No burnt toast here, thanks!

When your 6-year-old presents you with burnt toast and watery coffee, you’re obliged to be thrilled at his idea of breakfast in bed, but things are different when it comes to      projects in the real world. Solid construction administration is the best way to stay on top of your project and make sure that what is delivered is what was envisioned.

Construction administration principles are useful in both the private and public sectors. A given project can be well funded and well supported and have a quality contractor on board, but if the owner and the contractor don’t agree about the project’s goal, components, schedule and cost, the best project can become the worst. What follows summarizes the makeup and responsibilities of the construction administration team and the basic elements of construction administration.

Begin with and maintain a partnering approach to all projects. Everyone on the team, both owner and contractor, must realize that the owner’s desire for a quality project and a contractor’s desire for a fair profit are mutually beneficial. Partnering to meet their respective goals when everyone understands and agrees on the outcome eliminates the us-versus-them approach while building respect and fairness.

The individuals and their staff members who will oversee construction, represent the owner and the contractor, and be responsible for administering and constructing the project need to be clearly identified. They will form the construction administration team. It is very important that both parties understand and agree on the responsibilities and roles of the firms and individuals that are part of the project.

An absolutely essential first step in construction administration is to make sure that money and time are allocated in the project budget and schedule for the construction administration tasks. It is also good to establish early in the project what the requirements will be for meetings and reports on construction, how often they will be required, and what format they should be in.

Because projects change as they are constructed, both parties must agree on and establish procedures and processes for the timely review and disposition of change orders, claims and field adjustments. In order to avoid delays and confusion, it is important that delegation of authority to make decisions on change orders and field adjustments is well established, that decisions are made at the lowest level possible, and that everyone understands the limits of their authority. In other words, while it might be okay to move a planter a foot from its original location to accommodate a gas line, shifting the entire building a foot is another matter. It is important, too, that these procedures and processes are timely.

Looking out from start up over the duration of the project, the construction administration team should manage risks by forecasting potential conflicts in scope, scheduling and constructability as early in the process as possible. These issues need to be seen far enough in advance so that they can be addressed in ways that prevent delays in construction.

Whether it’s a private or a public sector project, the construction administration team needs to establish a schedule of timely and routine meetings between the team and the contractor throughout construction. In agency projects, the public is the ultimate client, and makes sense to establish a similar schedule of timely and routine meetings with elected officials and/or oversight committees throughout construction.

Most contracts for work done on behalf of public agencies contain provisions for informing and involving the public. The construction administration team should understand the requirements for public involvement, realize that public involvement is a great way to get more support for the project, and work with the entire project team to ensure that the public involvement effort will be effective. Private projects can make effective use of similar techniques by simple measures like talking to the neighbors and giving them accurate information about scheduling, potential electrical interruptions and other items of interest along with a phone number to call as necessary.

Sam Adams is a senior project manager with Berger/Abam Engineers Inc. He can be reached at 360-823-6126 or sam.adams@abam.com.

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