They agreed to hire us. I was particularly appreciative of the opportunity to build for Texaco, as it broke a barrier a religious-based one. Prior to this time, most major industrial and financial corporations had been reluctant to award professional work to firms with Jewish owners.
But my major selling point to Texaco was that in our role as Construction Manager, we would act for them as a professional lawyer or accountant does, as their agent. We would sit with them on the same side of the table and would negotiate on their behalf with contractors and subcontractors. This posture was memorialized in the language of our CM contracts, which calls for the owner to rent our firm, to take it temporarily into his or her own, so that for the duration of the project we become, in effect, temporary employees of the owner.
In some ways, this posture meant Construction Managers taking over as the owner’s agent from architects, who were used to being the only building-industry professionals on the owner’s side of the table. In the 1960s, when we began this approach to supervising construction, architects were uncomfortable with us having this role, as they believed we were displacing them. We weren’t not entirely. We were simply joining the team on the owner’s side of the table. But that meant the architects were not the only building-industry professionals advising the owner, and it sometimes meant that we would critique the architect’s plans in a way that the architect did not like. In some ways, I thought the architects’ uneasiness about our presence was a residue of class consciousness. Architects had always considered themselves as belonging to the upper class the owner class while they simulta-
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The idea of Construction Management sealed the deal for us to supervise the construction of Texaco’s new headquarters.
Tishman Construction was ideally suited to utilize the Construction Management approach because we knew from an owner’s perspective over the course of seventy years where the action in a construction project would be, and we were therefore better able to alert an owner client to those places and moments than, say, a reconstructed GC firm or a CM division of an decorating firm might have been. What owner-builders do is take risks, and others owners appreciated our sensitivity to the risks they were taking on their construction projects, and what we would do to minimize their exposure to construction problems and cost escalations.
Owners like Construction Management, and by owners I also mean top executives of firms whose main business is not real estate, such as the CEOs of firms that want to build headquarters and such. I saw this, first-hand, in working with Henry Ford, Jr. on Renaissance Center. Mr. Ford was always respectful of the professionals engaged in this massive building project, architect John Portman and myself. CM appeals to CEOs because we work as managers, in a way similar to what they do, and we do it as their temporary, “in-house” employees.