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Jan 17, 2021
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Where To Begin

Post by 
Justin Dubrow
W

hen you contemplate your construction project and determine if you need an Owner's Representative (OR), think of it this way, would you go into a courtroom without a lawyer or an audit without an accountant? Design and construction have become incredibly complex, not to mention time-consuming in the management of a project. Hiring a trusted partner with multi-disciplinary knowledge of the construction process will take away the stress and allow you to focus on the numerous decisions that need to be made along the way to reach your desired outcome. 

Every professional has strengths and weaknesses that are particular to their industry. Knowing the attributes to look for when interviewing a professional is critical in making the right decision. The depth of multi-disciplinary knowledge and organizational and leadership abilities set one OR apart from the rest. We believe the following attributes are what makes for a successful Owner's Representative. 

Attributes to Seek Out While Interviewing an Owner's Representative 

Technology - Spreadsheets, Outlook, and Dropbox are a thing of the past for project management. A skilled OR will be using a robust project management platform to manage project data and supply you with easy-to-understand reports.

Workflow Development - The construction process creates a lot of paperwork, and there should be a solid file management system in place to keep the process orderly. 

Subject Matter Expert - An OR should have multi-disciplinary expertise in an entire project from start to finish. Knowledge should include but not be limited to design, construction pricing, and methodology, permitting, construction law, project delivery methods. This knowledge comes from working directly with the various service providers, not only alongside them.

Team Builder/ Facilitator - Bringing teams together in collaboration and facilitating open lines of communication to keep a project moving smoothly is the sign of a successful OR. 

Creative Problem Solver - Building is a fluid process, and one can never plan for every possible obstacle or occurrence. An OR must be a proactive, agile, and responsive, creative problem solver to keep projects moving forward remaining on schedule and budget. 

Trust & Loyalty - An OR works on your behalf and is managing your investment. This person should be transparent, trustworthy, and loyal to give you the peace of mind that you are making the best decisions possible along the way. 

Proven track record & Testimonials - A proven track record of success is the best way to know that the person you are interviewing has the attributes listed above. Strength in character is shown when testimonials from owners as well as former team members. 

Red flags to be Aware of While Interviewing an Owner's Representative

Owner's Representatives have many required and distinct skills to be successful, as noted above and in the article 'What is an Owner's Representative.' There are a few things to watch out for a while interviewing prospective ORs, however. The first is when a general contractor approaches you and offers to be the GC and the OR for your project. This scenario results in a conflict of interest due to the role of a GC on a project. The GC manages their business, purchases all the materials for your project, and carries all the contracts for the necessary vendors to complete construction. They may be more inclined to make decisions that positively impact their company rather than what is best for your project. 

You also may come across a Construction Manager (CM) who presents themselves as an OR. As you will recall from our article Project Delivery Methods, a construction manager is responsible for managing construction to meet a guaranteed maximum price. The CM's focus is on the construction, not the project overall. The best way to understand project hierarchy is by this example: An OR hires a CM who then hires the GC. The key takeaway is that you want an OR to be fiscally responsible only to you in relation to your project. 

The second item to be aware of is related to how a prospective OR proposes their fee. If a prospective OR presents their fee as a percentage of the overall construction costs, this will not be in your best interests. The cost of construction typically fluctuates at the beginning of a project while the scope is being defined. One of the primary tasks of a good OR is to ensure you receive the best price possible for your project, and if their fee is also dependant on this number, they may not work fully in your best interests. 

The last red flag to touch on is professionals who are solely focused on the bottom line. This is a complex role that requires nuance, leadership, collaboration, and the bottom line. If you are interviewing someone who is only focused on the bottom line when interviewing them, they may not have the necessary skills in leadership, collaboration, and/or the technical knowledge needed for this role. 

What to expect at the start of your project? 

The start of a project is the most important part of the process. This is one of the most time-intensive points in the process for the owner as we set the project parameters. The decisions made during this time are what we will measure back to for the project's duration. At Dubrow Group, we have a prescribed start-up process to kick-off every project with ease and efficiency. Once we have set-up the project on our management software, we will work with you to put definition around the following four areas. 

Financials - Establishing a budget is the first major task of a project. The fee constraints are needed for some of the early service providers like the architect and interior designer to understand the scope project and base their fees around. At Dubrow Group, we break the project budget into 4 main categories.

  1. Hard Costs - These make up the largest portion of the project. They are often referred to as the "brick and mortar costs." They are the materials and labor necessary to build the project.
  2. Soft Costs - These are a bit harder to identify early on as they are the costs needed to support construction, such as architect and engineer fees, permits, insurance, etc. 
  3. Contingency - This is a portion of money set aside to cover any increase in hard or soft costs.
  4. Allowances - These are a way to budget for potential scope addition along the way. 

Schedule - We will establish a high-level schedule at this point with a few key milestone dates. The schedule will be refined once the project team is assembled, and real deliverable dates can be added to the timeline. 

Determine Project Delivery Method & Assemble the Team - Now that we have some of the project scope defined, it is time to select the project delivery method that would be best for your project, allowing us to assemble the project team. We can suggest vendors to bid, or you can request certain vendors to be bid. Once we receive the bids and qualify them, we will review our findings with you and make some recommendations on selections. 

Project Conceptualization - This is when the fun begins! It is time to start putting all those dreams on paper regarding the project. What is the style of the home? How many square feet do you imagine the main structure to be? What rooms and amenities would you like in the space? Are there any special features you would like to add to like technology or automation, energy-saving elements like geothermal heating, etc.? This information is gathered for our kick-off with the architect and interior design to start their process. 

Next Steps 

As mentioned in "Our Process," we place immense value on the "pre-construction" phase of the project. Implementing the correct project set-up, process, and team creates project success. Chances are you may encounter an unexpected situation not covered in our growing blog, as every project differs. Please contact us if you have questions or are looking for guidance on a topic that may be missing from our blog collection.

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