Article by Steven Massaro

As an industry, construction is generally a stressful experience for Owners. Building Owners rely on the expertise of architects, engineers, and contractors to manage multi-million dollar projects. They put complete faith in others to design a building to fit specific needs, develop an estimate, and plan a schedule with targeted budgets and timeframes, as well as trust that the building is delivered safely with quality craftsmanship. All of this can be overwhelming for an Owner. This is why an agency construction manager is hired.

One major function of a construction manager (CM) is to conduct a thorough constructability review. Our definition of a constructability review is the CM’s detailed review of the architects’ and engineers’ design development documents to ensure they are complete and clear so that the contractors have the best opportunity to safely complete the work with minimal interruptions or inefficiencies, and stay on schedule and within budget — all while delivering the highest quality of craftsmanship.

In theory, contractors should not begin a project without clear design documents from the architect and engineers. However, all too often that is the case, yet the constructability review eliminates this problem.

There are many benefits in conducting a thorough constructability review. In bringing the team together early, you are creating a collaborative environment where the CM and architect are on the same playing field for the core purpose of ensuring a successful project for the Owner. Within this collaborative environment, team buy-in is encouraged to produce a “tight” set of documents for the Owner.

In preparation for the constructability review, the team will meet to determine the scope of review, the CM’s deliverables, the architects and engineers deliverables, Owners’ deliverables, and to determine the schedule. When the architect has completed the design documents, they are now ready for the CM to bring their contractors’ perspective into play. The CM will utilize AIA’s best practice phase checklists and break the drawing sets into sections for site, structure, MEP/FP, data, and food service.

The overarching goal of this process is to identify potential construction risks before the construction team is mobilized. A thorough constructability review will scrub the documents to identify any gaps or unclear information that may come up in construction that will lead to RFIs and change orders. In turn, the architects and CM will spend less time answering and responding to vague information, and the work will pace ahead on schedule.

Another benefit is bid coverage. When the documents are clear, the bidder has lower risk, and therefore the competition between bidders is high. The Owner will see more buy-in from the primes and/or subcontractors, and contractors are more likely to reduce or “cut” their numbers due to good clarity in documents.

Working in collaboration does not mean that conflict will not occur, but how you choose to handle the conflict is what leads to project success. Massaro recently completed a constructability review for a high school renovation and addition project. The project is approximately $120M and close to 700,000 square feet in size. The architect, Owner, and us as the CM were all new to each other and were working through the early stages of building team trust. The timing of our review was just prior to bid and incorporated a team of designers and construction professionals focused in various disciplines. Our review became the basis for our recommendation to the Owner that the bid date be pushed back to allow more time for the design to be completed, and for the designers to coordinate documents.

In public low bid procurement, the risk is too great to leave gaps in scope at bid day. Our recommendations initially caused tension among the team and conflict arose; however, we worked through this conflict together. The postponed bid produced better bid documents and ultimately, a successful bid day for the Owner. The entire team was better for having resolved this conflict together and before bid day. More importantly, the Owner was provided with a better set of documents to start out on a forty-month construction schedule.

In identifying the obstacles before bid day, you are setting your project up for success. The project will bid better, run smoother, and will eliminate the “finger pointing”, therefore leading to a more enjoyable construction experience for the Owner.

Steven Massaro is Senior Vice President of Massaro CM Services, LLC