Magazine article Corrections Forum

Who's Minding the Store?

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Who's Minding the Store?

Article excerpt

Designing and building a new correctional facility is a huge and very specialized job-it takes experience, expert knowledge and refined management skills to do the job well and that's the job of construction managers. A construction manager joins the project team and acts as a partner with the owner and the architect and oversees and directs the construction phase. Many prisons and jails being built in the U.S. now utilize a construction manager somewhere in the process.

Types of Construction Managers

There are two kinds of construction managers. The first is the agency CM. "An agency CM acts as the owner's principal agent to advise on or manage the project from conception to completion," says John A. Reyhan, executive vice president, Skanska USA Building Inc. "All trade contracts are held directly between the owner and the subcontractors, however. Since this type of CM is not involved in the trade contracts-it's considered more as an extension of the owner's staff-this puts the owner at a higher degree of risk."

The other type of CM is the CM at risk. "The construction manager at risk holds all the contracts with the various contractors," says Joe Lawton, senior vice president, DMJMH+N. "The construction manager will give the owner a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP). If there's a differential in price, say $105 million versus $100 million budget, the additional $5 million has to be absorbed by the construction manager."

One of the big advantages of construction management at risk is that the CM will provide "a commitment by the construction manager to deliver the project within a GMP or fixed price and schedule," explains Reyhan. "This means the contractor is at financial risk for building the project at or below the GMP, usually established at or near the end of design."

Which CM a corrections agency chooses depends on the needs of the agency, the level of risk the agency is willing to take and the rules and regulation of the area of the country. Some state regulations do not allow CM at risk, so any CM chosen has to be an agency CM.

Reasons To Use a Construction Manager

"Primarily, if the owner doesn't have an in-house construction capability, a CM can be very valuable," explains Jim Mueller, Director, KMD Justice. "They have the experience, the knowledge and they can offer a lot of help in that regard. They will monitor the flow of construction. Some departments of corrections might have an ongoing prison construction program, but most might only build a prison or a jail every 30 or 40 years.

"When people talk to us about bringing a CM on board, we see that person as an agent of the owner, acting as a mediator and a policeman on site," Mueller continues. "If the owner doesn't have an inhouse capability, they need that CM to protect them."

One of the biggest jobs of a CM is the integration of all the trades, especially the security electronics, to ensure the systems are placed correctly because that's the lifeblood of the facility. "Trying to do it yourself is too big a job," according to Mary K. McHatton, vice president, Justice, Turner Construction Company. "It's too complex and it requires the expertise of knowing what to put in and when. It's a flurry of activity, thousands of steps to put a facility in place. You're building a city, actually, because everything has to be self contained. The experience brings lessons learned, because this is highly specialized construction."

If a corrections agency has little or no facility people, they should plan to hire a construction manager before they even hire a designer/architect, according to DMJMH+N's Lawton. "Bringing a construction manager on early can help the agency hire the best designer to suit what the agency needs and meet the cost objective," he says. "The greatest advantage of a construction manager is at the earliest point in the process-the construction manager can help make the decisions and streamline the process, while the designer gives the owner exactly what they need. …

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