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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide




Project Management 101: What Is an Owner's Representative?

Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Ryerson Towers. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio
Ryerson Towers 
May 6, 2015

The 24-story building is replacing all four elevators and all plumbing risers. Lyons-Harrison can relax and focus on her duties as property manager. She's off the hook because the co-op board has retained E G Consulting to help shape and oversee the work. In doing so, the board has joined part of a growing trend by co-op and condo boards to get outside help — variously called owners' representatives, construction managers, or project managers — to guide them through the sticky thickets of major capital improvements.

"The board wants somebody on their side with construction, engineering, and architecture experience to protect their interests and their money," says George Sawicki, a licensed architect and senior partner in the 40-year-old, Greenwich Village-based E G Consulting. "They want somebody to look over the shoulder of the contractors and make sure nothing unseemly is happening."

With work scheduled to begin this month, Sawicki and his company have already been involved in reviewing budgets, negotiating contracts, and selecting materials. They'll keep an eye on crews when work begins, making sure jobs are done on time and to specifications.

While the job's architect signs off on the contractors' requisitions for periodic payments as work unfolds, Sawicki reviews each completed section of the job, then meets with the architect before requisitions are approved. If Sawicki is unhappy with the work, he can alert the architect. The goal is twofold: to make sure the work is done properly, and to keep contractual amounts of money flowing to the contractors. Time is money, and work slowdowns can lead to crippling cost overruns. "The quickest way to slow down a project," Sawicki says, "is not to pay your contractors on time."

Even before work began at Ryerson Towers, the construction manager was already busy advising the board. "So far we have the utmost confidence in George Sawicki and his company," says Adrian Griffith, the current president of the Ryerson Towers board, who joined after the earlier capital improvements were already under way. "He has already helped us with the bidding process and selecting elevator cab finishes. He's been part of the process in just about everything. We're very glad to have an owner's representative."


Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Adapted from "The Project Conductor" by Bill Morris (Habitat, May 2015).  

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