When starting a commercial construction project the first and perhaps most important choice you are faced with is whether to divide the work into separate design and build stages with different contractors for each, or to find an organization that is able to oversee the whole project, from initial idea to completed building.
In the past, the standard procedure for commercial construction projects was to hire contractors separately. This traditional method of delivery breaks up the project into independent design then build components. Project-owners found an architect to draw up blueprints and then hired builders to interpret those designs and turn them into reality. The project-owner had to manage the transition from one stage to another.
However, in the twenty-first century there has been a definite trend is towards hiring one contractor for all stages of the project, a method is referred to as design-build or the ‘turnkey approach’. This article examines the advantages for the project-owner of choosing this option.
In the traditional approach the procurement of individual contractors may appear to give the project-owner more control, however, the range of work required in commercial construction can quickly become difficult for the client to manage. The requesting and assessing of bids and the negotiating and awarding of contracts are not straightforward tasks. In commercial construction it is often not as simple as dividing the project between design and build. Multiple contracts are common. For example, a contract with an architectural firm for the design may have to be supplemented by contracts for landscape architects, structural and mechanical engineers, interior designers, and so on.
The primary advantage of a design-build contractor is that one contractor replaces many. Moreover, much of the responsibility for managing the project is transferred from the client to the contractor. Once the client has communicated what they need their commercial construction to achieve it is the job of the contractor to ensure it is achieved by organizing tasks from researching suitable development sites and dealing with zoning issues to monitoring the project schedule. This can lessen stress related to managing the project.
It is helpful if architects are used to collaborating with the same engineers and builders. In projects which use separate designers and builders it is possible that not only will each side have very different ideas for the project, but that the basic concept and initial premises they are working from could diverge significantly. To make matters worse, it is very often the case that while these specialists may be experts in their field, they are not the most proficient communicators and on construction projects, bad communication is one of the main causes of delays .
In contrast, with a design-build contractor it is much more likely that your project will begin with a unified vision and that the professionals working on it will have established channels of communication and be able to collaborate more effectively. A design-build contractor allows you to work with a unified team who are familiar with each other. This should considerably reduce the chances conflicts different subcontractors and make it more likely you can develop a project that is cohesive and efficient.
One of the attractions of the traditional method of procurement was the possibility of negotiating better value contracts. However, it is worth bearing in mind that design-build contractors have a wealth of experience managing commercial construction contracts and, as they are dealing ‘in-house’, will be able to offer greater cost certainty.
A design-build contractor not only brings the benefit of improved communication within the organisation but will also bring enhanced collaboration with subcontractors. When you hire a design-build contractor you are also hiring a single account manager. The advantages of having just a single point of contact running through the duration of the project from initial concept to completion are substantial. OMI Corp deals on the process of a single point of contract as well. By streamlining the organisation of labor the general contractor can reduce costs and remove the source of much potential frustration for you. As well as being one point of contact for subcontractors the design-build company serves as a convenient point of contact for you. A good company will prioritize communication with the client and keep you informed and up-to-date with the progression of the project.
It is very likely that a large design-build contractor will have the best connections in the local area. Not only does this mean they are best-placed to hire the most reputable subcontractors, but they are also able to negotiate the best rates for labor and materials. This should help the project run smoothly and within its budget. OMI Experts is a great company for keeping projects budgets on track as well. Furthermore, having a team work together on the design and build of the project should also increase the potential for ‘value-engineering’ the project - cooperatively developing cost-effective design solutions and modifications.
Lastly, there is a danger that the traditional approach may result in delays as for each stage of the process new contractors need to be hired and move their operations onto the project. Working with a design-build contractor offers a better chance of your project moving seamlessly from one stage to the other resulting in an accelerated project schedule.
Traditional procurement methods are certainly still in use and remain a good fit for some projects. Many project-owners consider these methods as they are concerned about the potential for a lack of transparency when the general contractor appoints subcontractors. However, reputable design-build contractors will always look to keep the client informed and be open concerning who and why they award contracts to on your behalf.
It is true that traditional procurement methods can often find lower construction costs through competitive bidding. This may not always produce the best results, however, as repeatedly selecting bidders based on price rather than performance has been shown to be detrimental to the overall quality of the project. Proponents of design-build contractors argue that this method produces higher quality projects with custom built designs.
In the end which option is best for you might come down to your personality. It may be that the most important factor is to have greater personal control over the project through the ability to negotiate individual contracts. For others, greater peace of mind is achieved by passing over elements of control of the project to qualified professionals, limiting time-commitments to the project and working within a collaborative team structure.
The key to completing any commercial construction project on time and within budget is to choose an experienced, qualified and reliable general contractor. Marquee Builds are committed to ensuring their client’s projects receive careful planning and coordinated project management.
