Owner Representation

A Crucial Role in Capital Construction Projects
Owner's Rep.

Owner Representation – A Crucial Role in Capital Construction Projects

For most local governments, a major capital construction project does not come along very frequently and administrators with a large renovation or construction project are faced with a dilemma. You and your staff are probably already very busy running your departments; while you may be highly experienced with projects such as this, do you really have the time necessary to manage a construction project of this size? You can staff up with personnel for this position, but it is unlikely that they will be equipped with the expertise, the control systems and technology necessary to manage this project successfully.

Your immediate need is an Owner’s Representative (OR) to oversee and manage the project from this early stage of facility programing all the way through construction closeout and building occupancy. The role of the OR is to be the expert “eyes and ears” for the client when the client does not have the time or expertise to do it themselves. In the absence of experienced staff members to do the job, an OR is the most efficient and cost effective solution for an Owner to successfully complete a multifaceted endeavor such as this.

The OR will begin by helping the stakeholders define the project, coordinate the needs assessment, write the RFPs for the architect and contractor selection, and oversee the entire process from the Owner’s point of view. The OR is the only party in the Owner, AE, CM trio that has only the Owner’s best interests in mind. The AE and CM or GC entities are all profit driven businesses that must think of themselves first in order to survive in the highly competitive construction market place. It takes a dedicated and highly experienced OR to bring these entities together and keep them focused on what is best for the client’s project.

A common misconception is that owner representative firms are there to replace the design professionals, or are fixated on “beating down” the fees of the architects, engineers, general contractors and suppliers. In truth the OR enhances these roles and is hired to ensure all members of the team work together seamlessly and in harmony to assure the client’s goals for the project is being met and they are receiving proper values from all architects, engineers, consultants, contractors and vendors, and to manage the entire process to meet the Owner’s schedule and budget.

Timing. An effective OR should be on-board in the pre-planning stages of your project. They are most effective if they are engaged early; usually well before starting any design work. The typical phases of a capital construction project where an owner’s representative is crucial include, but may not be limited to:

  • Planning
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Post-Construction
  • Commissioning
  • Close-out

To the inexperienced, a project such as this can be overwhelmingly daunting. Identifying the needs of the Owner through concise facility programming and space planning is only the beginning; that is followed by a vast array of steps that occur way before the actual construction starts. The OR is often called upon to help locate a suitable building site, coordinate with agencies, and provide financial consulting for bonds, grants and financing sources.

Coordination and Collaboration. In addition, The OR is not only tasked with finding a qualified architect, but is then responsible for coordinating the efforts of the architect’s primary mechanical, electrical and structural engineers – and that’s just the beginning. There are many other professional engineers, suppliers and consultants that will play a part in the project. An environmental engineer, geotechnical engineer, materials testing consultant, and even a landscape architect all with specialized and important services to provide will be required. At the back end of the project, a test and balance and commissioning agency will be brought on prior to move-in. It is the OR’s job to assist the Owner select and enter into contracts with these firms.

Then comes the all-important job of finding the right General Contractor (G.C.) for the job. The OR is responsible for generating a Request for Proposal/Qualification document that will bring the most qualified and experienced G.C. on-board. The OR often assists the G.C. establish his crew of subcontractors to assure the Owner is getting the most cost effective team available. Typically, the G.C. does not bring all the necessary subcontractors and vendors required to complete the job with him, plus the Owner may want some local firms involved in their project. The OR will assist with the selection of other professionals and vendors such as specialty suppliers for furniture, fixtures and equipment, lock and key vendor, security, IT services and more.

What does it cost? A good Owner’s Representative firm will typically provide guidance and efficiencies that are valued well above their fees; OR firms bring a wealth of experience and knowledge that can be leveraged by clients in many different ways; carefully managing the budget, the schedule and the myriad of other tasks necessary to complete your project, they will find savings that will more than pay for their fees.

In closing, with rising construction costs, complex technologies and tighter regulations affecting capital construction projects, the role of an OR is more important than ever, especially for publicly funded capital construction projects. A highly experienced Owner’s Representative firm can quickly mobilize to provide the most sophisticated processes and technology available to effectively control costs, schedules, quality and contracts; each of which will translate into value and savings for the stakeholders.

The author, Teri A. Ficken is the founder and president of F&D International, and has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry. Located in Boulder, Colorado, the F&D professionals work across the entire Rocky Mountain Region and the U.S. providing owner representation as well as architectural design and engineering services.

Visit our website at www.fdi-one.com for more information.