Builders Roundtable: The Value of Construction Managers

A construction manager (CM) can be a vital part of a successful project team. Their careful coordination and supervision of correctional and justice projects — both large and small — can help ensure a new or improved facility will meet its owners needs for years to come. Correctional News spoke with representatives of three leading construction management firms to better understand the value in working with a CM and how the professional landscape is changing.

Andy Morgan is vice president at Vanir Construction Management of Sacramento, Calif., which serves as the program manager for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Vanir has directly helped 25 California counties receive state grant funding under AB 900, SB 1022, SB 81 and SB 863.

Bill Dobyns is vice president, Western Region, for Lydig Construction of Spokane, Wash. The company is currently constructing the Red Rock Corrections Center expansion in Eloy, Ariz., and the Skagit Valley County Jail in Skagit, Wash.

Anthony Gallivan, vice president of Bethesda, Md.-based Clark Construction, is leading his firm in building the East County Detention Center in Indio, Calif., as well as the Clark/Horizon joint venture Harris County Joint Processing Center in Houston.

Q: How have you seen the role of the construction manager change in recent years, and what market conditions, factors or trends are contributing to this evolution?

Morgan: First, the role of construction managers has expanded from its origin role, management of field activities, to project management. This is driven by clients dealing with smaller budgets and fewer staff members. Additionally, advancing technologies are driving a need for expertise beyond what most owners can support.

Secondly, CM firms are evolving to offer more services. In California, for example, planning projects and interfacing with the state regulatory process to secure funding and approvals has become more complex with each funding cycle. Construction managers provide those services.

Dobyns: Probably the biggest change is that the public works market is beginning to embrace alternative delivery methods including CM at-risk and design-build. Gone are the days of opening up bids and immediately beginning the claims process. The industry is putting real value on collaboration, trust and team work. Public agencies across the country are moving more and more to these delivery methods.

Gallivan: The construction manager role has and should always be to protect the owner and help maintain the overall delivery of the project. This includes thoroughly reviewing documentation, contract drawings and specifications control, submittals, the change order process, change order pricing and negotiations, requisitions and billings, inspection records and compliance and assuring the owner that the designers and general contractor are delivering on their contractual responsibilities. Over the more recent years it seems that the CM role has become increasingly focused on cost control and economical delivery. These run parallel with the construction industry as we all try to be more prudent in our approach to design efficiency, cost and time efficiency, and our continual efforts to be conscientious stewards of the environment.

Q: How important is it to select qualified DEC and SEC subcontractors?

Morgan: Successful projects don’t happen with inexperienced DECs and SECs. Informed CMs know the market and the individuals that lead. We have developed a prequalification process that looks at the subcontractor’s financial health and the experience of its craftspeople. Firms leave the marketplace or are absorbed by other firms, but the primary players seem to stay in the game.

Dobyns: Evaluating DECs and SECs on both experience and financial capabilities is critical to project success. Having subcontractors that cannot manage or provide labor, cannot procure materials or, even worse, that become insolvent during construction can kill an otherwise good project. Having this happen to a DEC or SEC during a justice project is fatal.

Gallivan: It has become more important than ever to select qualified, experienced DEC and SEC subcontractors. With the evolution of SEC equipment and technology you must have a subcontractor who is knowledgeable and up-to-date with the design and technology of these systems. They must have the experienced team to design and install the complete and fully operational backbone and delivery equipment. With all systems now on an IP data format and interfacing into a central control or command center, what used to be a typical interface of doors, cameras and intercoms has become more demanding with the inclusion of buildings automations and controls.

A DEC contractor must be similar in terms of knowledge and experience, and provide innovative means to coordinate and supply products to meet tight installation demands.

Read more of the Builders Roundtable in the July/August issue of Correctional News, available soon.