Benefits of Partnering with a Program Manager/Construction Manager

Article | 04.13.2021

The March 17, 2021 Wednesdays With Wightman Town Hall explored what schools should consider when planning the delivery of a construction project and the benefit of Partnering with a Program Manager/Construction Manager.

Wightman Recognized Educational Facilities Planning (REFP) expert, Carl Baxmeyer, opened the discussion by introducing speakers Derek Ward, Senior Manager, and Stephanie Corona, Project Executive, at Gilbane Building Company. Founded in 1870, Gilbane Building Company is a global integrated construction and facility management services firm. Dr. Thomas Langdon, a part-time Superintendent for Walkerville Schools and an educational consultant for Wightman, provided an educators’ perspective to the discussion.

Mr. Gilbane, who specializes in assisting K-12 clients in selecting optimal delivery methods, outlined the topics to be addressed. Ms. Corona, who focuses on client outreach and pre-construction programming, then explained the difference between a Program Manager (PM) and a Construction Manager (CM). As a former Owner’s Representative, she was able to speak about the benefits of partnering with a PM/CM from both an Owner’s and a professional PM/CM’s perspective. She delineated the pros and cons of the following delivery methods:

  • Design-Bid-Build (Open Bid) - Pro: simple approach / Con: lack of owner support
  • CM, Agency - Pro: owner support provided / Con: Owner contracts directly with vendors
  • CM-at-Risk - Pro: CM contracts with vendors / Con: limited by CM’s bond capacity
  • PM: Similar to CM but with added assistance for Bond Issue

Before selecting a delivery method, it is important to understand cost implications and examine how each can potentially meet your district’s needs. Understanding market conditions is also critical. For the past several years, construction costs have risen steadily from 3-5%. However, from April of 2020 to February of 2021, construction costs increased 14% due to COVID, natural disasters, materials shortages, increased fuel costs, and labor shortages. 6 % of this increase occurred from January to March of 2021. In November, there will likely be a 2% increase. A 4% decrease will likely follow during the holiday season. Since rates will likely fail to steady for a few years, Ms. Corona recommended leveraging the supply chain to increase project control, save cost and time, and mitigate risk and price volatility.

Ms. Corona concluded by recommending the ideal time to bring various professionals (the PM, architect/engineer, CM, consultants, and trade contractors) on board. If sought, a PM should be engaged at least one year before construction embarks. To help a PM be effective, owners should establish the type of curricula, traditional or 21st Century, to be employed across district buildings and grade levels early on.

A key takeaway is that it is critical to understand that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all solution’ and that the delivery method chosen should be unique and tailored to each project and district.

On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, our next meeting will focus on research conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on the efficacy of various paths for optimizing indoor air quality (IAQ) while maximizing energy efficiency.

To attend the next town hall, sign up here.

Here is a recording of the session.