Owner’s Checklist for Selecting a Construction Manager

Construction Management: The Basics

When looking to build or renovate owners have an opportunity to review a variety of elements before choosing a Construction Manager. Choosing the right Construction Manager is the key to making your project successful. Construction Management (CM) is a project delivery method that allows the owner to have a negotiated arrangement with a construction company that puts the builder front and center as an advocate for the owner.  Several elements should be considered by the owner in making that decision:

o Experience in the Industry
o Staff assigned to the project
o Use of technology by the builder
o Reputation
o Project history with budget adherence
o Company references
o Adherence to tight schedules

An active Construction Manager will provide endless positive elements to a project, both before and during construction.  During pre-construction a CM will be able to allow for continual budget updates, and constructability reviews, which can assist the owner and architect greatly in keeping the set budget intact for the project.  Additionally, during construction with professional systems and processes for budget monitoring, change orders are kept to a minimum, and all trade packages are coordinated to ensure efficient construction providing an excellent finished product.  CM is a great way to provide an orderly and productive construction experience, through strong schedules and project execution.

Why hire a construction manager?


Get more options and greater freedom

  • A construction management firm is selected on the basis of professional experience, reputation, technical expertise, and value added to the project.
  • Through the construction management firm, the owner and architect participate in the selection of subcontractors based on their qualifications and preference on price.


Save money

  • Our construction management process is designed to provide a lower total project cost over the life of the building.
  • Our firm’s fee is transparent to the owner and is fixed early in the process. This fee is negotiated with the owner and is based on the total constructed value of the project.
  • We can contain project costs through value engineering and by evaluating the feasibility of construction designs, ensuring the quality of work, and keeping the project on time.


Save time

  • Thanks to efficiencies throughout the process and a sense of teamwork across all stakeholders, it is possible to streamline the design and construction phases so work is completed sooner than during the traditional design-bid-build process.
  • A streamlined workflow and people working together as a team mean that owners, architects, and contractors experience fewer headaches during the project and have to dedicate less of their own valuable time to resolving problems and conflicts during the project.
  • This means you can be in your building faster with the design-bid-build process.


Experience exceptional relationships

  • We work with the owner and architect in a collaborative relationship and focus on meeting their needs.
  • By the very nature of the relationship, we at Ellis Construction have a special duty of loyalty to the owner and must act in good faith to the owner’s interests.


Always on your side, the construction management firm is an advocate for the owner

  • We work with the owner and architect during the design process to help evaluate and select the best subcontractors.
  • We oversee the quality and performance of the work to ensure that it is performed to the owner’s requirements and standards.


The construction management firm provides strong project management by:

  • managing project scope, ensuring the work is done in accordance with the architect’s drawings, specifications, and contract documents
  • managing project costs, ensuring the project budget is achieved
  • managing project schedule, ensuring work in completed in accordance with the owner’s requirements
  • managing technical and financial risks, ensuring the functionality of the project and limiting the owner’s exposure to various commercial liabilities
  • managing project quality, ensuring the work is done right the first time and that it is in compliance with the design criteria
  • managing project safety, ensuring the work complies with all legally mandated safety requirements


Jim E. Anderson, President Jim Anderson, President

How will Future Technology Impact Construction Workers?

3D Printed Office in Dubai

Construction is an ever changing industry making it important to educate the prospective workforce about the future of construction. Whether it is small children in an elementary setting or students at the local technical college, it’s never too early to introduce construction career opportunities. By teaching upcoming generations the construction trades we ensure that skilled and hard working tradespeople build a future in construction.  Here at Ellis Construction, we have been fortunate to see multiple generations continue with not only these trades, but within our company.

The technological advancements from around the world impact the future of new construction, remodeling and expanding of existing structures.  The evolution of this industry will open up additional career opportunities with 3D computer design and imaging.  Construction workers will always have a hammer and nail; however, technology is the ever changing tool they carry as well.

To read more about this, click to see our latest newsletter.




Building the Missing Piece at Rib Mountain

IMG_0343Last month, in the crisp air and green woods at the top of Rib Mountain, the Friends of Rib Mountain gathered to break ground for their new Enclosed Shelter; a project they have spent the last three years dreaming of and raising funds to build. Excitement filled the air as they pushed shovels into the ground to formalize the start of construction to build the center.

“It’s a very exciting day,” said President, Sheryl Hemp. “We’re just so enthusiastic about the support along the way.”

This center is something that the group said is needed in the park, especially after the old enclosed shelter was torn down.

“I think it’s a little bit of the missing piece,” said Director, Paula Voss.

