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Are All PM Services the Same? by Corinne Maddox, CCM, CFM

There are several forms of construction management with significant differences. In CM-Agent, the role this article assumes, the CM serves as the owner's agent throughout the entire project. In CM at Risk, the pro-owner CM advises the owner's during the design phase, then converts to an adversarial role as General Contractor once cost and other terms are negotiated. Companies offering Construction Management vary substantially in their approach and expertise. In fact, since it is a relatively new field, many related professionals offer the service without the proper experience, training and resources. Some companies provide an ad-hock approach with little documentation, tools and contractual formalities. Others provide services during the construction phase only, or the design and construction phases only. Full service Construction Management applies a formal integrated management approach for the entire project lifecycle, from concept through design, construction and occupancy. Owners should clarify the desired services and require adequate validation that the consultant has the necessary experience and staff to provide it.

Construction managers should have experience in projects of the same size, industry and location. Replacing one door requires very little supervision or contract documentation - if mistakes occur, the door can be replaced again for a minor expense. However, replacing 1000 doors necessitates that steps are taken to prevent mistakes. This requires detailed product specifications, a formal pricing package, using specialized contractors, a formal contract with unique terms, development and coordination of schedules, regular inspections and invoice reviews. The larger and more complex the project, the more formal and precise the management process needs to be to minimize the risk of cost, schedule and quality problems.

Another common mistake owners make is assigning a CM who has experience in another industry, such as a pipeline CM for an office project. While there are some similarities in contract strategy, there are very few similarities otherwise. Would a pipeline CM recognize errors on architectural documents or in construction? Would a pipeline CM know common challenges and pitfalls of office projects, or have the diplomacy skills to resolve employee disputes about office furniture or space?

The CM's experience in the project location is also very important. Locations can have very different design requirements, such as for climate and soil variations. Union influence, market conditions and labor availability of a given area dictate specific CM strategies. Houston's "wildcatter" mentality and ethnically diverse workforce result in unique contracting approaches, for example.

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