When you’re undergoing a construction or improvement project in your community, there’s one thing you don’t want to build: frustration. And yet that’s so often the result – a large construction initiative comprises many different moving parts, with multiple pitfalls and opportunities for things to go wrong. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Experienced community management is essential to a successful improvement project,” said Metrius Fair, vice president of FirstService Residential in Nevada. “Managing a big project can rapidly become a full-time job, so most communities find that it’s best to leave it up to the experts.”
With that said, let’s take a look at some helpful pointers when it comes to managing construction projects.
1. Due diligence is paramount.
Properly vetting members of your construction team is essential. After all, it takes a lot of professionals to bring a project together, and a single weak link can create disaster. Be sure your contractor is licensed and bonded, and confirm that your engineer is certified and experienced. You’ll also need a good project manager. Don’t get overwhelmed this early – look to your community manager to help with a thorough team review.
2. Make roles clear.
If you’ve got a good community management company involved, then you’re off to a great start. Other key players include your engineer, who specs out the work according to your budget and expectations; a project manager, who works with the contractor to oversee documentation, timelines and invoicing; and the contractor, who performs the work and gets permits and approvals. The association – or your community manager – will oversee payments, operations and managing the expectations of the community.

3. Make sure you have a quality contractor.
This isn’t just good practice, in some cases it’s the law. Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 624.215 requires the use of a contractor with a B or B2 classification in certain instances, such as when the scope of the project entails two unrelated trades or crafts and where the general contractor is the prime contractor on the project. Contractors with a B2 classification are allowed to work on structures with a maximum of three stories above ground and one below. A B classification means the contractor can work on any structure. You’ll also want to make sure your contractor has been properly vetted and licensed by the Nevada State Contractors Board. Some community management companies, such as FirstService Residential, have affiliate construction companies that have been created to meet the specific needs of associations. In Nevada, this firm is called Community Maintenance Systems (or CMS), and it’s already been licensed, vetted and battle-tested.

4. Pay attention to your contract.
Don’t assume that everything you’ve discussed verbally with your contractor is reflected in your written contract. Clarify any detail – no matter how small – before you sign. It’s a good idea to get your legal counsel involved, too.

5. Be clear on extras
Sometimes, contractors will require additional materials that weren’t anticipated at the outset. That’s to be expected. Be wary of these “extras,” however, and make sure you verify that the additional materials you’re paying for were actually used on the project. Never settle for a contractor receipt. Keeping your project manager in a close working relationship with the contractor’s foreman will help you maintain clarity on extras.

6. Keep your standards high.
You’ve got to expect a quality of work that not only meets code, but also your expectations. Continually review job specifications to make sure the work meets what’s in writing. If engineers and project managers are collaborating in the right way, then this should be easy.

7. Communication should stay open.
Every subcontractor should know the whole picture. If they’re familiar with the full scope of the project – and the specifications for materials – then you can be sure they’ll deliver the right materials for the job. Confusion arises when project managers disseminate piecemeal information to various subcontractors.

8. Stay notified of delays.
Delays happen sometimes. You just want to be sure you’re notified of them in writing. The foreman should supply this notification to your project manager. This kind of clarity will prevent your contractor from being unfairly penalized for unmet deadlines when circumstances are beyond their control.

9. Know the rules on change orders.
The association is not liable for the fees involved with any change order that has not been authorized, in advance, by the association. Without this authorization, the responsibility to pay lies with the contractor. Again, look to your project manager to monitor change orders and refuse those that seem unnecessary.
10. Inspect, and inspect again.
Qualified inspectors should review the work at every completed phase. Make sure your project manager has incorporated these inspections into your overall timeline.
11. Be aware of turnover statutes.
You should expect certain documents to be turned over to you at the completion of the project. These include permits, certificate of occupancy, as-built plans, warranties and a complete roster of all contractors and subcontractors who performed work on the project.
12. Know your rights if things go wrong.
Not to be pessimistic, but it’s best to plan for the worst (and hope for the best). Build in a contingency plan to address work that is defective, right from the start. This will help you avoid costly lawsuits.

Your next construction project doesn’t have to be a headache. Follow the tips you’ve seen here and you’ll be on your way to a successful – and hassle-free – completion. For more insight on construction project management, contact FirstService Residential.
Wednesday May 18, 2016