Jay Johnson, Ellis architect, has been working with the group for over a year to design a facility that provides space for meetings and gatherings, meets the budget, and does not conflict with the surrounding environment. The Enclosed Shelter will include a large multi-purpose space, lobby, restrooms, and storage areas. Once it’s complete, people can reserve it for events like weddings, parties, business meetings, and classes.

Johnson said the building features an architectural style that is complementary to the adjacent Ranger Station. The clearing of the land was done carefully to preserve as many of the trees as possible so that the building is nestled in the woods.

Work began last year with the site being cleared and now concrete is being poured to form the foundation. The facility should be finished by the end of August 2016.

The Friends of Rib Mountain continue to work to improve the park for everyone’s use. Ellis is proud to be working with this group. We would like to encourage you to learn more about their work and how you can be involved in this community-building organization.


General Construction vs Health Care Construction

Health Care ConstructionHealth care construction is different than other construction projects starting with planning how to accomplish the project. The planning process for a health care project goes beyond scheduling crews, materials, and equipment. Other considerations are noise, fumes, and vibrations. Dust and noise are part of the daily work in the construction industry while the norm for the health care industry is clean and quiet. Construction work at a health care facility has unique and challenging questions that must be addressed by the contractor and owner before and during the building process.

A simple task like drilling a hole in the concrete needs to be looked at carefully before proceeding. What if the hole is being drilled next to the operating room where a sensitive procedure is being performed or next to a room where someone is in critical condition with sensitive life support equipment? These examples are typical situations that can occur on a health care project.

One practice that Ellis Construction uses to help crews think before they start a task is to visualize themselves on the other side of the wall. What if it is their loved one that is about to go into surgery or is in intensive care, would they want the doctor distracted or equipment affected by the noise and vibrations from the work the worker is going to perform? Keeping the environment as safe as possible for the patients and staff is a priority for every construction task.

Life safety is another area that requires preplanning and constant monitoring. Maintaining fire and smoke barriers during construction can be quite challenging. Removing or penetrating fire and smoke walls must be considered carefully and requires coordination with the owner, local fire department, and state and local inspection agencies before work begins on these rated walls. Other life safety items that must be considered are:

  • How will patients and staff be evacuated in case of an emergency?
  • Are the pathways clear?
  • Are walls constructed to rated design?
  • Is the staff properly trained and know alternate exit routes when corridors are closed?

Once these project items are planned, you can take a deep breath, but you’re not done. How about air quality? A health care facility has multiple air handling systems that supply clean air throughout the building. Other items that must be considered are:

  • Where are the fresh air intakes and returns?
  • Will the work being performed create dust, fumes, or restrict air intake?
  • How will this affect the air handling system?
  • Placement of construction equipment and where work activities take place are critical when planning the work.

Developing a plan to keep good air quality throughout the entire project is always a challenge.

Working in a health care facility is challenging but exciting. Managing the work schedule, being aware of affected surroundings, and the safety for everyone is paramount. Working on health care projects and seeing the improvements that provide for better health care, is a daily reminder of how construction touches and enriches the lives of everyone in the community.

Ron Wierzba has been an Ellis superintendent for more than 30 years with extensive health care construction experience.




Why I Chose Construction for My Career

IMG_0899 1000x750I grew up in a construction family. My father was an Ellis superintendent for most of his career. Working with him first at home and then on the job solidified my decision that construction was for me. I knew I wanted to be a project superintendent.

For me, construction is a passion. While completing my bachelor’s degree in Technology Education, I minored in construction. Education for the construction industry never ends; I look forward to the opportunities to learn new skills and techniques. There are always changes by OSHA to keep the worksite as safe as possible; new requirements for specific industries such as healthcare; and technology is changing the way buildings are built. Keeping up with the changes and techniques requires attending formal training seminars, being part of hands-on demonstrations by industry experts, and learning on-the-job from other construction professionals.

Frequently I am asked why I continue to work in construction. The weather can be terrible, and the work is dangerous. Inclement weather is just part of the job. Whether it is cold or hot, we do our best to negotiate it. Safety is a constant concern, and we strive to work safely at all times. For those that ask these types of questions, I remind them there are things in any job that we can’t change and require us to work through.

Things I love about my work are:

  • The constantly changing environment, no two days are ever the same.
  • Different project challenges.
  • Meeting new people – owners, architects, subcontractors, etc.
  • Good pay and benefits.
  • Most of all, being able to drive by a completed project and say “I built that.”


Construction is a very demanding industry and is not for everyone. Skills for the job involve much more than being able to use tools or handle a crane; you must have good math, problem-solving, and communication skills. Additionally, every project has an element of art, whether it is building a manufacturing facility or a church. As a construction professional, I try to bring out the beauty that is in every building. Sometimes it is the obvious things like elegant woodworking or stylized architecture; however, there is an art to creating a foundation that is never seen but required to support the building. Building a strong foundation, figuratively and literary, is why I love construction.

