Benefits of Engaging an Owner's Representative

Article | 03.02.2021

The February 17, 2021 Wednesdays With Wightman Town Hall focused on the benefits realized by school districts when engaging an Owner’s Representative during capital improvement projects.

George Kacan, Wightman's education sector leader, opened the discussion by introducing speaker Paul R. Wills, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, and partner at Plante Moran Cresa (PMC). PMC is a 100-year-old management consulting firm with experience managing capital projects and programs worldwide. Dr. Thomas Langdon, a part-time Superintendent for Walkerville Schools and an educational consultant for Wightman, provided an educator's perspective to the discussion.

As a Registered Architect, Mr. Wills's unique background allows him to speak about the Owner's Representative's benefits from both a personal and professional perspective.

After the successful passage of a bond, school districts often dive right in, determining which improvements are immediately needed and will most impact the school district. Often, available school administration staff seek estimates for work, schedule on-site walkthroughs, and deal with the numerous phone calls. By engaging an Owner's Representative, the school district can alleviate the added burden on district staff. By partnering with an Owner's Representative, the Owner can take comfort because they have hired a responsible party to act as a point person for the project, allowing district staff to concentrate on their work for which they are hired and leading a successful project from concept through completion. He stressed that the earlier a district engages a qualified Owner's Representative, the more value the district's project will realize.

Paul shared that Owner's Representatives:

  • Are considered independent advocates,
  • Should provide expertise, resources, and a proven process to help an Owner manage projects,
  • Provide a return on investment as their costs are inherent - not additional – to the project,
  • Are knowledgeable about current construction market conditions and requirements,
  • Understand the language of the project, necessary specifications, and goals,
  • Grasp the timing and urgency of the project,
  • Set priorities and move projects forward with confidence.

When undertaking a large-scale bond project, school districts, as Owners, need to assemble a successful team that includes an Owner's Representative, Architecture/Engineering firm, and General Contractor/Construction Manager. The team's goal is to execute a plan that successfully delivers the desired result on time and budget. The Owner's Representative will need to consider the following items:

  • Strategic planning – HOW will the district want to deliver curriculum to students?
  • Assembling a team – will the project be handled through the Request for Proposals process or by negotiating with a firm previously known to the district?
  • Design facilitation – review contract documents
  • Construction facilitation – review change orders, site observation, and review payments
  • See the project through startup – from initial coordination to closeout to occupancy.

A key takeaway from the discussion was a significant misconception that often arises when discussing hiring an Owner's Representative. Mr. Wills shared it is important to note that Owner Representative fees are paid out of bond proceeds, not out of the General Fund monies.

It is critical to utilize an Owner's Representative on any school bond project. The selected firm's experience and knowledge can provide encouragement, reassurance, and satisfaction to the Owner that the project is in good hands.

On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, our next meeting will focus on the "Benefits of Construction Management Services."

To attend the next town hall, sign up here.

Here is a recording of the session.