Construction-manager approach helps control costs, schedule

This piece is presented by Journey Group.

Walk the campus of SDSU in Brookings, and Journey Group’s work surrounds you.

In recent years, the Sioux Falls contractor has built a residence hall, an alumni center and an engineering and math building. A major addition to the school’s performing arts center is under construction, and work on a new wellness center will start soon.

“They’re a very professional team,” said Colin Gaalswyk, a senior mechanical engineer and project manager at South Dakota State University.

“They’re very open throughout the whole process from design to when the project gets complete. They certainly want a high-quality project that’s on schedule and meets our budget.”

Delivering projects on time and on budget takes a very intentional approach.

Journey increasingly acts as what’s called a construction manager at risk in overseeing projects.

“It’s really based on team concept where the constructor is more than a builder or general contractor. The CM is part of the team. It’s a construction professional who works with the team and can bring value early in the process,” said Darin Hage, vice president of the Journey divisions Sioux Falls Construction and Journey Construction Professionals.

Journey is working on the new performing arts center expansion at SDSU.

When Journey acts as a CM at risk, the company gets involved with the project starting with the pre-construction schedule.

“That’s actually more complex to plan than the actual construction schedule, with a lot of moving parts and responsible parties,” Hage explained. “Our goal is to provide leadership through that process so everyone can be looking at one road map to get the project to completion.”

A future wellness center at SDSU being built by Journey Group.

The input also helps in designing buildings, he added.

“That’s where we can provide a lot of impact and value — scope and program, goals, while they’re still being molded by the design team. We can provide a lot of early input to the team on things like costs and constructability.”

Journey also will establish a guaranteed maximum price for the project well before final construction documents are drawn up.

“We’re guaranteeing earlier on, so owners can take it for approval and get funding farther ahead, so it can shorten the overall life cycle of the project from concept to completion,” Hage said. “It’s based on being proactive through all the steps and taking out the unknowns earlier on.”

A dorm at SDSU built by Journey Group.

For SDSU, the approach has been effective, Gaalswyk said.

“It’s provided much better oversight of the project budget, especially before things go out to bid,” he said.

“We use their pre-construction services for estimating our projects, so there’s a much better comfort level before things go out to bid. And during construction, they’ve been really good at controlling the project budget and the schedule and getting things completed on time.”

While the CM at risk approach was a newer concept in the early 2000s when Journey started using it, now it has become a regular part of how the company does business.

“It’s really taken off in this region,” Hage said. “It’s the system of choice on most projects of size and complexity.”

One element of the CM-at-risk approach that still can confuse clients involves bidding, he added.

“Sometimes when clients are new to the process, they look at it as if negotiating with a CM at risk means you’re losing competition,” Hage said.

“We try to show them that’s what our job is. That’s part of our value proposition. We can bring good subcontractors to the table and still get a really good overall price per square foot. That’s how we’re able to keep doing this year after year.”

Construction-manager approach helps control costs, schedule

For Journey Group, the goal of offering the construction-manager-at-risk approach for projects is “to provide leadership through that process so everyone can be looking at one road map to get the project to completion.”

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