What does a construction manager do?
It’s not a trick question. The answer is right there in the name. A construction manager overseas all aspects of a construction project.
For the Webster County Justice Center project, now several months behind schedule, the management firm is Septagon Construction.
Construction management is a relatively new field. A large project like a jail typically uses management services, but in some cases a construction manager is not used, and management duties fall to the general contractor.
The duties of a construction manager are comprehensive. The construction manager's primary job is to keep an eye on a project's schedule and budget, and to make sure that all aspects of a project are moving smoothly. This includes monitoring relationships among contractors, overseeing provision of necessary equipment and materials, and ensuring a safe and orderly site.
On Feb. 25, I attended a meeting at the office of the Webster County commissioners, and officials from the county met alongside Septagon representatives to discuss the current stages of the Justice Center project.
The conversation centered on flooring. Somewhere along the line, poured concrete flooring had been selected for the upper floors of the jail, despite the fact that the building featured slab-on-metal deck construction. To the surprises of no one with concrete expertise, cracks resulted. Delays caused by flooring concerns took center stage at the jail meeting, and indeed it will take a few weeks to get the flooring right.
After flooring and baseboards are taken care of, along with other punch-list items, security and communication systems will need to be finalized, and the jail staff will have to be trained in the new facility. The opening date looks to be many weeks away.
Let’s not forget that the main reason for the delay in the Justice Center was that someone failed to order the two elevators, which are necessary not only for future jail functions but also to move construction materials to the upper floors. And then it seems to me that someone failed to nudge the ThyssenKrupp elevator manufacturer to construct and deliver the missing elevators in a timely fashion. There are only a handful of elevator manufacturers in the United States, and I suspect they spend most of their time … well, making elevators. It is unclear why it took so many months for the Webster County Justice center elevators to be completed. Had you or I been managing this project, I'll bet we would have been on the phone every day to nudge production along.
In any project that involves multiple parties, any one of them may be singled out for blame when there is a delay. The elevator delivery is too slow. The floors are messed up. Something else has gone wrong. But when a construction manager is hired to coordinate a project, I have a hard time understanding why the buck wouldn’t stop there.
The people of Webster County are eager to look inside the new Justice Center, but until it comes to fruition, all eyes will be on the managers of the project, with the hope that it will move forward seamlessly from here.