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

What’s the Difference between a Budget, an Estimate, and the Price?

The first thing almost every owner asks is “How Much?” It doesn’t matter if you have a fully designed set of construction documents, or an idea that was sketched on a napkin. The “How Much” question invariably falls to an estimator. By working with an estimator you trust you can begin to move your design forward.

Start with the end in mind. Make sure you try to think of the full program of cost while constructing a budget. An owner should go over the information provided to make sure the budget includes everything for the project.

Manage expectations. Owners need to understand the difference between a Budget, Estimate, and a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP). A budget is a preliminary look at the project based on information available, which is often incomplete or not fully known. An estimate is formulated once the plans and specifications are further along. Building type, location, scope of mechanical, electric, plumbing, and fire protection systems, site challenges may all be more in focus when an estimate is created. Once the plans are fully formed, issued, reviewed, and bids for the different areas of work are submitted a GMP is formulated. This is what the project will cost if there are no changes to the scope of the work.

The devil is in the details. When putting together a budget or an estimate, the estimator can only provide information based on the information provided. If there are any gaps or vagueness in the information an owner needs to be ready to discuss details of what they see for their facility.

Have honest discussions. Think of the overall project cost, not just what the construction manager/general contractor will handle. Budget pitfalls often include items that an owner might have thought were included. Examples include furniture purchasing, real estate costs, legal, and potentially storage facilities if the project involves remodeling. It may not be necessary to include this in the construction costs, but make sure to have an open discussion with your contractor to ensure that these costs are being covered somewhere.

Ellis’ estimators have years of experience and hundreds of subcontractors and suppliers to call on for a project. This network of subcontractors and suppliers provides the owner the best pricing and the latest techniques for the work. Our experience means a more accurate estimate and budget so there are no surprises.

Erik Carlson, Executive Vice President, has experience in all aspects of construction – from working in the field “swinging a hammer” to estimating and project management. 



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.