Build-out construction is critical to commercial building – and sooner or later most businesses need it. Commercial buildings typically have landlords and tenants. Usually when a tenant is shown or sold on a commercial space, it is a vanilla box. A vanilla or white box means a space is stripped of decor, furniture, equipment, decorative flooring – even wall coverings or paint. It is a commercial space stripped down to its basics so it can be shown to future occupants prior to (or without) tenant-exclusive enhancements. After a tenant is pleased with the space, the tenant and landlord negotiate TIs, or tenant improvements. Tenant improvements are the “upgrades” that take a space from a vanilla box to a livable, business-ready work space. That can be everything from floor coverings and wall paint to custom lighting fixtures. It takes a reliable construction team with a history to do TIs or build outs well. And that construction team needs a reliable project manager. But what does a project manager do for a build-out construction company?
In a building company there are many personnel – one of the more important of these is the project manager or construction manager. A project manager’s roles and activities include watching over the entire construction project and working with contractors, clients and others involved in the project from beginning to end, ensuring a top-notch end project meeting timelines and budgets.
One of the first activities for a project manager is in the planning stage. The project manager needs to plan all of the project’s stages for end success. Very specific plans are developed and used as benchmarks for the actual stages of the project for tracking progress. The project plans are communicated with clients and subcontractors each step of the way. If it were not for this upfront communication and planning, projects could fail, with big schedule or cost changes.
The benchmarks created by the project manager include milestones across the overall project for evaluation and approval. These benchmarks ensure the project manager is confident on project status, performance and progress across all stages. Benchmarks permit the project manager to always keep track of the project’s overall quality, budget, scheduling and efficiency.
Build-out project managers work directly with engineers and architects to create plans and schedules, while also overseeing labor and material costs. Project managers make sure the construction projects finish within budget plans and scope. Project managers also ensure projects are up to code, plan for permits and manage (and can hire) subcontractors.
Another role of the build-out project manager is risk management – which essentially involves seeing and responding to the project’s issues and fixing negative stages and elements. Focusing on worker safety is another vital aspect to this risk management. External risk management can deal with issues such as weather disasters effecting the building and regulatory requirements. Internal risk management deals with issues such as scheduling conflicts and poor planning design. Project managers ensure health and safety regulations are being met, report safety issues and even supervise workers. Project managers also create contingency plans for their proactive risk management.
Project managers have to oversee the management of resources to ensure there are no shortages, and make sure there are enough allocated to complete the build-out project. This often means adjusting the project scope and planning for these changes and resource requirements. Unexpected issues are common in construction projects and the project manager must redistribute resources and manage the issues. With these proactive approaches the project manager can avoid penalizing cost changes and project delays.
Budget management is also very important to build-out project management. Project managers contribute to the original financial plan and constantly monitor the budget during the project’s progress. They forecast cost changes and keep track of those costs always. They watch overall spends to keep aware of unplanned costs to communicate to the team.
Time management is another very important role for project managers. They set timelines with benchmarking milestones and use these to gauge the duration of each of the project’s stages to curb any delays or problematic human issues. The project managers also rely heavily on technology and software to plan and adjust the schedules accordingly.
Build-out project managers must manage staff and communicate with the roles contributing to the project. Project managers need to always be in communication with staff to evaluate and ensure effectiveness of the planning and how that impacts scope and timing. The project managers must also delegate the right tasks to skilled contractors or subcontractors and make sure milestones and project objectives are being met. If this communication and planning were absent from the project, subcontractors would be unclear on quality requirements and resource usage. This heavily impacts the quality and success of a build-out project.
Finally, the outside communication between key stakeholders and project managers is critical throughout a build-out construction project. Internal resources must be planned and allocated to outside vendors. The project manager must communicate the budget, scheduling and quality of a project on an ongoing basis with the clients and stakeholders.
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