The list of who might not like Construction Management, in my view, validates why CEOs and private business owners should like it.
Principal among those annoyed by the CM approach are architects, because Construction Managers have the standing to say “no” to the architects’ extravagances or, more frequently, to suggest substituting a more practical design instead of one that will primarily enhance the architect’s own brochure and will not necessarily be advantageous for the client. The inherent conflict between architects and CMs came to the fore as the CM approach was developed. Shortly, in response, large architectural firms began their own construction management departments in an attempt to recapture some of this territory for themselves; but after a few years, those in-house CM departments began to fade away because they had been fatally compromised from the get-go. The job of a CM is to rein in excessive costs and to question the appropriateness of various design ideas, in order to help the client control costs during the construction phase and also the costs of future maintenance. But architects want to be unhampered, and at day’s end architectural firms’ CM departments were just too compromised by the designers of the architectural firm, and so could not provide the best advice to their clients.
The second group of people who dislike CM are middle-rank construction executives at large corporations, especially those corporations that are not in the real estate business. The chief of construction at such a firm often feels that his fiefdom is challenged by a Construction Manager who talks directly with his boss, the CEO. Also, at times these construction chiefs have overly cozy relationships with contractors. In some instances, I have had to tell CEOs that their construction chiefs were on the take or, more often, that the construction chiefs were throwing up roadblocks to our progress; more than once, such a conversation (and the information that backed it up) resulted in someone being fired. However, most of the time we were able to develop a working relationship with an in-house construction chief that enabled him or her to see us properly as an ally rather than as a rival.
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The third group that doesn’t like CM is the subcontractors. Here, too, the problem has been the bid-rigging and sweetheart deals on which some subcontractors relied during the old GC days. It was relatively easy for, say, the few large sheetmetal subcontractors to get together and decide which of them would be low bidder on the next available job. But that bid-rigging relationship was short-circuited by the existence of Construction Managers, who while working for the client are not obligated to accept the lowest bidder for a particular job; as a CM we could, and frequently did, select subcontractors with the owner’s representative sitting by our side on the basis of which one presented the best overall package. Often, we would ask subcontractors for their best ideas on how to provide alternative materials or ways of fulfilling a particular design requirement or to effect cost savings, and on the basis of their answers we would recommend hiring the one with the most innovative package of experience, tools, and ideas.
From the start of the design process, through construction and occupancy, the Construction Manager has work to do, arranging for the selection of, and coordinating the contributions of, required specialists, engineers, trades-people, and suppliers. Often we as a CM are even involved in the selection of an architect and in the supervision of the design work.
As the letter from the CMAA, quoted above, points out, the CM approach that we pioneered, which involved the combined and coordinated efforts of owner, architect, and construction expert, is a true team approach. Through this approach, and well ahead of the actual construction, both the owner and the architect can have all the necessary resources to analyze design and system alternatives and their impact on costs and schedules. Our work makes the owner most completely aware of aesthetic, schedule, and cost trade-offs before making design and program decisions.
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