Edmonton, March 3, 2020
Choosing the right contractor can make an enormous difference to your commercial construction project.
An experienced, qualified and reliable general contractor will be able to anticipate potential pitfalls, hire suitable subcontractors, communicate efficiently with all participants and ensure the whole project runs on time and to budget.
If you are considering undertaking a commercial construction project, how can you be sure to choose a general contractor that will help rather than hinder the project? What are the steps should take to identify the right contractor for you.
There are a number of filters that can be used to help highlight any unsuitable contractors. Prospective contractors will be able to provide proof of their registration and insurance. Importantly, they should have a readily available portfolio of their previous work and recent referrals.
Professional contractors will produce a preliminary version of a contract, breaking down phases of work. This document, its quality and level of detail is key to assessing how professional the contractor is. Completion dates should be specified for each phase - a contractor’s ability to set realistic dates for projects end indicates their level of expertise. It will also include the payment schedule associated with the completion of these milestones.
Accomplished contractors will provide alternatives to value engineer your project. For example, particular materials could be replaced with less expensive alternatives without altering the appearance or function of the project. In this way a good contractor can hand you the possibility of making substantial savings.
Finally, judge contractors on their actions rather than their promises.
One criteria you should not use alone is price. As pleasing as it is, to find a contractor happy to undertake work well for less than your budget, think twice as seizing this opportunity to cut costs may work out more expensive in the long-run. Contractor pricing in other industry is just as important as well. Omi Experts in web development and design has an outstanding criteria when it comes to pricing.
Marquee Builds has considerable experience in helping clients successfully complete their commercial construction projects.
Commercial construction projects vary considerably in size, scale and purpose, yet even the smallest project is never simple. Commercial construction projects involve, not only physical building, but also a wide range of areas from legal requirements to safety concerns and environmental regulations. Any project that involves such a diverse assortment of concerns inevitably has an increased scope for running into issues and, moreover, these potential issues are difficult to predict.
In the same way the key for the building work is laying the right groundwork, to complete a construction project successfully the key is in getting the preparation right. Proper preparation can prevent a myriad of misfortunes. This article serves as a prompt to ensure you take your first steps in your commercial construction journey confidently and in the right direction.
Good preparation is all about ensuring the project is carefully considered and potential issues are anticipated and addressed. For commercial construction the two primary concerns are the project’s purpose and location. It is also important to assess the legal and regulatory framework the construction project will engage with, the project’s budgetary restrictions and, lastly, the contractors the project requires.
What your construction is for may seem an obvious question, but it is essential to be sure exactly why you are embarking on the project. What will the completed construction do? What is its main function? What problem does it solve?
Commercial construction projects are driven by a need to improve an existing commercial operation or initiate a new one. For the project to be successful it must fulfill this need, enable commercial targets to be met and be cost-effective. When preparing a construction project many issues can arise and these can easily distract, maintaining focus on these key concerns is crucial.
Location and site conditions
After purpose comes location. The location of any development can vary from important to crucial. It is difficult to envisage any commercial endeavor that is not highly dependent on location.
Commercial construction projects can be divided into those that begin only with a need to fulfil a commercial purpose without a specific site and those which already have an identified site. For the first group the challenge is to find a site suitable for the purpose. For the second the preparation phase needs a clear-headed assessment of whether the identified site really is the best location for their commercial purpose. This means considering whether an alternative site would actually be preferable or, indeed, whether an alternative commercial use would be better for that specific site.
There are a huge number of variables to consider when assessing site viability, such as access to markets, access to suppliers, access to services, regulations concerning site uses and, finally, cost. It is always useful to take into account surrounding land-uses. These may impact on your commercial operations, limit access or your ability to expand or make future alterations.
Site conditions are also crucial, firstly, for the safety and ease of the construction and, in the long-term, for the viability of commercial operations on the site. Has the site had a history of industrial uses? Is there a danger of contamination? Is the site prone to flooding? Is there a possibility of forest fires?
Regulations can limit the function of your commercial construction and affect the viability of sites. The particular purpose of your proposed construction will determine which permits will be required, likewise, zoning laws determine the restrictions placed on certain sites. The regulations are likely to be different in different jurisdictions and local regulations need to be properly researched. There is usually little scope for negotiation when encountering these restrictions and the preparation phase must carefully assess their effect on the viability of the project.
Even if the project meets the requirements, preparing plans and submitting the correct paperwork at the right time can add delays and costs to your project. It is no exaggeration to say that the ability to work through the permit process may significantly influence the viability of a site.
