The resurgence of the construction manager


By Suriya Edwards

The composition of a project team depends very much on the type of construction method. Off-site manufacture brings into focus the "MMC manufacturer", along with others such as a groundworks contractor, M&E and other specialists or designers (e.g. to interface with the latent defects insurer or building control) . At first blush, this may seem no different to appointing a project team i.e. a main contractor and consultants, with the main contractor in turn appointing tier 2 subcontractors.

Delve deeper, and you will find that MMC places quite a lot of importance on the manufacturer (who could of course also be the main contractor) -  their choice and their early involvement is key to using MMC in a project successfully, particularly for highly manufactured end products. The MMC manufacturer's involvement is also important in the advance planning that is required to impose a "design freeze" prior to the commencement of factory production (to avoid eye-watering cost increases).

All this means rigorous project management and co-ordination is key. It is in this area that we are likely to see a main contractor's role develop into one of a "co-ordinator" i.e. a "construction manager".

So if you see "construction manager" referred to in your development agreement, agreement for lease or heads of terms it is perhaps worth asking the question, is there an element of MMC?

A shift towards offsite construction methods and developers owning their supply chains has a knock-on effect for contractors. Tier one construction firms might currently be managing 2,000 work packages and 200 subcontractors – “basically, herding cats”, said Hall – and taking overall responsibility and risk. This all changes if suddenly all that is needed is one firm to do groundworks, another to do MEP and a third to crane in boxes.  “We are starting to see a return to the CM model,” said Johnston. “Instead of tier ones seeing all the money on their books, they are becoming the integrator and they are becoming the construction manager.”
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