Why Early Clarification of the Owner’s Objectives is CRITICAL

09 March 2017 / By John Manning

As an Owner’s Representative one of the MOST CRITICAL tasks you must do is to ensure that the Owner’s Objectives are clear. Having testified in court on construction management issues, I have learned one of the most difficult things to overcome is an Owner who believes they bought “X” and received “Y” due to the documents not being clear. When the Owner’s Objectives do not have adequate detail to allow the Contractor to build the project as the Owner desired, conflicts are sure to follow. Furthermore, some of the most difficult obstacles to overcome on a project are Owner directed changes that impact the schedule after a contract is let. Contractors tend to price Impact Charges on these changes which causes the price of the desired changes to increase to an amount that far exceeds the cost if it had been included in the original contract.

The key to achieving any goal in life is “beginning with the end in mind.” To have a successful Project we need to start with a clear vision of the End Goal of the Owner/Project. Many Projects have failed when either the Project Team does not clearly understand the End Goal of the Owner or the Owner truly has not thought out the End Goal. Often, the construction of a project must meet the needs of a specific marketplace, which is often changing, thus it is understandable that the Owner may have an End Goal that is often not finalized. The earlier that a Project Manager can assist an Owner in clarifying the End Goal of the Project, the more successful the Project will become.

The Owner’s Representative should meet with the Owner and systematically walk thru the following checklist to help quantify the Project Requirements and, most importantly, the End Goal:

1. What is the end purpose of the project? (i.e. Resort hotel; theme park ride; defense system; mixed use development; public housing, etc.);

2. What are the key parameters of the project? (i.e. How many square feet; how many rooms; what will make up the ride; what support systems does the defense system require? etc.);

3. Is there a pre-set Project budget cap that needs to be maintained to reach the desired Return on Investment for the Owner?;

4. Is there a critical schedule that the Project must meet?;

5. Has a site been chosen, and if so, where is the site? What due diligence has been completed? What other information is available on the site?;

6. If the site has been chosen, are the entitlements in place? If not, what entitlements still need to be resolved?; and

7. Are there any other parameters that should be considered in this project?

The Owner’s Representative should then take this information and write up a Preliminary Project Requirements Scope document. An example of one is as follows:

“Mid-rise multi-family and retail facility to be built on 2.4 acre site in Podunk, Florida. Client desires to maximize size of facility based upon the site. Review of the zoning requirements indicates facility can have a FAR (the allowable floor area to total area of site) of 0.50 therefore 52,270 sf of building floor area is allowed. Client wants to maximize the green space and zoning allows up to a 5 story facility in this area. Based upon this requirement, roughly 10,454 sf per floor is allowed. The first floor of 10,454 sf is to be retail and the remaining 4 floors of 41,816 sf are to be multifamily. The minimum size unit will be 1100 sf. Based upon a 1.2 factor to accommodate for common area, each unit will require a minimum of 1,320 sf of floor area therefore with 41,816 sf of multifamily we would yield 31 units. Finishes are to meet standards of high end renter in the location. Parking is to be at least one space per unit or as required by zoning. Project needs to be completed in 24 months.”

This scope should be refined as the project moves forward to better capture the desired scope. This scope should be used to solicit the designer and be refined as the design moves forward. The final scope should be detailed and included in the final design documents. It is critical that the Owner’s Representative and Design Team walk the Owner through the design documents to ensure those documents capture the Owner’s Objectives fully. With the advent of BIM there may be the potential to walk the Owner through a three (3) dimensional design that will help many Owners better understand what is planned in the design and feel comfortable that their objectives have been met.

To achieve success as an Owners’ Representative it is extremely critical that the objectives of the Owner are met and the earlier they are identified the less costly and better the project will be to all parties on the project and the better chance you will have an Owner who is pleased with the outcome.

About The Author

John Manning

John Manning is the Principal and CEO of KMI International with more than 30 years of global experience in project management of the design and construction processes on resort hotels, parking structures, infrastructure, area development and mixed use. He is a CCM (Certified Construction Manager), PE (Professional Engineer) and a LEED Accredited Professional while serving on the national board of CMAA. He has worked as a project manager for large Owners and Construction Management Firms on projects ranging up to $3 Billion. Mr. Manning also testifies as a forensic expert in state and federal courts.

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