Project Management | Custom Homes & Landscapes | Locally & Globally
There tends to be a general public misconception at the consumer level about Residential Project Management. Many ask, “Why would I need or want to pay for a Project Manager to build my home? Why can’t I just do it myself and save all the money I would have to pay out for a professional project management Firm?”
The simple, quick answer is this. You can. However, a task as seemingly simple, as “building a home” entails a lot more than what one might think, or than what meets the eye. When you look across the street at the new home being built, it appears quite simple to the onlooker.
The Construction Management Association of America (the international governing body for construction and project management) says, “That’s because the Pro’s make it look simple, just like a mechanic might make doing repairs to your car look simple, but the reality is, these people have been professionally trained and are experienced in their field of expertise.”
Do It Yourself Project Management
However, it is possible for you to ‘go it alone’ and DIY (do it yourself) by acting as your own General Contractor, but you better be prepared to make a pretty huge commitment of time, patience and money. With today’s technology and the information available online and other places, you could “do it yourself” alright. However, some of the key questions you have to ask yourself before making the commitment are, “How much time do you want to allocate to the task?”
Another to consider is, “What knowledge do I have of the construction process and all that it involves?” When doing the self analysis to see if you are cut out for the task, also ask yourself, “How much do I know about reading drawings, scales, and all the integral bits, pieces, parts and components that go into a new home, or a new landscape for that matter?”
In this article, we will attempt to break it all down and demystify it for you, so you can make a knowledgeable decision. There are 4 primary functions in the role of effective Project Management:
- Outlining and specifying project objectives and plans including delineation of scope, budgeting, scheduling, setting performance requirements, and selecting project participants
- Maximizing the resource efficiency through the procurement process for labor, materials and equipment
- Implementing various operations through proper coordination and control of planning, design, estimating, contracting and construction in the entire process
- Developing effective communications practices for informing the Client mechanisms for resolving conflicts
Professional Project Management
Project Management Firms typically employ, or ‘sub in’ residential construction Project Managers.
Often within the Firm these professionally trained personnel are referred to as Construction Superintendents, or sometimes, Construction Managers. Project Managers generally work for high-quality construction contractors, and are put in place by the Company to do exactly as the term ‘project management’ implies, to manage projects, in our case, residential construction and new custom homes Urbane designs. That’s why we are referred to as a Consult | Design | Manage | Build Firm.
Generally speaking, residential project management professionals are usually graduate professionals who have been educated at reputable technical colleges or trade schools to organize, budget and supervise the building of homes. Typically, they themselves, don’t participate or take part in the actual ‘down and dirty’ construction work on site.
That’s for the trades and Field Construction Team, and likely the Project Manager has already been there and done that. Construction Superintendents and Project Managers usually hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in structural engineering, construction management, building science, or related field(s). With that education background, they have been taught all the construction principles.
Sometimes, high-quality and experienced construction professionals opt for a business degree as well. The two go hand in hand. Construction is a business and therefore having a thorough knowledge of recognized business protocols such as budgeting and accounting are critical.
Typically, before becoming qualified as construction managers, project managers or construction superintendents, individuals must have gained a thorough work experience in the construction field through an active role. It is one thing to be educated in school, but it is quite another to put it all into practice efficiently in the field. As such, most quality-minded junior project managers work under an experienced veteran for an extended period of time, to learn “all the tricks of the trade,” as it is often referred to.
Urbane’s Project Management Differences & Benefits
High-quality Project Management Firms, such as Urbane Residential Group, will recruit for and solicit such individuals and rigorously screen them at the outset, to ensure they fit within the Firm’s area of practice and Code of Ethics. A Project Manager is assigned to a residential construction project by the Project Management Firm, typically once the design has been completed, or sometimes while it is still in progress for early familiarization.
During the design process the project manager will assist with materials selection, budgeting, costing, procurement and bidding. This is frequently done by using one of the internationally recognized selection methods:
- Time and materials (cost-plus) selection: The method utilized by most Clients who want quality and some control in their project. This method is the one Urbane Residential group most frequently utilizes. It involves supplying factored ‘time and materials’ prices to the Client beforehand. Changes can be easily accommodated without holding anything up, as well. This method also ensures high-quality with no shortcuts.
- Low-bid selection: This selection focuses only on the price of the project. Multiple bids are solicited for each component of the project, and the owner usually chooses the bidder with the lowest quote to complete that aspect of the project.
- Best-value selection: This selection focuses on both the qualifications of the bidder and the price he/she submits. Generally after careful evaluation, the owner chooses the party with the best qualifications, and/or, the best price for that particular aspect of the work. Very often in this selection method an RFP (Request For Proposal) is utilized. This provides the owner with detailed information from the bidder such as scheduling and budgeting expected to be used for the project.
- Qualifications-based selection: This selection method is used when the owner decides to choose the Trades and Sub-contractors only on the basis of their qualifications. The selection method is directly related to the Time and Materials (Cost-plus) method, but generally in locations where the Project Management Firm has not worked and become familiarized previously. It utilizes an RFQ (Request For qualifications) from the owners Project Management Firm, typically through the Project Manager. Since materials costs and rates generally don’t vary that dramatically from one territory to another, evaluation is done based on experience, plans, organization, scheduling, work scope protocol, construction practice, references and performance. The owners Project Management Firm might also ask for safety records and individual certifications, achievement awards, and credentials etc., of the submitter.
