Construction Management in School Projects

Construction Management delivery offers schools important benefits compared to using a general contractor


Here are the Top 5 Reasons you should hire a Construction Management firm for your future building projects.

1: Gives you the opportunity to select construction project leadership based on qualifications

When it comes to investing your community's goodwill and limited resources in school building improvements, the last thing you want to do is gamble with either. But in the school construction market, the traditional approach of seeking the low bid from a general contractor comes with no promises the low bidder will also be the best builder. Construction Management (CM) enables you to remove that risk, and select construction project leadership based on qualifications — both the firm's, and the members of its project team. It also means getting the builder's pre-construction perspective on design, cost and schedule long before bids are let or site work begins.

Example: In the Washington Community School District in Washington, Iowa, where Carl A. Nelson & Company (CANCO) has been engaged multiple times as construction manager , our construction experience and attention to quality and budget has helped the district realize significant project savings. 

On a $13 million high school addition and renovation project, our team's value engineering recommendations and ideas for changes to materials enabled the district to save $600,000 compared to the original budget. On a performing arts center addition, our recommendation to replace geofoam blocks with hollow-core pre-cast concrete panels to support upper-level seating saved $40,000, and created $190,000 of storage space at no additional cost.

2: Get the benefit of a contractor’s experience with cost, schedule and constructability during design of the project

In traditional design-bid-build construction, the contractor is handed a set of finished plans to build as drawn. But that approach denies you any opportunity to have a contractor’s input on the design from the beginning, or at least early in the process. That means the you lose the chance to realize savings in cost and time, and to ensure the building can be built as designed. Construction Management assures those opportunities are not wasted, as the builder is able to make recommendations about materials, design direction, and schedule to ensure you can meet your project goals within the available resources.

Example: During a K-12 addition and renovation project for an the Danville Community School District in Danville, Iowa, Carl A. Nelson & Company urged the district to re-bid the general construction package, which came in high. By opening that subcontract back up for bid, and aggressively marketing the work to potential bidders, the second round of bids came in significantly lower — low enough, in fact, for the district to be able to afford paving of the entire junior/senior high school parking lot and not just a portion of it.

Also on the project, CANCO performed value engineering analysis on structural systems and related durability of finishes at both the high school addition and elementary addition. Through analysis, it was decided to utilize load-bearing CMU block walls at the high school for increased durability. 

At the elementary, value engineering analysis led to the decision to utilize steel columns/beams and light gauge metal stud/impact resistant drywall partitions. The school district realized a $105,000 savings at the elementary school where there was not a need for the higher-durability products.

3: Collaboration between Construction Manager and designer results in best-value outcomes

In traditional design-bid-build construction, the relationship between designer and builder often can be adversarial — if there is a relationship between them at all. But in Construction Management delivery, the CM and designer have not only the opportunity but the responsibility to you to work together as a team to produce best-value outcomes that will result in the lowest cost for construction, fastest schedule and most efficient long-term operation, while also producing a quality finished project. By collaborating during pre-construction, the CM and designer are able to work together to find those solutions.

Example: Working as CM on the remodeling of the existing high school in Shenandoah, Iowa, Carl A. Nelson & Company's project team proposed retro-commissioning of the existing HVAC system, rather than installing a new system to address an issue with humidity in the building. Modifying the existing system, and pairing the modifications with new chillers and boilers, saved the Shenandoah Community School District an estimated $500,000. That savings was re-invested in the project, enabling the district to realize improvements that would not otherwise have been possible with a limited budget.

4: Construction Manager involvement from concept to completion ensures better incorporation of your goals within your available budget

Whether brought onto a project before or after a designer is engaged, a Construction Manager is able to see the finished design as more than a set of drawings to guide construction, but as a description of the Owner’s goals and priorities. In a traditional design-bid-build approach, it is easy to reduce budgets by simply slashing space or aesthetics, or to see initial design exceed budgets. A CM will have the base of understanding to work at maintaining important elements that preserve goals and budgets by seeking other opportunities during pre-construction and construction to save.

Example: After passing a $10.6 million bond referendum, the Mid-Prairie Community School District in Kalona, Iowa, began selection of a construction manager to lead its planned improvements. Carl A. Nelson & Company was selected unanimously to lead projects that were spread out across two communities and five construction sites, and included additions to four of the five district schools and a new building to house the alternative high school and district central offices. New construction totaled 22,000 SF and renovations approximately 55,000 SF. 

The district also added substantial scope to this project during construction, increasing the budget by more than $600,000.

Carl A. Nelson & Company provided value engineering at the Kalona Elementary School site by proposing an alternative brick exterior cladding to reduce cost without compromising the appearance of the building. CANCO's team also provided value engineering by offering an alternative location on the site for the administration office that allowed construction of a single-story building, also with alternative exterior cladding, and elimination of a required elevator. These changes saved the district in excess of $150,000.

5: Frees you to focus on your core mission

With a CM to lead the project once work begins, you won’t have to take time away from day-to-day responsibilities to students or the community due to supplier issues, schedule challenges or change orders.

On Construction Management agency projects, the CM is your advocate with designers and builders, and looks out for the school's best interest in areas like quality, cost and schedule.

Example: On a large high school construction project for the Sioux Center Community School District in Sioux Center, Iowa, where Carl A. Nelson & Company was the CM, a two-year construction schedule made it important to establish a highly detailed schedule in the bidding documents so the bidders understood exactly what time of year they would be installing their work. Bidders needed to know whether they would be working in winter conditions or more favorable weather. If our schedule wasn’t accurate and managed well, the contractors would have legitimate claims for change order. 

After awarding contracts, our project team met with the contractors to have collaboration sessions to further refine the schedule. It was a fine balance of letting the contractors have input, but also holding people accountable to the original schedule. The end result was a schedule the team believed in and prime contractors bought into because they had input.

Our education project portfolio is filled exclusively with examples of successful Construction Management projects for schools. Visit the Knowledge Base to learn more about project delivery and to see examples from our full range of Construction Management agency (CMa) projects.