Comparing Construction Manager and Traditional Clerk-of-the-Works Services
Why cost is not your only consideration…
Your Building Condition Survey and 5-Year Plan has been prepared and your district has a defined list of facilities needs. Most are "asset preservation" and "health and safety" items, some are educational program items. A capital project is deemed necessary, and planning begins.
An important question to ask at this point is "Should we use a construction management firm (CM) or a Clerk-of-the-Works (Clerk)?" Each option has a unique impact on your project's life cycle.
A brief overview: A Clerk typically becomes involved with the project after the bidding process and is strictly responsible for monitoring the work of the trade contractors. A CM, on the other hand, manages the planning and construction process as part of the Project Team, acting as an extension of the District's staff. The CM provides pre-construction services during the design phase, manages the bidding process, and then manages the work of the trade contractors on-site.
As you compare delivery methods, consider these factors:
Pre-construction Services are the largest differentiating factor between a Clerk and a CM firm. It is widely considered that a CM's greatest value is realized during the design phase. Approximately 80% of all savings take place during this period through estimating, construction planning, and constructability reviews. A Clerk is typically hired for construction phase services only.
Project Size and Complexity: A CM's involvement (specifically its cost-saving pre-construction services) is most advantageous for renovation projects over $5 million (and especially over $15 million). Multiple occupied buildings often require the careful planning of a construction-oriented team member to forecast work around on-going educational activities. A single Clerk is typically not involved in such planning and doesn't have additional field management staff to cover multiple venues during construction.
Projects under $5 million often use a single Clerk. However, a few CM firms offer "Enhanced Clerk" services that include some involvement during the pre-construction planning stage. This enables construction-oriented planning with the Project Team in addition to on-site management of the trade contractors, typically at a lower rate for smaller projects.
Scheduled Construction Periods: While "summer-only" construction work on smaller projects helps to justify a Clerk, larger summer-only projects may require more than one person managing work on-site(s). Also, year-round construction requires additional planning, phased construction and field management — all of which involve the pre-construction services of a CM firm.
In-house capabilities: CM firms include staff with past experiences in a variety of construction components, i.e., general contracting, electrical, mechanical, etc. Additionally, a few CMs also provide pre-referendum planning services, working with the project team to help plan a project and take it to the voters. A Clerk is not usually expected to provide that broad range of expertise.
A Clerk can offer a cost-effective way to monitor the progress of a project. However, a CM tends to offer greater value as the district's advocate by providing more involvement and a broader knowledge of the planning and construction process, enhancing the districts likelihood to deliver a successful project. When making your decision between Clerk, CM, or a mix of the two, value to the district will become clearer as you consider their differentiating factors.