Part of laying the groundwork for your construction project will, of course, involve considering the financial implications. Costing a large project is not easy particularly when it involves a number of unknown variables and the potential for delays. The experiences of those who have completed commercial constructions strongly suggest that you should look to secure funding for the highest estimate and incorporate financial buffers in case something goes wrong.
In the worse case scenario, a lack of funding can lead to delays, erode trust and put the whole project at risk.
Delays are perhaps the number one enemy of anyone overseeing a construction project. Delays typically increase costs and produce frustration, but even worse, delays are generally the main cause of further delays.
Often delays cannot be foreseen or prevented. However, many delays in construction are due to simple bad planning and careful preparation can go a long way to eliminate unnecessary hold ups. One clear method of reducing delays is to ensure that timelines are reasonable, are able to accommodate a certain degree of flexibility and are agreed by all relevant parties.
When preparing a commercial construction project it easy to fall into the trap of viewing contractors as another one of the issues that need to be negotiated. While, unfortunately, it is not always the case that interactions with contractors are easy and trouble-free, it is also unhelpful to view contractors negatively.
For anyone embarking on their first construction project, building a good relationship with a commercial construction projector can have huge advantages. Professionals in the commercial construction sector are experts at assessing whether your concept can be transformed into a viable built structure and discussing your initial ideas with them can place you on the right course from the very start of the process.
Indeed, many of the issues addressed above can be made much more manageable with the knowledge, expertise and understanding a good contractor can provide. A good architect or engineer, for example, will be able to transform ideas scribbled down on the back of an envelope into professional blueprints. They can also provide invaluable help in dealing with regulations over site uses. Organisations with substantial experience dealing with the legal requirements for development can help you avoid the tedious process of proofing and submitting documents and, in particular, reduce the risk of making costly errors in detailed submissions.
Furthermore, estimating the time taken to complete a project and the budget required is a complex skill and having a realistic assessment of the costs and length of a potential project as early as possible can make a huge difference. Another significant advantage of employing a general contractor is their ability to help with other contractors. Professionals in the construction industry are experts at dealing with others within the industry and you could save yourself a great deal of time, money and frustration by allowing a general contractor to hire and manage subcontractors. A general contractor who has good local contacts will be invaluable here. Building a team of the most reliable subcontractors who are able to work to schedule and budget might be the most important task of any construction project.
In conclusion, it may well be that the best groundwork you can lay is to properly research commercial construction companies and hire one that can help facilitate your project and provide expert advice to guide through the process.
If your general contractor’s most important task is to put together a team of subcontractors then it might be thay tour most important task is to find the right general contractor. Choosing a general contractor is, therefore, not something that should be rushed. When preparing for your construction project the time spent examining the portfolios of general contractors, their referrals and testimonials may be the most important. This preparaty stage should not be rushed. Search for word-of-mouth recommendations, consider a number of options. Checking out a second, third or fourth option at this stage will be worth it if it means you get the right expert in place. Consulting widely here will help you avoid having to consult widely over every decision further into the project because you have hired someone you don’t fully trust.
A general contractor will act as a business partner throughout the course of the project. If you manage to put in place someone who is not only an expert in the field but trustworthy and a good communicator, then you will have laid excellent foundations for your commercial construction project.
Any commercial construction project requires careful planning and coordinated project management. This applies to small-scale building work as well as large industrial projects. However, while larger, more complex construction projects will require the hiring of professional specialists to oversee these tasks, for lower budget projects the client may be inclined to plan much of the project themselves and even take on the responsibilities of a project manager.
This article details the importance of project schedules and examines how the project manager can devise and maintain a project schedule. A project schedule is a central document to all commercial construction projects, its main purpose is organizational - to render the multiple components of the project as a comprehensible timeline. By bringing clarity to complex operations a good project schedule should also promote efficiency, help the project adapt to new circumstances, encourage effective communication and, importantly, help the project stay on budget.
Commercial construction projects consist of four phases [link to article #1]. However, within these four overall phases there are a great many overlapping tasks that must be completed. To organise these in the most efficient way it is common to establish a project schedule to break them down more manageable tasks. On construction projects one task is often dependent on the successful completion of another, schedules show when each of these tasks should occur and how they are interlinked. A Gannt chart is the best method of visualizing the sequence and timing of tasks and showing how different tasks are connected.
When preparing a project schedule the first step is to outline an overall timeline by establishing the expected duration of the four main phases of construction. Dividing these phases into discrete steps enables the project manager to understand which parts of the project can be completed independently of each other and which are closely connected. The overall aim is to ensure each phase of the project proceeds as efficiently as possible.
A key factor in maintaining efficiency is to determine important benchmarks. The project manager must be able to draw on some level of experience and knowledge to ensure these milestones are realistic. The setting of achievable deadlines gives clarity to subcontractors, demonstrates the demands of the project to team members and helps prevent delays. A successful project schedule communicates deadlines to all interested parties and needs minimal interpretation.
