July 15, 2016

How CA Can Help, Part I: CA in the Design Phase

The Construction Administrator (CA) plays a critical role ensuring that the owner’s vision is met within the proposed timeline, budget, and project specifications. Accordingly, the CA assists in each phase of a project working with the project team to address any challenges that arise during construction. Addressing these challenges is a collaborative team effort wherein practical solutions based on practical construction experience is invaluable and will ultimately assist in assuring that the design intent and the owner’s vision are met. Today I will focus on the CA role and strategies for typical barriers encountered during the early phases of project construction.

During the early planning phases of a project there’s much enthusiasm over the design, collaboration, teamwork, and just plain getting the project started. Personally, I strive to maintain this enthusiasm throughout the construction administration services phase, which commences with the awarding of the construction contract and ends when the final certification of payment is processed.

A construction administrator wears many hats during the construction phase of a project and must be prepared to engage in a variety of multi-disciplinary undertakings and address them accordingly. The CA needs to be methodical in resolving the issues, and—importantly—use proven standardized protocol and documentation methodology to properly report and communicate the findings to the team.

I believe that clear and concise communication is a vital component for project success; therefore, my communication goals are listed below:

Communications Goals:

  • Determine the client’s needs and coordinate project design and implementation accordingly. This comes with experience. I have seventeen years of experience in CA and recognize the importance of understanding what the client wants and meeting the client’s needs and expectations, which are unique to each project. For example, an elementary school may require that construction be completed over a summer break. The school may have summer activities that will need to be coordinated and may necessitate multiple phases of work to accommodate these activities while the project is in construction. Anticipating wants and needs early prevents future delays and potential disappointments.
  • Establish a clear and mutual understanding of contract requirements. Every project is different and will require various levels of CA participation. For example, a first-time facility owner may require more assistance than a veteran owner with a construction management department. Using the contract agreement to define scope of services, team member roles as well as CA guidelines generates a clear understanding of each of the participant’s responsibilities, and is imperative for a successful and timely project completion. This includes establishing project schedule, which will identify and prioritize project milestones—the first step in coordinating the CA’s efforts.
  • Confirm accuracy of completed work as the project progresses. Early on, prior to execution of the work, I review the contract drawings for coordination of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and identify any potential constructability conflicts. Additionally, site observations and project meetings should be scheduled at intervals appropriate to the phase or milestone of construction. Meeting with the construction team helps ensure that the contractor understands the design. Regular site visits help ensure that the quality and workmanship meet the systems’ operational requirements. Beyond this, communicating the results of these activities through reporting and recording is a core function of the contract administrator. Providing timely correspondence and documentation from the start of the project, that is clear, concise, and complete, will help keep the project on track.

My personal philosophy is that my role as CA is to identify potential roadblocks early in project development to prevent unexpected larger problems at a later date. This facilitates expedient revisions and or corrections in a cost-effective manner while maintaining quality control and fulfilling the contractual requirements. I believe in teamwork and successful communication so that we, as a team, will pave the way to success.

Next stop: Pre-Construction Meeting. To be continued.

By Don Gonzales