ConstructionPlanningImageA successful school construction project will fulfill the identified needs of the community and be completed on schedule and within budget.  In order to achieve success, these three basic project elements – scope, duration and cost – must be carefully considered and managed both in advance of and during construction.

As a school administrator, building committee member or other participant in a school construction project, there are many aspects of construction projects that are not within your control.  There are, however, areas in which you can have a significant impact on the success of your project such as:

  • Definition of your project goals
  • Establishment of a project management structure
  • Selection of a project delivery method
  • Procurement of your design professional and contractor
  • Negotiation of a contract for design services
  • Negotiation of a contract for construction services
  • Employment of risk allocation techniques
  • Establishment of procedures for project administration

Before you can address any of these areas, you need to identify the initial members of your project team, which will generally include administrative staff members that have been assigned to the project (e.g., business manager, head of facilities) and a building committee established for the project. It is important, at the outset, to honestly assess the capacity, capability and experience of your staff and building committee to handle a project of the scope and complexity of the project. Also important is to take into account what the key drivers are for the project that may require a particular level or capability of staffing. In most school construction, schedule is a primary driver because of the need to perform the construction during periods of school recess.  The conclusions that are reached in this assessment exercise will be invaluable in the determination of the appropriate project management method for your project.

In smaller schools or districts, limited and/or inexperienced staff may necessitate the hiring of a project manager (sometimes referred to as a “Construction Manager as Advisor” or “Owner’s Representative”) to act as the owner’s representative throughout the project.  Although an added expense, the engagement of a good project manager at the inception of the project can help to avoid costly delays and change orders during construction.  The role and authority of a project manager will vary depending on the needs of your initial project team and it is important that the project manager and the town enter into a written contract that clearly defines that role and authority.  For schools that have experienced facilities personnel and ample administrative staff, the assistance typically provided by the architect for the project may be sufficient.

The scope of services required of your architect and the lines of communication amongst the members of your project team will be impacted by your decision to engage a project manager. We will discuss in more detail the selection and role of the architect as a member of your project team in next week’s Construction Corner post.