After working with hundreds of tenants, we at AQUILA know that managing an office build-out or renovation can seem like an overwhelming task, especially on top of your normal responsibilities. There are dozens of tasks in motion at any given time that need to be managed in order to keep your project on time and on budget.
This is where a project manager comes in; their sole job is to take these tasks off your plate and manage the process for you, from initial planning, to move-in day and beyond.
In this article, we explain exactly what a project manager is and what they do to help you with your office build-out project.
What is a project manager?
A project manager acts as the owner’s representative throughout the construction process. They manage all of the vendors involved in an office build-out or renovation, including general contractors, architects, commercial movers and more.
A good project manager will have regular check-ins with you to keep you up-to-date on any and all progress or setbacks, as well as to get feedback from you on any decisions that need to be made which could affect the project budget or schedule.
What does a project manager do?
Site Selection Process
A project manager can (and should) be engaged as early as the site selection process. During this time, a project manager can assist with the following:
Bringing in a project manager early means that they can help you determine which spaces will work best for your firm and visualize how space you are looking at could fit your needs.
When looking at multiple spaces, which may require some level of build out, the project manager can provide preliminary budgets to help make the process of selecting the best option that fits your needs easier.
Dreaming of an all-out demo and rebuild of a space, but not sure if you’ll have time to complete the project before your current lease expires? Having a project manager on board during the site selection process can help you make sure your project is feasible. They will be able to put together a preliminary project schedule for each option you are considering so you can fully understand the timeframe it will take to design, permit and build out the space.
The design process will likely begin even before you have finalized your lease. The project manager will manage the design process, from discovery to final blueprints.
Working closely with you and your team, the project manager will help outline the scope of the project and help you engage with the appropriate architects and engineering firms to meet your needs.
This stage goes hand in hand with the test-fit stage of the site selection process. Once you have engaged an architect, they can put together the appropriate test fits to make sure the space you are looking at will be able to accommodate your needs. From this basic conceptual plan your project manager will be able to produce an initial project budget and schedule.
Once the lease is signed, the project manager and architectural team will begin designing the look of space, including layout, style, finishes and more.
Before construction can begin, the design team must produce the final construction documents. During the design phase, the architects and engineers produce the final construction drawings. These will then be used to bid out the project and submit to the city for permit.
Bid & Permitting
During the bid and permitting phase, completed construction drawings from the design phase are used to get competitive construction estimates and to get the building permit from the city. During this phase the project management team assists with the following steps.
In Austin, it is standard for the project manager to engage a permit expediter to help navigate the City’s process for obtaining a permit quickly and efficiently. Working with an expediter allows you to avoid any hold ups from the city and get the project started as quickly as possible.
Permit times can vary, but to get a a typical office build-out permit in the city of Austin can take between 6 and 8 weeks from submission of plans to receiving your permit.
Solicit & Select Vendors
The project manager will send a “request for pricing” (RFP) or “bid invite” to multiple reputable and trusted general contractors to bid on your project. Typically, these contractors will be pre-approved by all parties involved in the project (landlord, tenant and project manager) before sending them the RFP.
Once pricing has been submitted, your project manager will present the proposals to you in an easily digestible format for side-by-side comparison.
This same process will typically take place for various other vendors, including cabling, security, IT, furniture, etc.
Awarding Contractors & Vendors
The project manager will assist you in selecting the best team for your project based on the bids received and their knowledge of the market. The project manager will then request and review contracts from the selected vendors and provide you with the final contracts to be executed.
The project manager will be the tenant’s eyes and ears throughout the construction process. They will lead all construction meetings, have an active presence at the job site and report back to you on a regular basis, with status updates including meeting minutes and a continually updated project schedule to ensure that the project is on time and on budget.
If any setbacks do arise that may impact schedule, the project manager will update you of the issue and provide a solution to keep the project on track.
The project manager will also be responsible for scheduling all vendor installations, in coordination with the general contractor.
The project manager will lead a pre-construction meeting prior to construction commencing. This will bring all of the vendors into one room and make sure everyone is on the same page regarding specs, plans, scheduling and more.
During this meeting, the contract will be carefully reviewed and any questions clarified. The construction drawings and specs will be analyzed, and job site policies and procedures will be outlined.
Your project manager will schedule regular meetings or calls with you, in order to keep you up to speed on exactly what’s going on with your build-out.
Additionally, they will review any and all change orders submitted by the vendors as well as all invoices. They will review these items to confirm they are in accordance with the vendor’s executed contract.
Job Site Inspections
In order to ensure everything is running as it should, the project manager will make regular visits to the job site and be actively engaged with the vendors. In most cases, they will schedule weekly onsite project meetings with you and the project team members, including the architect, general contractor, vendors, etc.
During these visits, the project manager will evaluate the construction progress to ensure it meets the project plans and specifications as well as inspect the quality of the workmanship.
As the construction comes to an end, the project manager will coordinate FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment) installations.
When the project is complete, the project manager will schedule a final punch list walk through with all team members.
During this walk through the project manager and architect will help identify any work that is not completed per the construction plans or is considered to be in poor quality. These items will make up the “punch list,” and the responsible party (general contractor, vendor, etc.) must complete/correct the issue prior to receiving final payment.
Once the punch list has been completed, the project manager will walk the space to confirm everything was done per the construction drawings and executed contract.
Although the build-out is complete, the project manager’s job does not end here. They will continue to support you throughout the move in and occupancy.
Your project manager will help coordinate your commercial movers, as well as furniture delivery, cable installation and any other finishing touches that are needed to make your space ready for day to day occupancy.
Now that you know what a project manager is, and how they can help you with you next office renovation, find out the three biggest benefits of hiring a project manager or how much it costs to hire a project manager.
Or, maybe you’re ready to dive-in to office build-outs. Read more about planning for and budgeting for your office build-out with the following articles:
- Cost to Build Out Office Space: How to Plan and Budget
- 5 Things That Affect the Cost of Your Office Build-Out