Project Management

Michael Gaertner Architects can provide management of the design and construction process from pre-site acquisition to final occupancy. This is commonly referred to as "Project Management" or, increasingly, "Program Management". We practice sound, consistently applied management methods that emphasize clear project definition, cost control, scheduling, and documentation of communications.  The tasks include the following:

A simplistic view of a project is that a series of tasks produce a final product when completed. Project Management is the process that assures that these tasks are performed efficiently and effectively. Within the context of architectural construction and rehabilitation projects, Michael Gaertner Architects manages the performance of these tasks. In some cases Michael Gaertner Architects performs the work directly, depending on the particulars of the individual client or project.

Our services are suitable for specific projects types, for Owners lacking management expertise within their organizations, and for augmenting in-house staff during work overloads. MGA provides both comprehensive and specific services, for example, we specialize in rehabilitation and historic projects and can act as the preservation consultant during all phases of the project.

As managers providing project delivery rather than traditional architectural services, we build consensus and develop positive relationships and teamwork. The value of MGA is derived from our extensive background in real estate development, architecture, project management, construction administration, and dispute resolution.

Historical Perspective

Before the 19th century, owners with their master masons led the building process. An owner described the project function, arranged for labor and materials, and provided a site. The master mason designed and constructed the project. In the early 1800's a distinction between the designer and the constructor emerged and the process became more complicated. In 1834, architects formed the Royal Institute of British Architects,wrote a code of conduct, and assumed leadership of the process. As building technology evolved, builders organized according to trades, and management of trade contractors became a specialty known as general contracting. During the latter half of the 20th century, architects backed away from responsibility for construction, limiting their role to "construction administration." A dual leadership concept emerged as architects led design and general contractors led construction.

Until a few decades ago, the building process remained relatively simple, the number of offices or the size of an industrial space determined requirements. Money usually meant a bank loan. Process meant hiring an architect and bidding the job among general contractors. Approvals were limited to obtaining a building permit. Environmental meant getting a bulldozer, knocking down trees, and flattening the site. Technology was little more than bricks and mortar.

Times have changed and projects are now far more complicated. Specialists have emerged to deal with each new complexity. Architects have their hands full contracting with and organizing the work of engineers and specialists while keeping up with changing building codes and regulations. General contractors (and the new breed of construction managers who provide services for a fee) focus on construction contracting, labor practices, safety regulations, laboratory testing, claims, and the general management and coordination of trade contractors.

In the meantime, a host of new players has arrived: lawyers specializing in entitlements and development agreements, real estate economists and consultants, investment bankers, financial and realty brokers, strategic planners, management consultants, environmental scientists and engineers, estimators and schedulers, relocation specialists and many others. New arenas of practice have evolved around specific issues such as accessibility, windstorm and seismic resistance and preservation.

Today, many owners cannot afford the overhead associated with management of complicated or unique projects. Also, down sizing has fostered an environment that encourages the use of consultants. Projects are often completed with a team of consultants and contractors assembled for the specific project and utilizing the specific skills and talents that may be required by that project. We call this out-sourcing or "unbundling" and believe that it will be a lasting by-product of these times. The Project Manager leads and coordinates the project team.

Managing and coordinating all of this has fallen into the lap of the owner because none of the players offer a comprehensive view of the entire project or take responsibility for it. No single party, apart from the owner, addresses all of a project's considerations.

Project Manager as Generalist

The project management approach uses a role-developed team: a group of specialists led by a generalist. The Project Manager serves as the generalist, a professional agent with a responsibility to achieve the Owner's project goals and objectives

Michael Gaertner Architects brings ability and experience to the Owner's side of the table and performs services with the specific goals meeting the Owner's requirements for design quality, cost, function, and schedule, while minimizing potential conflicts of interest. Compensation based on percentage of construction cost, cost-saving clauses, and/or ownership interest in the project is avoided.

We facilitate the identification of project issues and timely, careful decision making. Our experience in a wide variety of projects and political jurisdictions enables us to know what questions to ask before they are immediately apparent. Experience as architects allows us to anticipate the questions that will emerge from the design process. The architect's role is enhanced by a prepared Owner, the process proceeds more smoothly, and performance is improved. This in turn allows the project architect to pay proper attention to the scope of services, yielding tighter documents, bids, and increased confidence on the part of the contractor.

Notwithstanding the need for rapid decision making each decision has its time. For example, with user needs often changing rapidly, interior build-out decisions should be delayed on certain buildings as long as practical. These buildings can be treated as shell and core with a separate contracts for interior build-out. Final space and partitioning plans should occur as close to occupancy as possible. The later the build-out is designed, the more likely it will reflect user needs upon occupancy.

Clear communication during the construction phase is crucial to the success of a project today. There are many nuances to the construction process, but the most important idea is to have clear effective communication at the outset of the involvement of the various parties. Our team building process has evolved over the last 20 years and resembles partnering. Owners, architects, and contractors appreciate our respect for their roles in the project. In turn, we gain trust through our ability to understand their positions, respect their confidences, and mediate the resolution of conflicts.

