Being an “Owner”

In an effort to better understand our services as an Architectural & Engineering firm, I thought about putting myself in the shoes of an owner.  Presuming that they’re a size 10 1/2, we’re good to go.  The scenario is that I have a 3-story 30,000 sf commercial building I want to build on property I own. Whom do I hire to help and what type of contractual agreement with my “team” is best for me?

Let’s just say I got stuck right there.

It seems the contractual agreement defines the order of command OR who answers to whom. As far as I can tell, these are the major arrangement types:

  1. Bidding Contractor – Owner contracts with Architect/Engineer (A/E) and Contractor (GC). Each coordinates separately with Owner.
  2. Design/Build Contractor – Owner contracts with Contractor only, A/E and subcontractors coordinate with Contractor.
  3. Construction Manager – Owner contracts with A/E, GC and CM individually, CM can be used solely as an adviser or also acting as the GC.
Picking this arrangement will determine how involved in the process you like to be.  The simplest and seemingly most efficient option for an owner with little to no experience is a D/B contractor.  But how do you pick a GC? How do you trust the “team” he picks if a skill set isn’t in-house? Without any reference, trust is unfortunately the only decider.
Now, depending on location, Architects, Engineers and even Contractors are required to be licensed as well as the firms they work for to have an authorization to perform work in that area.
So… let’s start with the fact that State Licensing Boards are in effect for A/E/C and that they exist to protect the public and enforce ethics as needed (you know, not providing services that you’re not qualified to give…).  So, the individuals and firms involved are both qualified and licensed to do the work you need. So at the very least, we know that the building should stand and not fall and that at the end of the day, you get what you’ve asked for.
If that is indeed the case, how do we differentiate the different professionals? Sometimes, owners will  pick the lowest bidder on Lump Sum jobs.  Other instances prove that prior experience in a certain building type will tip the scales.  Ultimately, it seems, that communication, either lack thereof or an overabundance, will prove to be the deciding factor.  This communication provides the trust that I as an “owner” needs to sign over all that money for the design and construction of my dream office building….  I think I need a bigger tree up front.

About Kevin
Hi… I am a husband, father, brother and neighbor. I am employed as a Civil Engineer and have enjoyed playing the drums for the last 30+ years.

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