Tim Kreft has been with Ellis for over fifteen years and also teaches in the Associated General Contractors Superintendent Training Program.





Workforce Development Strategy

IMG_0027All topics in construction these days, fall back to one overarching unique similarity: workforce. Everywhere we see concern for the future of construction workforce. There is a shortage of people working in construction now. Over the next ten years, the number of construction workers that will retire is much larger than the number of people going into the trades. But what to do about the problem?

Ellis is proactively going out to the future workers, students in school, to inform them about the positives of working in construction. These benefits include good pay, working as part of a team, and the pride that comes from being able to point to a facility and say, “I built that” even years later.

In the twelve high schools, Ellis has visited the response has been very favorable with students asking questions and seeking additional information about apprenticeship programs. Last year after visiting a local high school in the spring, Ellis had six students apply to be summer workers. Since then, two of these students have entered the carpenter apprenticeship program, and two more came back to work during their Christmas holiday.

Getting the word out about making construction a career choice starts early. Ellis has a program to go into not only colleges, technical schools, and high schools but to visit with junior high and elementary students. Planting the seeds with these students is one way Ellis is trying to help resolve the workforce problems.

Andrew HalversonContact Andrew Halverson for more information about choosing construction as a career.



3 Most Popular Questions from Owners

There are three main types of questions I receive from business owners when they are starting a new or remodel project – cost, time, and interruption.

Cost. The cost of a project has many variables – type of structure, HVAC system, and finishes are just a few. The type of building is determined based on the architect’s and owner’s review of the use of the building, regulations regarding the owner’s industry, desired appearance, and the owner’s budget. The type of HVAC system and controls is a cost that is a major expense when building new or remodeling. Finishes include painting/wall coverings, flooring, and ceilings but may also include specialized construction techniques and systems based on the use of the building.

Time. The type of building, season, availability of materials and workers, all are determining factors in the time it takes to complete a building. Additional factors include the required phasing of the work and any changes required by the owner after construction begins. The project schedule estimates the time to complete each step in the construction process – from the earthwork and installation of utilities to foundation work and building erection, thru mechanical systems installation to the finishes and installation of fixtures. Scheduling includes regular meetings with the owner, architect, and subcontractors to review the progress of the construction, status of items that require a long time to be on site, and upcoming work.

Interruption. Interruption to an owner’s business is a great concern when the project is a remodel or addition. By coordinating the construction work around the owner’s business schedule, using experienced crews, and close supervision of the schedule, we can complete the project with no, or as little interruption as possible. Other issues that we work closely with the owner on are:

  • safety for employees, clients, and visitors
  • parking
  • construction equipment traffic
  • construction materials staging

Every construction project is as unique as the owner’s vision for their company. Accomplishing the owner’s vision for their project within their budget and timeframe is our primary concern. Employing our experience to bid the project correctly, specialized software to aid in scheduling and project management and utilizing our JobFlex philosophy to provide work crews that are trained in several areas to keep a project moving are ways we work to fulfill the owner’s vision.

Jim Anderson, President, has worked with many owners to achieve their goals.



Designing to Resolve Challenges

Church of The Resurrection Cupola PlacementWhen adding to the Church of the Resurrection in Wausau, a landmark building, there were many architectural design issues to consider. Such is the case in the family center addition to the church. The addition will be over 6,800 square feet and will include a drive-under canopy for use during inclement weather.

The center is being designed by Ellis architect Jay Johnson, who shared some of the design challenges for the project.

One of the project challenges is that the new building will be built between the church and the rectory that sit at different elevations. The church was built in 1912 and the rectory in 1949.

Creating a complementary façade that ties the two existing and the new buildings together is another challenge. Due to the different time periods that the church and rectory were built they are very different architecturally.

Creating a bright and airy facility enhancing the social opportunities that will take place in the building. Because the center is sitting between two buildings made it impossible to put in traditional windows; designing an octagon shaped cupola met this need and desire. The cupola continues the same design scheme that is found in the church, further blending the old and new buildings.

The time spent working with an experienced architect makes such a difference in a project. Taking the time to analyze needs, desires, and budget constraints is what Ellis architects do to ensure our clients have a functional and beautiful facility.

Jay Johnson award-winning architect for The Church of the Resurrection Family Center addition.



