In response to the unending avalanche of city regulations, some management companies have added in-house staffers who serve as project managers, also known as owners’ representatives, when co-op or condo boards undertake major capital projects.
George Sawicki, a registered architect, joined New Bedford Management in 2017 and is now a senior owner’s representative on the company’s staff of five reps.
“Boards need somebody to act as an interface between them and their architects, engineers, consultants and contractors,” Sawicki says. “We provide technical expertise that people on boards typically don’t have, but neutrality is the most important thing we bring to the table.”
Ideally, Sawicki says, a board will bring in a project manager even before it takes the initial step of hiring an architect or engineer. This allows the project manager to evaluate the project, establish the scope of work and help assemble a team.
Once the team is assembled and the project is underway, the role of the owner’s rep changes. “From that point,” Sawicki says, “we have a weekly meeting with the architect, contractor and engineer. We review the schedule, the progress of the work, any unanticipated problems they’ve run into. I deliver a written weekly report on progress to the board and meet monthly with the board or give an update to the president, at their discretion.”
Unanticipated problems are a given in capital projects, and the resulting change orders can add 10% to 20% to the budget of most jobs. But a sharp-eyed owner’s rep will review all change orders and weed out unnecessary ones. Sawicki also advises boards to steer clear of contractors who have a reputation for submitting low bids – then coming in with a blizzard of change orders to pad their profit margin. The rep also reviews all invoices and recommends which ones should be paid, which should not and why.
Some management companies charge for owner’s rep services on an hourly basis. If the project manager’s services outrun the estimated number of hours, depending on the stage of the project, the rep can meet with the board to explain why. At one job, Sawicki’s services cut the project’s total cost by about 10%, and New Bedford’s fee ate up about two-thirds of those savings – not only covering his cost but earning the co-op money in the end.