In this episode, I talk with Richard A. Brown, director of project management at Colliers Project Leaders USA, about his journey in construction management, focusing on the critical balance between design innovation and practical construction needs with proactive project management, as well as the vital aspects of effective schedule management that are paramount in the industry.
***The video version of this episode can be viewed here.***
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Richard:
- Can you elaborate on your role as the discipline leader of project management, specifically in overseeing the functioning of project management within the firm and detailing the responsibilities involved?
- Is your team in New Jersey primarily focused on project management?
- How did your firm transition from engineers managing projects to having a dedicated project management department, especially for mega projects?
- When choosing designers for a project, what criteria do you prioritize, and how do you ensure their vision aligns with the practical aspects of construction?
- How can you determine if a non-expert owner is choosing a competent designer with the necessary experience, and what challenges arise when working with a designer who may not be the right fit for the job?
- Can you guide us through the steps of a constructability review and discuss how these reviews significantly influence the overall project timeline and budget?
- What is your approach to planning site logistics and phasing in your construction projects?
- Can the designer create and have your team review the phasing plan, or is it something your team typically prepares?
- What common challenges arise in obtaining construction permits, and what strategies can be employed to navigate them effectively?
- How critical is proactive communication and early planning in avoiding costly mistakes in multimillion-dollar projects?
- What strategies do you employ to ensure effective schedule management on construction projects?
- How crucial is mastering scheduling for project managers, given its role as the core tool for monitoring project success, and what risks do project managers face if they lack proficiency in this area?
- How do you manage the financial aspects of construction projects, balancing budget constraints with the imperative for quality and efficiency?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Mastering Proactive Project Management for Predictable Engineering Outcomes:
- The project management discipline leader oversees a team across the nation. This role is centered on managing public projects and involves collaboration with internal CED teams and external design groups. A discipline leader must demonstrate expertise in steering multifaceted projects to success.
- The New Jersey team, consisting of architects, engineers, and construction managers, specializes in proactive project management without the need for licenses. They’re actively managing portions of an $8 billion expansion project at Princeton University, demonstrating their adeptness in handling complex endeavors.
- Half of the projects Richard’s team manages involve larger CED projects, where their project management expertise complements design teams, while the other 50% includes responding to RFPs for construction and project management in various sectors. This dual approach, combining standalone and integrated projects, offers flexibility and streamlines collaboration between professionals from different disciplines, operating under one roof for enhanced efficiency.
- In the project’s early stages, the focus is on selecting architects and teams with relevant experience, utilizing interviews to align expertise with project needs. A Jersey City high-rise project illustrates the crucial role of experience, as seen in the switch to the second-ranked team to prevent potential complications.
- When selecting a design team, ensure they have proven experience in the specific project type, like high-rises or hospitals, to avoid potential challenges for the owner.
- Prioritizing a constructability review in the proposal phase is crucial, even when not initially specified. At the 95% completion stage, architects and engineers carefully examine plans, flagging potential issues. Collaborative working sessions with the design team create a positive environment. The benefits emerge during construction, significantly reducing potential change orders, and leaving a positive impression on both the designer and the owner.
- Active involvement in projects, especially during constructability reviews, stresses the importance of planning site logistics and phasing. Whether renovating a school wing or adding an extension while keeping the school operational, collaboration with end users is crucial. Always provide detailed bid documents, outlining site constraints and avoiding potential project disasters. Thoughtful site logistics and phasing are pivotal for a successful project start.
- In managing multi-phase projects, the team actively structures the bidding process, stressing the importance of detailed phasing plans. Whether managed by the design team or their own, experienced individuals handle this task, considering factors like school timelines and second-shift work. Caution is given against assumptions without a well-detailed plan, reinforcing the need for thorough preparation to ensure a smooth project execution.
- To tackle construction permit challenges, the team engages proactively with the permitting department before needing a permit. Early reviews familiarize officials with the project, streamlining later bidding and permit processes. The team’s proactive approach, including proposing solutions like third-party assistance for capacity issues, showcases a commitment to collaboration and effective problem-solving with municipal authorities.
- Sometimes, project managers think their existing team can handle everything, but the reality is they may lack expertise in certain areas. While adding services to their proposal might be pricier, like investing in a specialized third party with reasonable fees, can greatly improve communication and project success.
- In handling projects, the team addresses diverse scheduling challenges. For smaller contractors, assistance is provided in crafting sensible schedules for success. With reputable contractors, monitoring, and updates suffice. However, a third group may use schedules as potential claim documents, requiring scrutiny to discern their intentions, whether for construction or legal leverage. Adaptability is key in effectively managing schedules across varied projects.
- Teams should focus on a streamlined Division 1, covering RFIs, submittals, and pay applications, with a strong emphasis on schedules. Swiftly address critical path delays through collaborative discussions with contractors, requiring the submission of recovery schedules for proactive issue resolution. This proactive approach ensures successful project outcomes, especially in dealing with owner changes or performance concerns.
- When handling construction projects, it’s vital to carefully review every detail of change orders, including labor, materials, and equipment costs, to maintain budget transparency. A proactive approach, anticipating costs through RFIs, helps manage expenses effectively and minimizes surprises for the owner, ensuring a strategic and transparent financial management process.
More Details in This Episode…
About Richard A. Brown
Richard A. Brown is a seasoned professional in the field of project management, currently serving as the Geographic Discipline Leader at Colliers Project Leaders. With a solid educational foundation in engineering from Burlington County College (1983-1985), Richard has honed his expertise over the years, particularly in engineering and design.
Before joining Colliers, Richard played a significant role at Cumming Corporation International, where he served as Vice President from January 2015 to July 2019. In this capacity, he was instrumental in driving the company’s strategic direction, managing large-scale projects, and contributing to its growth and success in the international arena.
Throughout his career, Richard has demonstrated a commitment to excellence, strong leadership skills, and a deep understanding of the complexities involved in project management and engineering. His experiences have equipped him with a unique blend of technical proficiency and strategic insight, making him a valuable asset in the field of project management and engineering.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success