Is Your Design Firm the Logical Choice to Lead Retail Construction Management?
Your architectural design & engineering firm is involved in your project from the earliest stages. Whether it is a new build or a renovation of an existing structure, they have intimate knowledge of every detail of your project. From the architectural floorplan to the electrical and mechanical details… to the various permitting requirements around health, safety, occupancy and zoning.
Which begs the question: doesn’t it make sense to also have your design firm manage construction on your behalf?
“Retail construction management is an area where small to mid-size engineering and design firms are starting to expand their services,” explains Francisco Diaz, a Project Manager with Calgary-based CTM Design Services Ltd.
CTM’s recent involvement in a 74+ store conversion (with another 14 currently in the works) on behalf of 7-Eleven illustrates how design firms with extensive project management experience are extremely well positioned to handle construction management.
Find a construction manager you can trust.
It is always easier to hire a company you have collaborated with previously, and know how they work. Alternatively, look for a reference from someone who has experience in this area. Most franchises and commercial property developers can provide recommendations for construction management services. Either way, do your homework and be sure to check out their qualifications.
To help, we’ve included 5 questions to ask when choosing a construction management firm.
When Esso sold all of its Esso On The Run convenience stores in BC and Alberta to 7-Eleven, CTM was involved in the permitting and design work for stores that would be as little as one-third the size of a standard 7-Eleven. These stores would require infrastructure necessary for hot food service. New design standards were created based on a variety of footprints.
The team at 7-Eleven asked if CTM was interested in handling construction management for 40 of these locations.
“We’ve worked quite closely with 7-Eleven on the design side for years,” Diaz says. “Based on our familiarity with the new design plans and our past work with Esso over an eight-year period – they felt we would be a natural choice to oversee construction.”
Successful construction management hinges on strong project management.
While project knowledge is an asset, it is a design firm’s strength in project management that determines whether they are a good fit to handle retail construction management duties.
Companies with strong project management processes in place can provide the detailed up-front planning, continual progress reporting and expense tracking that is critical to a project’s success. They will be set up to efficiently manage payments and change orders.
That being said, while planning is crucial, project management can’t be rigid. It must allow for the flexibility to adjust to unforeseen changes.
This would prove to be important on the 7-Eleven conversion. The original construction timeline allowed only six days per store (Sunday to Friday – and the store had to remain open throughout construction).
“7-Eleven knows their business. They have solid research telling them that if you close a store for even a short time, customers will find other options,” Diaz says.
Construction was set to take place on a 24-hour schedule involving two alternating crews. Unfortunately, this became a problem in Vancouver and a few other municipalities that had very strict noise control bylaws.
“We were forced to wrap construction noon the following Friday in most of these locations. This required some juggling with the construction schedule,” says Diaz. “Fortunately, we were able to adjust the sequencing of work and modify the schedule as required. The team at 7-Eleven appreciated our ability to keep delays to a minimum.”
What is the most important thing in construction management?
Accountability. The construction manager’s primary role is to oversee the General Contractor and make sure construction is up to the client’s quality standards, and done according to the approved drawings.
According to Diaz, full-service design and engineering consultants regularly conduct sign-off inspections. As such, they are used to working with contractors and addressing deficiencies where required.
It is important that the construction manager is onsite every day to assess progress and identify any issues at the outset. The construction manager should know the design inside-out, which will eliminate oversights. This is an area where employing a construction manager from the design firm is a distinct advantage.
In the case of the 7-Eleven build, CTM was working with three General Contractors simultaneously across multiple locations. Field Project Managers would report to a Program Manager who was responsible for communicating with the client and mitigating any problems.
Warehousing and logistics.
Procurement is another big challenge when it comes to construction management – especially in a staged build involving multiple locations. In the case of the 7-Eleven project, CTM contracted warehousing operations in Calgary, Vancouver and Kelowna to store and deliver the equipment and millwork to each location according to the construction schedule.
Strength in continuity.
Retail construction management is another example where a full service architectural design and engineering firm can bring greater value to a project.
By using the same firm that was behind the design for construction management, you can minimize risks, as they will catch oversight or errors that others may miss, while streamlining the number of contractors on the project.
5 questions to ask when choosing a construction management firm.
Construction management requires a unique set of skillsets, many of which you’ll find in a qualified full service architectural design and engineering firm. Here are five questions you can ask to get a sense whether your design partner is a good fit to serve as construction manager.
1. What experience do they have managing general contractors?
2. What project management processes do they have in place?
3. How will the firm hold the General Contractor accountable? What happens if quality standards are not met?
4. Will someone be conducting daily site visits?
5. What communication processes and progress reporting systems are in place?
By choosing the right construction manager, you will ensure your project is done right, and that it is kept on schedule and on budget. It will also take the worry off your shoulders, so you can focus on the many other details necessary to get your new business off to.