Knowledge of the construction process, coupled with the power of representing the owner, is invaluable for bringing disputes to a resolution. When parties start digging in on positions and "hand waving" evolves into "finger pointing", we work with the parties to resolve the dispute as quickly and fairly as possible. The sooner a potential conflict is resolved, the lesser its impact will be on the cost and time required for construction.

Services offered by our firm fall into the following broad categories:

Comprehensive Project Management

Serve as the Owner's project manager for projects from inception to occupancy, including site investigations, design consultant retention and management, project scheduling and cost control, and document review and construction contract administration.

  • Pre-acquisition studies, conceptual budget and analysis
  • Project scope of work, design requirements and preliminary budget
  • Income and expense pro-forma analysis
  • Project team building and management
  • Contractor selection assistance
  • Historic rehabilitation technical assistance
  • Environmental mitigation assistance
  • Site evaluation and acquisition
  • Construction management oversight

Budgeting

Our experience in Construction and Rehabilitation Projects gives us the ability to prepare and track project budgets from the conceptual stage through project completion. Where most architects and designers may be able to prepare construction budgets, Michael Gaertner Architects can prepare a complete Project Budget including acquisition and closing costs, finance charges during construction, temporary utilities, design, engineering, and consulting fees, permitting fees, legal and accounting, costs of furnishings, fixtures & equipment and much more. This results in a understanding of the complete project cost - not just the cost of construction. Cost control through a Purchase Order system and accounting allows the Owner complete project control and permits us to measure cost vs. budget performance for the entire project through completion.

Pro-Forma Cash Flow

The next step in the conceptual development of the project is to determine its financial viability. By analyzing sources of income, operating costs and the original construction cost, we can determine if a project makes financial sense. Two methods of analysis can be produced: the Static Pro-Forma or "Cash-on-cash" Pro-Forma which is a single year snapshot of the project's financial performance.  This analysis is quite simple and can be created in a spreadsheet in a few minutes.  If the Static Pro-Forma is promising, then a dynamic  Pro-Forma is developed. The dynamic Pro-Forma is a multi-year analysis that takes into account inflation, debt amortization, depreciation, taxes, and other financial components of the project. The dynamic Pro-Forma is also used to analyze possible sales scenarios utilizing capitalization rates or gross rent multipliers to determine sales price and determine proceeds from sales during the analysis period.

Consultant Management

Identify appropriate consultants, research their background and references, prepare scopes of work and RFP's (Requests for Proposals) for selecting consulting services, negotiate consultant contracts, and monitor consultant performance.

Design, Cost, and Quality Control

Develop documentation and systems for continual evolution of project design.

Develop budgets and systems for tracking project costs from concept planning through design, periodically updating them with input from design consultants and contractors.

Encourage quality-driven design process, participation by all parties of the project, and integration of quality performance into the construction sequence.

Scheduling

Michael Gaertner Architects commonly uses a project scheduling technique known as the Gantt Chart. Gantt charts consist of horizontal bars representing tasks plotted on a graph that depicts time.Gantt Charts allow project managers to be sure that the project is on the right track. They have the following purposes:

  • To make sure that all activities are planned for
  • To set up an order in which they should be performed
  • To record time estimates for each project
  • To determine an overall time for the project

Example Gantt Chart

 

Project Controlling can become a complex process that can best be understood by using Critical Path Method (CPM) techniques. There are six basic steps to CPM Scheduling:

  • Define the project and all of its significant tasks
  • Develop relationships between the tasks and put them in order
  • Draw a network connecting all of the activities
  • Assign time and cost estimates to each activity
  • Compute the critical path through the activities
  • Use this network to plan, schedule, and control the project

CPM helps the Project Team develop information regarding the project, including:

  • How long will it take to complete the entire project?
  • What are the critical incidents that will delay the entire project if they are late?
  • Which activities are not as critical?
  • Is the project currently on schedule, ahead of schedule, or behind schedule?
  • What is the best way to finish this project at the lowest cost?

Project Information Management

Develop systems (manual and computer based) for capturing essential project information and manipulating this data to provide useful reports. Assist Owner's staff in implementing and maintaining project information systems.

Construction Contract Administration

Act as the Owner's representative during a project's bidding, negotiation and construction administration phases. Administer the construction contract, review billings, delays, change order requests, expedite clarification's or RFI's (Requests for Information) from consultants to contractors, and evaluate construction quality and schedule performance.

Tenant Improvement Coordination

Review proposed tenant improvements on landlord's behalf to determine the feasibility and impact of improvements on the project, coordinate with tenant, tenant's architect, and contractor.

Dispute Resolution

Meet with parties to ascertain dispute issues. Gather facts and disputing parties' interpretation of facts. Review contract language to determine applicable clauses. Provide insights from professional experience. Suggest resolution options.

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