Maintaining an element of flexibility
Although the scheme is there to add certainty to the project and to make sure it is delivered on time, it should not be set in stone. Although meeting deadlines is important, setting unreasonable deadlines or failing to adapt to changing circumstances may also have negative outcome.
Once construction has begun the project manager must strike a balance between ensuring the deadlines are respected, while allowing a reasonable degree of flexibility to work around the inevitable adjustments any large project requires. While it is tempting to push the project through as quickly as possible, setting tight deadlines without sufficient scope for likely delays due to predictable elements, such as the weather, is simply poor planning. Reviewing and modifying the scheme happens frequently over the course of the project and is one of the essential tasks for the project manager.
Ensuring effective communication
All commercial construction projects are completed by teams. The more effectively the team works together, the more successful the project will be. The project manager is the hub of this communication and, once the initial planning phases is complete, maintaining channels of communication with subcontractors is one of their most important responsibilities.
A project schedule will also have the likely benefit of improving communication between the project client and subcontractors as it enables all interested parties to see what should be happening at each stage. A good project schedule will also explicitly highlight who is responsible for the completion of each task. Overall, an accurate, carefully-prepared and clear project schedule will eliminate uncertainty and prevent miscommunication. By aiding the effective organisation of the project, it can ensure efficiency, control expenditure and have substantial cost-benefits.
Working to budget
Last, but certainly least, any plan for a commercial construction project must keep a control over the budget. In an ideal world the perfect commercial construction project would be completed, not only time, but to budget. Naturally, the project schedule and budget are interdependent and usually prepared by the project manager at the same time. Once again, the project manager has to make certain the budget is realistic and attainable.
A key concern here is the level of detail. Many projects run over budget simply because the details have not had adequate attention - small costs can quickly multiply and add up.
This article seeks to help anyone interested in planning commercial construction by outlining the basic phases the project will entail.
Each construction project, whether it be a new-build, extension or alteration, must meet a set of specific commercial demands and be tailored to suit a specific location. Nevertheless, there is a standard sequence of phases used in almost all commercial construction. An awareness of the four phases a typical commercial construction project will follow enables clients and interested parties to plan the project more effectively. Moreover, it will help them understand the progression of the project and to anticipate and avoid any possible pitfalls.
Edmonton, December 7, 2019
- Planning and design
The planning and design phase involves a large number of different steps and commonly requires assessing multiple options and making numerous revisions. This stage will involve the client working closely with engineers and/or architects.
The primary objective of the planning phase is to clearly establish the main function of the construction and how this can most effectively be fulfilled. The process of design involves ensuring that external requirements, such as the surrounding environment and zoning restrictions are met while not compromising the capacity of the project to effectively fulfill its main function.
At this stage, input from the client, architects and engineers is used to determine the general nature of the construction - its footprint, dimensions and materials. From this core design concept, decisions can then be made on structural, mechanical, electrical and service aspects of the design.
Architectural plans are then prepared for the project to show the relationship between spaces and built forms. These plans should also demonstrate how the construction will enable key activities to be completed effectively. At this stage it is important that all interested parties have a chance to review the plans and suggest revisions if necessary.
- Pre-construction documentation
Once the planning phase is completed, the client needs to present potential builders with a set of standardised working drawings for the proposed construction. In order for contractors to fully understand the details of the project, these drawings must clearly communicate the dimensions, appearance, layout and materials required for the project.
Based on the supplied project documents and specifications, potential contractors estimate the cost of material and labor costs to provide detailed bids. The competing bids need to be assessed in order to judge which contractor can supply the best route for the project. At this stage contracts need to be drawn up and signed.
Scheduling also requires documentation with a careful schedule of work drawn up to ensure the phases of construction occur in a correct and timely manner and to avoid unnecessary delays. This will also involve the organisation and management of subcontractors.
The final set of documents required are building permits. Permission for construction needs to be approved by the relevant authorities. The project cannot move on site until construction has been legally approved.
With the paperwork in place and contractors hired it is time for ‘fieldwork’. As shown below, correct scheduling is essential for successful work on-site. This is when a project manager can play a huge role in determining whether a project runs efficiently by ensuring steps are performed in a safe and timely
At times completion of the project may seem a distant prospect, however, it is important to plan for this stage as it is when payments to subcontractors will need to be dealt with. Furthermore, paperwork, such as safety or use permits need to be approved.
As can be seen from this brief overview, for the project-owner the emphasis is on getting the preparatory work done early in the life of the project. Thorough preparation can lessen involvement in the construction phases.