Water Design-Build Council Blog

Does an Owner's Advisor Ever Assume the Role of a Construction Manager on a Design-Build Project?

Posted by John Doller, P.E., Senior Vice President, Carollo Engineers on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 @ 09:30 AM

Does An Owner's Advisor Ever Assume The Role Of A Construction Manager On A Design-Build Project?It’s important to first define what we mean by "construction management (CM)." In the water industry, the term CM has become synonymous with what are truly construction administration (CA) services, where the owner employs the OA to be the quality assurance agent for the project. Construction management is the responsibility and the job of the design-build (DB) team. In essence, the DB team retains the responsibility for managing the construction phase of the project and has responsibility for the overall quality control (QC) of that work. An owner's advisor (OA) working as a representative of the owner as a CA has the responsibility for quality assurance (QA). This includes traditional activities such as payment administration, critical contract submittal and shop drawing reviews for compliance to the contract documents, interpretation of the contract documents, inspection of the work, etc.

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So, the question should really be "Can an owner's advisor assume the role of construction administrator on a design-build project?" The short answer to that question is "Yes, if the firm serving as the OA has the capabilities to perform these services." But the answer really depends on several aspects involving the decisions being made about the project and the owner’s own resource needs, one of the most important of which occurs during the preparation and planning phase of the project. During this phase, it is recommended that owners initiate an important analysis of the internal and external factors influencing the outcome of the project with the planning team. In this analysis, one of the questions examined relates to the staffing and technical resources that exist within the owner’s organization and what outside resources may be needed. Once clearly defined decisions are made by the owner as to the project priorities, and the need for additional resources are identified, the owner can determine if the OA should act in the role of CA for the project.

What is an Owner’s Advisor?

An owner’s advisor (OA) is an individual or firm with expertise in planning, procuring, and managing collaborative delivery projects that can provide essential guidance, direction, and advice to an organization. Depending on the owner’s needs and project demands (defined at the organization and planning stage) the OA —and even potentially the OA’s team members— can provide a wide range of technical resources and expertise. It is important to note, however, that an OA never assumes the owner’s management role in decision-making.

In determining whether to use an OA, an owner takes into consideration the project’s characteristics, level of complexity, and envisioned delivery approach, as well as the owner’s own organizational capabilities and any scheduling concerns or requirements. Based primarily on the specific project and the owner’s organizational needs, OA’s services often encompass support for project planning, delivery method analysis, and developing the draft project implementation plans. Other services may include financial planning and funding support, procurement assistance, contracting and legal support, project controls and reporting, design and construction oversight, regulatory permitting, land acquisition, and public outreach assistance. The OA can also represent the owner’s interests with regulatory agencies, designers, contractors, and the public.

Located in Phoenix, AZ, John Doller currently serves as the National Director of Design-Build Project Delivery, overseeing all program management, construction management, and collaborative delivery projects for Carollo. He is the 2017 president of the WDBC Board of Directors.