When a building or an apartment owner embarks on a large project, they often turn to a construction manager to be on-site, keeping things to predetermined schedules, approving payments, making sure what's promised is delivered, and running interference between the board and builders. Of course, not everybody uses a "CM," but doing so can help a project progress more smoothly and eliminates a lot of pressure on board presidents, committee members, and managing agents.
Most CMs operate independent of the contractor. They're professionals who come in to oversee construction or renovation projects in whole buildings, or in individual apartments. Most board members and shareholders/owners have regular jobs during the day, and managing agents have a host of responsibilities, making it impossible for them to be on-site, directing workflow and making sure things are done to the board's or owner's specifications. Even if they have the time, most owners, directors, and managers lack the construction expertise to oversee a major project.
CMs can come from a number of different professional perspectives. "Sometimes they are the same type of company, wearing a different hat, but they should always be independent," notes C. Jaye Berger, a Manhattan-based attorney, who specializes in contractor and landlord-related issues. Selecting the right one boils down to experience. "They should be able to give you jobs that they've worked on," Berger says. "You should be able to call and check those references. The other thing is pricing - that's always a factor."
Berger points out that although CMs might have architectural degrees, the end result is usually better if your chosen pro has worked on projects similar to what the board has planned. "You should figure out what the real motivation is to have someone as a CM, and whether that's what really makes sense, because the word is used rather loosely to refer to lots of different situations," she cautions.
According to Patricia Garbutt, owner of Patricia A. Garbutt PE, a New York-based construction consultant, some CMs actually have specific degrees in construction management. However, she adds, it is better to have worked in construction, either as an engineer or an architect. Board members, she says, should interview several CMs about their experience and how much time they will have for the project.