In the last writing we focused on the on-site duties of a good construction project manager.  In this issue we will delve into the administrative duties that are also necessary.

Construction project managers have come from one or two basic paths:

  • Those that rose up doing physical work on site, typically carpentry.
  • Those that graduated from a college with a degree in construction project management.
Photo by cetteup on Unsplash

They both have advantages and disadvantages that are rather apparent:

  • Those that rose up doing the physical work how to put a building together but are naive about the systems required to properly manage the administrative duties such as budget accuracy.
  • Those that graduated with a degree in project management are knowledgeable about software and systems but lack the knowledge of how trades and materials interact in real life.  

Of course the best are those that have gained knowledge of both.

A good home construction project manager is competent at:

  1. Creating a realistic and complete budget.
    1. The best starting point for a project is a budget that a has included in it all the line items that will require funds in order to complete the project.  
      1. A one page outline is not enough, too many items can be missed.
      2. A laborious budget that is too specific can also be tedious to work with.
    2. The ideal is a budget that has enough line items that it forces the project manager to remember and deal with all the pertinent items that will need funding.
  2. Creating a schedule that is digitized and can be updated easily.  Typical schedules are called gant charts or bar charts.  
    1. Schedules should be digitized because it should have the following qualities:
      1. Dependencies:  That is where the start on a task is dependent on the completion of other prior tasks.  For example unless it a a project with many concurrent phases, foundations must be completed prior to framing.
      2. Have an identifiable critical path.  These items must be completed in the sequence shown for the project to be completed.
      3. Be easily updated.  A hand written schedule on notebook paper becomes misleading and good for the dust bin within one month of starting.
    2. A good construction project manager in the San Francisco Bay Area must be good at managing the schedule because there is so much demand for workers that they must be scheduled way in advance.
  3. Manage change orders.  Yes there will be change orders, no matter how good the plans and the builder are.  Custom home construction is unique and new issues become apparent during construction.
    1. A good project manager is knowledgeable about construction so can quickly discern if a cost requested  for a change is appropriate.
    2. It is the project manager’s job to know what line item in the budget spreadsheet to charge this to.
  4. Processing pay requests and logging them into the budget.  This is where a software system designed for the purpose of tracking pay requests is critical.  No, Quickbooks is not the answer.  Quickbooks does not have the capability to tell you how much has been paid, what is left to pay, and what percentage of the total line item budget is consumed.  This information is critical for a project manager of a construction project to keep on top of the budget as it is being spent.
  5. Collecting warranties and lien releases.  A good construction project manager will make sure these collected and collated before the end of the project.

For the administrative purposes alone an experienced construction project manager is crucial, especially when building a custom home, and especially when building a home in the condensed areas of Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area. Without someone with the knowhow and ability to stay on top of these tasks subcontractors, supplies and even simple things like permits can slip into the cracks or through your fingers. 

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Are We Over Structuring Today’s Buildings?

Are We Over Structuring Today’s Buildings?

Quite often we find ourselves removing an existing structure prior to building a new one, or making substantial improvements to an existing building.  Once the above ground structure has been taken down, (hopefully deconstructed not demolished), the old foundation has to be removed.  This often is not too bad; some jackhammering, some hydraulic equipment, some loads to the concrete crushing plant.

What strikes me is the huge difference in the amount of concrete that we are pouring into the ground now compared to the old foundations we are removing.  What currently is not that big a deal to have a large excavator dig up and truck away is being replaced with five, eight, ten times the amount of concrete and steel.

Someday these structures we are building now will be remodeled or taken down. I wonder what future builders will need in terms of equipment and energy usage to remove the massive amounts of concrete and reinforcing steel that we are now putting in the ground.

Is it all necessary?  Are we overdoing it?  Is the safety factor getting exaggerated?  Is CYA at every level making it just too much?

Building code has a typical safety factor of about 40%, and that is considered the absolute minimum.  The structural engineers want to add their own safety margin.  Then there is perhaps the civil engineer with their concerns about drainage, etc., and don’t forget the soils engineer who also makes a recommendation. Here in Marin County California we need to add seismic considerations so our structures can withstand potential earthquakes.Richard Wodehouse's Over Structuring 1
Before pic
So all these factors add up to a lot of structure, which may appear ridiculous to the owners who are paying for it. We seem to build as if our structures will be here forever, which is probably the same mindset that the builders of the structures we are demolishing had.

So what can be done to better this situation?  Safety is certainly a key component of building, and as your Construction Project Manager I can help ensure that your home has the foundation and structure it needs. I also take into consideration the environmental impact our buildings will have on future generations and can help eliminate excess without compromising safety.

If you bring me in as a Project Manager during the design process, I ask structural engineers to simplify for constructability. I can examine the plans and question items that might seem excessive or perhaps suggest how the needed result can be achieved in another way.  A mutually respectful evaluation is bound to result in some improvements.  My expertise can help your project strike the proper balance between safety and cost-effective environmental consciousness.

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