The Project Manager must be strong in and able to efficiently handle time management, cost management, public safety, quality management, mathematics, human resources, decision making and working drawings. Residential construction Project Managers generally work from within the Office or on larger projects, often in an onsite temporary ‘construction shack’, which is a mobile office moved onto the site for the duration of the project.
Their job duties are varied. In addition to the obvious, their responsibilities include screening and hiring employees, specialty trades and sub-contractors. Usually, the Project Management Firm itself has a list of preferred vendors and trades, but often when solicited and hired to work in unfamiliar geographic areas, the Firm may not have an exhaustive list of these. As a result, that responsibility becomes a task for the Project Manager.
In addition, all the tasks of scheduling, overseeing and monitoring construction progress, lies with the Project Manager and is supported by the many resources of the Project Management Firm. Securing required permits, inspections and budgeting site finances also is the responsibility of this person and the Project Management Team.
Residential construction Project Managers also track and maintain quality control of the work and workmanship, through a Critical Path Project Management System. They ensure safe work conditions and enforce the Project Management Firms safe work protocols and ensure there are no incidents that will need to involve OH&S (Occupational Health & safety). This might not seem important to some, but take our word for it, this is paramount and can literally cost thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not properly monitored and rigorously enforced.
Another task the Project Management Firm often puts them in charge of is making sure trades, sub-contractors and employees time is properly attended to and they are paid on time by the Project Management Firm.
Submission of daily progress reports is routine task managed by Construction Superintendents or Project Managers. Construction activity documentation in all areas is also a critical aspect of the Project Manager’s job, not only for the Project Management Firm, but also for the Client and Regulatory Authorities and especially so if the Project Management Firm holds and maintains a COR (Certificate of Recognition).
Mandatory project meetings are coordinated by the Project Management Firm and facilitated on-site through the Site Foreman, by the Project Manager, to take place at scheduled intervals. At these meetings, discussions will revolve around the progress of the construction project, budget, quality, health and safety, as well as, a whole host of other possible site concerns or issues. These discussions together with any decisions reached at the meeting will be documented by the Administrative Assistant and submitted to the Project Management Firm to be kept on file for reporting and audits.
A daily diary of all activities, will be documented at various levels of site supervision and responsibility, such as the Site Foreman, Team Leaders, etc., as well. Daily Site Reports, Daily Production Reports, as well as, various logs to keep track of the daily activities are done on the job site each day, all supported by detailed digital photographs. Daily field reports are a more formal way of recording information on the job site. They for example, will contain information that includes the day’s activities, temperature and weather conditions, delivered equipment or materials, visitors on the site, together with equipment and materials used that day.
Of course labor statements are required on a daily basis, not only for time-keeping and costing, but also labor planning to complete the project on time. Members of the Project Management Team are required to keep a project diary. These diaries contain individual documented summaries of the day’s events in each member’s own words. This documentation is used to keep track of any daily conversations, work activities, observations, and any other relevant information regarding the construction activities on the project site. The diary also includes directions from the Office, Client site visits or any such visit from vendors, suppliers or Regulatory Authorities.
If necessary, diaries can also be referred to, if disputes arise. One of the Project Management Team members diary will often contain information connected with the current disagreement. In addition, if the need ever arises, handwritten diaries can and will be often ordered as evidence into court, by judges. Various on site logs are also kept through the reporting system protocols to track regular activities on the job site, such as phone conversations, transmittal’s, deliveries, as well as, materials ordered, received and used to date for inventory control and costing.
Project Management Personnel
Residential project Construction Managers are well-organized. They are excellent at multi-tasking due to the diversity and variety of the tasks involved in their job. They are experts at clear, honest and frequent communication with the Project Management Firm, and, they are expert managers and delegates, with a zero-tolerance for violations. They are technologically savvy to aid in these tasks.
The 150 most common tasks and responsibilities of a residential construction Project Manager fall into 7 main categories:
- Project Management Planning
- Cost Management
- Time Management
- Quality Management
- Contract Administration
- Safety Management
- CM Professional Practice
CM professional practice includes many specific activities, but just to summarize a few, they include, but are by no means limited to:
- Defining the responsibilities and management structure of the project management team
- Organizing and leading by implementing project controls
- Defining roles and responsibilities
- Developing communication protocols
- Identifying elements of project design and construction likely to give rise to disputes and claims
Many Project Managers begin their careers in the field working for general contractors, often as a specialty trade of one sort or another. This deeply familiarizes them with the construction work, processes and protocols overall.
From there, the best ones go on to learn the business and leadership skills it takes to become a highly respected, knowledgeable and effective residential construction Project Manager. These are the type of personnel that the Urbane Residential Group Project Management Firm employs and utilizes on our projects. We have to be assured and satisfied that the level of commitment we make to our Clients as a Company, is backed and supported by strong management individuals “running the show.”
The Urbane Residential Group Project Management experience and practices have resulted in over 5,600 highly-satisfied, repeat Clients for the Firm, since 1971. If you are going to “go the task alone” we wish you every success.
If however, you think you might need help, or even just to get more information about our project management services and the benefits to you of using professionals, just get in touch with us.
We’d be delighted to earn you on our growing list of Clients, through our professionalism, expertise, experience and 5 Gold Star Customer Service. We’ll be equally happy to help out in any way we can.
We’d love to have you as a Facebook friend, as well as, have you follow us on Twitter also. By doing this, you’ll be kept current with all the trends, styles, projects and other valuable information we have to offer. “Thanks A Million” folks, we look forward to being of service in every way possible with your project management.