• Chris Dowler, FMP


The usual state of affairs.

Tradition holds that the best way to have a major project completed is through the Design / Bid / Build model. Architects design. General Contractors bid the project. Owner picks low bid (because “everyone” knows when there are multiple bids, competition naturally results in competitive bids.) The selected GC builds the project. Everyone is happy.

Or are they?

The design team is usually rushed to complete the plans. GCs beat up subcontractors to get the lowest price. The Owner only wants the best price because it doesn’t have the skill set to discern who is best qualified.

Project progresses but then gets bogged down because of incomplete or conflicting details in the drawing, or poor management by the GC, or multiple change orders requested by the Owner.

By the end of the project the GC is pushing to get things done knowing there will be an extensive punchlist and the Owner is upset because the project is over budget. Owner vows to “never build again.”

No one is happy.

So, why does this model still exist? Because that is how projects have traditionally been tackled and inertia leads to the tried and true.

What is lacking?

By default, Design / Bid / Build automatically creates an adversarial relationship between the GC and the Owner. The GC has locked itself into a cap on its potential profit and proceeds to look at any way to shave costs in its favor.

The Owner thinks it is paying the GC an exorbitant amount which then entitles the Owner to make “asks” which it assumes will be done for nearly free.

There is no situation in which there is a collaborative spirit to work together to ensure the GC makes a fair profit and the Owner gets what it needs.

What is a better solution?

Utilizing a Construction Manager will help define the project, yield a better designed project, identify the best GC for the project, ensure the Owner gets what it is expecting, and smooth the transition to Owner possession and operation.

A good Construction Manager will corral the many cats which are part of every project and effectively and efficiently see a project through completion. Importantly, it will ensure that all stakeholders of the Owner will have a voice. This does not mean that everyone gets what they want, rather it will ensure that their concerns are presented for consideration up front and not half-way during construction.

A good Construction Manager will be brought on from the very beginning – I would argue that it should be the first component of the team.

How does this model work?

A good Construction Manager is akin to the conductor of a symphonic orchestra. There are many different instruments playing many different notes which need to be blended together to create the sound the composer originally scored. In this case, the goal is to create a harmonious team in which everyone achieves their goals in concert with achieving the Owner’s goals.

A good Construction Manager will coax, cajole, and tease the “needs” from the “wants” of an Owner. Many Owners are not construction professionals and do not know what they do not know. By asking questions and developing Owner’s Priority Requirements (OPRs) the CM will guide the Owner to more clearly define its needs and objectives, both short range and long range.

A good Construction Manager will then work with the design team to ensure that the Owner’s needs are met in a way that provides the best value. A good Construction Manager will also be able to truly value engineer the project as opposed to the traditional “value engineer” which means remove systems and features to save money when the project starts to go over budget.

A good Construction Manager will then help identify the GC who will provide the best value to the Owner – one who will bring expertise in this particular project’s scope, a willingness toward collaboration, a fair profit motive, and an ability to work with the design team and Owner to either reduce delivery time or cost or suggest an upgrade which will greatly enhance the project.

A good Construction Manager will communicate effectively, manage the schedule in concert with the GC, and generally ensure the project flows smoothly.

What is the key to this model’s success?

Early inclusion of the Construction Manager, clear definition of needs, clear definition of budget, clear definition of time frames, and the patience to build the project on paper first to work through design conflicts will result in a project that is completed quicker, with fewer change orders, and meets the Owner’s needs.

Anything else?

Ideally the Construction Manager was able to parse from the Owner its long- term goals, values, and ethos. These will inform the Construction Manager in guiding product selection with an eye to reducing operating costs, or enhancing sustainability, or reducing risk after the project is completed.

For more information on construction management contact us at Dowler@DowlerConstruction.com.


Chris Dowler, FMP

Founder and Owner

Dowler Construction Services

a strategic facility solutions firm

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