions – what their price omits. These lists may seem straightforward, but a non-professional may well miss errors and willful omissions. Sometimes, you may not realize that a contractor must price a task that seems so out of their realm. Letting scope slip through the cracks like this will leave your project with a budget shortfall.

What’s more, an untrained eye may not pick up on a price anomaly that a project manager would pinpoint right away.

To keep your project on budget and eliminate surprises stemming from contractor errors or omissions in estimating, it’s best to leave bid review to an expert project manager.

4. Risk management

Simply put, construction “risk” refers to any hazard that may set the project back financially, delay it, or cause a safety incident. These perils require risk control mechanisms and contingency funds set up to cover unexpected costs that can’t be dodged.

Identifying risks is a complex process that demands skilled guidance. In large construction companies, risk managers are typically veteran estimators or project managers who have endured enough budget shortfalls to know what causes them.

If you don’t engage a project manager to manage your project’s risks, you’d better have a sizable reserve of funds you can access to get your project on track should something go wrong.

5. Change management

Even with the best plans in place, changes still happen in construction. It’s simply impossible to foresee everything. Besides, most deviations from the scope, budget, or schedule stem from the owner’s change of heart. Does that mean the owner should review and approve every change when it lands on their desk?
It depends. If the specified floor tile is suddenly unavailable, or another cosmetic issue comes up, an owner is the best person to resolve it. But if the matter is structural, code-related, or has vast budget implications, the project manager should be involved in the decision. Because seemingly innocuous changes can often mask a more dramatic problem, it’s always best to leave change management to the pros.

Final thoughts

Construction management is a discipline in its own right. Non-professional project owners are always better off with expert guidance, even if they want to play an active role in their project.
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