Originally posted on Thursday, 11 September 2014

Written by Randle Pollock

Building a New Chapter in Tennessee – “COAA has been on the cutting edge of bringing the information to help us achieve better-informed decisions.” –Jeff Galyon

A certified project manager and registered architect, Jeff Galyon has spent his career in the management of design and construction projects. Since 2002, Galyon has been working as the Director of Property Development and Information Technology for the Public Building Authority (PBA) of Knox County and Knoxville, Tennessee. Prior to that, Galyon worked for architects, developers, contractors, and Owners.

The PBA provides project management and property management services to the City of Knoxville, Knox County, and the Knox County School System. The Property Development group is responsible for managing capital projects ranging in size from $10,000 to $150 million. The Information Technology group provides telecommunications services to their clients and networking services to PBA internally.

Galyon holds a bachelors degree in architecture from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and is a registered architect in the state.

We recently spoke with Galyon about COAA and his efforts to start a new COAA chapter in Tennessee. He also shared his thoughts and insights about the industry, what he’s working on at the Public Building Authority—and what he sees on the horizon.

On COAA

Randy Pollock (RP): How long have you been a member of COAA, and what prompted you to get involved?

Jeff Galyon (JG): I joined COAA in 2004 after having searched for an organization that focused on the owner’s perspective of design and construction. I was a member of the Project Management Institute at the time, but it was not focused enough for the work I was engaged in. I found COAA online and was most impressed by what I observed. I attended the conference that year in Nashville and became very excited about what I saw.

RP: How has your involvement with COAA impacted you professionally and personally?

JG: Through COAA, I’ve learned about several important changes that were coming to the industry, and this has enabled me to become a better representative of the interests of my clients. BIM and ConsensusDocs are just two examples. COAA has been on the cutting edge of bringing the information to help us achieve better-informed decisions. Having the ability to network with other Owner’s representatives has been invaluable to my development as an effective project manager and leader in my organization.

RP: We understand you’ve been working to start a new COAA chapter in Tennessee. Where does that effort stand now, and what are your hopes for the future?

LB: This organization most closely represents the Owner’s role in the design and construction process. My staff benefits from the professional networking and from the training programs provided for Owners’ project managers.

RP: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your involvement with COAA?

JG: We have been talking about trying to get a chapter going for several years, and this past year we made a decision to move forward on this, with the assistance of Brian Dobbs (an attorney at Bass, Berry & Sims PLC). I believe there are many Owners who can benefit from the exposure to COAA, and I will do my best to see that we get a chapter started. We have several people in our organization who are willing to support the chapter, but we need other Owners to join us to help the effort. We will be attending the COAA conference in Nashville, and we’ll use that opportunity to enlist more members to join us in getting the chapter off the ground.

RP: What would you say is the biggest benefit of belonging to COAA?

JG: The information provided at the conferences is one of major benefits of being a member of COAA—but far and away the greatest benefit is the association with other Owners who are going through the same issues that we deal with on a daily basis. Sharing successes and failures helps us all learn to do a better job. As an Owner’s representative, I believe this is truly unique to COAA.

RP: What do you see as the biggest challenges for COAA and the industry in general?

JG: COAA is still one of the best-kept secrets out there. For some reason, many Owners have not yet reached out to join the organization. We need to find a way to share our experiences in COAA with others. COAA is gaining importance in the industry, but there are many powerful organizations such as AGC and AIA, which still tend to guide the direction of so many areas. Membership growth in COAA will narrow the gap.

RP: What do you see as the role of COAA going forward; how do you see it evolving?

JG: I would like to see more member participation from the private sector. We are well represented on the institutional and governmental side. More growth from the private sector should help us to have a greater say in the direction the industry is taking..

On trends in the construction of public sector facilities

RP: In terms of project delivery/construction-contracting methods, what are the most significant changes in the execution and implementation of your projects at the PBA?

JG: The PBA in Knoxville uses CM at Risk almost exclusively as our project delivery method. Although it takes more work on our part, it is one of the few delivery methods available to us that allow us to develop a partnership with the architect and CM. We will be changing over from our AIA contract documents to ConsensusDocs within the next year, which we believe will help us with developing the partnering approach to delivering projects, given that we are in the public sector and have procurement restrictions. We will continue to work to improve our skills in this area.

On what you are doing now

RP: How has the slow economy and funding uncertainty affected your work at the Public Building Authority?

JG: Our work has slowed greatly in the area of new construction. Most of the work we are seeing is renovation and/or maintenance type projects. The city and county have both been adversely affected—primarily by sales tax revenues. We normally see about $50 million annually in projects, but have dropped to around $30 million at present. We do not see a significant change coming in the next 3 to 4 years. We have downsized our staff and are working on smaller projects.

RP: Do you feel any need to emphasize “buying local/ regional”?

JG: We try to use local vendors as much as possible. Our experience tells us that the initial project is only part of the life of the building and the need for follow up over several years is critical. Having to get out-of-town vendors/contractors to return or provide information can sometimes be a challenge.

RP: In the current marketplace, the number of firms pursuing a given opportunity with many clients has skyrocketed. How would you advise these firms to differentiate themselves to stand out from competitors?

JG: In this market, our biggest concern is the financial strength of the subcontractors and their ability to perform. Stressing performance on recent projects and their workload are two important factors. Their bond rating is also an indication of their strength.

On trends that are impacting the future of your organization

RP: What current trends (demographic, economic, cultural, etc.) are impacting the future of your work at the Public Building Authority?

JG: Working for the city and county, we have an everchanging clientele every time an election comes around. Most of the offices are termed limited, so we know it is going to happen. This is our biggest challenge in consistency of workload, and we know it is going to happen on a certain cycle. We have learned to adapt to this, but it is still a challenge.

RP: How has your background shaped your understanding of the work Owners do?

JG: I’m a registered architect and have worked for construction companies in the past. I feel that I have a good perspective from both of those viewpoints. I have also worked for developers, which affords me the perspective from the Owner’s side of things. Together, these experiences have helped me become a better Owner’s representative. Having worked in the industry for over 45 years has also been a great benefit.

RP: With the proliferation of various technologies involved in every phase of the construction process, how essential is it for an Owner to have a strong understanding of those technologies and their applications?

JG: Having an understanding of the various technologies is important, but more important is having the good sense to seek help from qualified sources when help is needed. As director of Property Development and Information Technology, I rely on coworkers with expertise in telecommunications and information systems to provide guidance on a daily basis, while I manage the day-to-day activities of being the Owner’s representative.

About the Interviewer
A member of COAA’s national Communications/Editorial Committee since 2010 and active in the COAA Texas chapter, Randle Pollock is regional director for HDR Architecture (www. hdrinc.com). Based in HDR’s Houston, TX office, Randy can be reached at 713-335-1949 and randle.pollock@hdrinc.com.