For some time now, we have been chatting to Mark Millar – a Project Manager who has overseen various construction projects in Lanzarote. Having your new home constructed from scratch is the stuff of dreams for many – and Mark’s job is to ensure your dreams come true… and don’t turn into a nightmare! So, with this in mind, we asked Mark if he would be happy to offer some general guidance and advice for anyone considering this route and explain exactly why having a Project Manager is vital.
Mark says, a good project manager is an essential link between the client and the successful completion of the project. My experience is that most of the problems people have with getting their construction projects completed to their satisfaction are down to poor communication and lack of understanding on time and within budget. (There are, of course, a few rogue builders out there, but these we can usually weed out at, or even before, tender stage).
What generally happens is that the client thinks they know what they want and thinks that the builder also knows what they want. The builder has quoted for what they think the client wants and the client thinks that they will get what they think they want for the price quoted. The client pays money up front, some work is done and the builder asks for, and gets more money, and then more, without anyone actually being aware if the value of the work done is proportional to the money paid and so it goes until they have had all the money and the work is incomplete. Then the arguments start about extras which the client thought were included but the builder wants to be paid for, then the work didn’t turn out quite as the client hoped but the builder had done what he thought he had quoted for and so on, until each party takes a position from which they won’t move and it all ends in dispute with neither party happy. I am sure you have heard the horror stories.
The PM role is to “professionalise “the whole procedure.
The PM role can commence at any stage of the project but there are two optimum “start points “which will depend on the client. First is at concept stage, getting the idea on paper, bringing in the Architects, engineers etc, getting permits, licences, arranging insurances, engaging the relevant company for the “seguro decenal “and so on, or second is when these preliminary works are done and the project is ready to start. As the second is probably the most usual, I will begin the bullet points from there.
1. Assess, with the client, whether to use a single main contractor for all the work, or split the works between a main contractor for the construction and use specialist subcontractors for elements such as electrics, plumbing, home automation, joinery, windows and glazing, stone walling etc. The decision will be based on the time / cost balance and the extent of the specialisation.
2. Shortlist the contractors to be invited to tender. This will be by a mixture of local knowledge and research.
3. Prepare the tender documents. This is vital to ensure “like for like “pricing and at the same time, get documentary evidence of valid insurances, management structure, personnel and resources, commitments etc.
4. Carry out a tender comparison analysis and identify preferred contractors.
5. Value engineering. Until we have firm quotes, the project is very much as the client wants in an ideal world. Budget is almost always an important consideration and at this stage, it may be possible to rethink elements of the project to achieve cost savings without affecting the overall result.
6. Negotiate prices, rates, start / finish dates, payment terms etc
7. Make final selection and appoint contractors. Checking compliance with Employment laws, social security, and health & safety legislation
8. Prepare and coordinate work programs to ensure continuity of work and link between main and sub-contractors
9. Identify potential delays and take steps to minimise. Confirm order times for specialist materials, flag up when orders need to be placed.
10. Organise and liaise with Ayuntamiento for inspections
11. Check setting out. In Lanza, there is a requirement for the Ayuntamiento to check and agree this before any excavations or constructions commence.
12. Organise temporary water & electric
13. Ensure good site management, access, security
14. Make regular site visits to oversee works, ensure good practice, quality control, materials handling & storage
15. Hold regular progress meetings with contractors, maintain Program of Works
16. Liaise between contractor and client to ensure any changes or queries are dealt with
17. Formalise any changes to specification, clarify cost/time implications
18. Issue Variation orders
19. Liaise between contractor and architect / engineer to answer technical queries etc
20. Formalise technical queries / answers in writing and ensure compliance
21. Organise and attend periodic and specific inspections by Ayuntamiento, Technical Architects, engineers, insurance companies as required
22. Attend regular site visits with client and make regular progress reports
23. Measure works in progress and agree valuations
24. Issue periodic payment certificates and control retentions
25. Negotiate prices/rates for unforeseen items of specification changes
26. Carry out quality inspections, prepare snagging lists and ensure compliance
27. Prepare payment certificate for Practical Completion
28. Authorise retentions release
29. Coordinate termination of temporary supplies and connection as regular supplies
30. Organise final clean and hand over
31. Organise Completion and Habitation certificates
32. Provide photographic record of works
If a project is organised in such a manner and managed professionally, it minimises the chances of anything going wrong. A good Project Manager will always act in the client’s best interests, but the contractor also will get fair treatment. At the end of the day, if the contractor delivers the end result that satisfies the client and the client pays the proper and fair price, everyone is happy. A good Project Manager’s job is to make that happen.
I realise that some clients will not understand the benefit of employing a PM. It will, for some, seem an unnecessary cost. However it is probable that the cost will be outweighed by savings made by my skills as a negotiator, by my research into the best sources for specialist suppliers and installers, by my value engineering and by maintaining tight cost control throughout the project.
Then imagine the financial cost of an uncompleted property, finding other contractors to finish the work, paying for lawyers, court hearings take years sometimes, maybe unable to move in, paying to rent somewhere, not to mention the emotional stress and turmoil.
That is the real value of a good Project Manager.