6 Green Building Methods

Fox Valley Tech Being green doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money to get a LEED Certified Building though it is nice to receive recognition for your commitment to having a green building. Being green is reducing waste (energy, trash, water, etc.) and/or using environmentally responsible building processes, etc. You can pick one thing or multiple items as it all helps. A few things you can do are:

  1. Waste management/Recycle (low cost) – Recycle as much as possible during construction and after occupancy. If space allows, try to have a different dumpster or waste container for each waste material. The more materials that are recycled, the more materials that are kept out of landfills. Examples of common waste materials that are recyclable are wood, concrete/CMU, asphalt, plastics, metals, drywall, cardboard, paper, shingles, etc.
  • Wood – Can be ground up and turned into mulch, animal bedding, etc.
  • Concrete/CMU/Asphalt – Can be ground up and used as road base or fill material.
  • Glass/Plastic – Can be ground up and made into new products such as T-shirts, furniture, new bottles and bags, etc.
  • Metals/Aluminum – Can be melted down and turned into other metal products. Most of the steel we buy today is made from recycled metals.
  • Drywall – Can be ground up and used as fertilizer in fields.
  • Cardboard/Paper – Recycling centers process and turn these materials into recycled paper products.
  • Asphalt Shingles – Can be ground up and used in new roads or other roofing products.
  1. Use energy efficient fixtures – When selecting fixtures, make sure you are selecting ENERGY STAR or energy efficient fixtures. Using these fixtures reduces energy used. We all know energy costs are high and come from power plants that pollute and create greenhouse gasses.
  2. Invest in alternate power sources (can be costly up front) – Technology has come a long way, and there are number of alternatives to using power plant sourced electricity. In our area, wind and solar are the most common alternate power sources. These can be installed to provide part or all of your power needs. If you produce excess, it can add power to the grid, and the power company will pay you for it. Other alternate sources include geothermal and hydroelectric.
  3. Reuse or use recycled materials – There are a lot of products out there that can be reused and/or are completely or partially made from recycled materials. Reusing materials or using recycled materials keeps waste out of landfills. Examples include wood from old buildings used as flooring, using cotton (recycled denim) or cellulose insulation (recycled paper fiber) for insulation, anything steel (beams, columns, joists, etc.), crushed concrete for base course or fill, carpet made from recycled materials, etc.
  4. Rapidly renewable materials – these are products that are made from natural materials that have harvest cycles of less than 10 years. A few examples are cork, bamboo, wool, cotton, straw, natural linoleum, etc. Cork, bamboo, and linoleum are popular in the flooring industry. Bamboo is also popular in other areas where wood is used, such as cabinetry. Cotton, wool, and straw are options for insulation.
  5. Use low or zero volatile organic compounds (VOC) products – being exposed to VOC products can be harmful to your health and the environment. Common items that contain VOC’s are flooring, glues, adhesives, paints, solvents, etc. There are many alternatives other than using high VOC products. All the items listed above come in a low or zero VOC form.

Everyone making choices to save energy, reduce waste in our landfills, and using eco-friendly building materials helps all of us.

Pat Pierce is LEED AP, BD + C certified. Contact him for answers to your questions about making your existing or new building project more energy efficient utilizing green construction methods. 




How to Make Innovative Ideas Happen

How to Make Innovative Ideas Happen

Value Engineering (VE) is a term that is frequently tossed about in design and construction meetings, but what does it mean what “value” might it offer? A dictionary definition of Value Engineering is:

Value engineering is a systematic method to improve the ‘value’ of goods or products and services by using an examination of function. Value, as defined, is the ratio of function to cost. Value can therefore be increased by either improving the function or reducing the cost.

The goal of VE is not to eliminate the quality of work, but rather to change to materials or processes that will enhance the work and provide value for the owner. VE may affect the design or scope of the project, but does not jeopardize its integrity at the outcome. VE is a creative, organized effort that analyzes the requirements of a project, for the purpose of achieving the essential functions at the lowest total costs over the life of the project.

This analysis requires an experienced and diverse group to study alternate design concepts, materials, and methods without compromising the functional and value objectives of the owner. Ellis uses a team approach to the VE process involving estimators, project managers, principal-in-charge, owner and project architect in order to research cost and present value engineering options. The estimator coordinates and guides the study, collaborating with the VE team and pulling in others with specialized knowledge, including material suppliers and subcontractors, as needed.

Value Engineering Success Story
Ellis estimator Brandon Kohls was on the team for the St. Paul Catholic Church of Mosinee project — an AGC BUILD Wisconsin Award winning facility. The church project analysis revealed many VE options. The accepted VE options included removing some of the wood trim, changing the style of pews, using different light fixtures in some locations, and taking out the drive-through canopy. Overall, the accepted VE options saved more than $750,000 on the project from the bid price without diminishing the facility’s usefulness or aesthetics.