By Matthew Holdren, CCM, CEP & Ben Imburgia, CMIT
The City of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department recently finished construction on a $5.6M new 10,000 SF clubhouse at the Champions Golf Course. The clubhouse features a 150+ occupant event space, 70+ occupant dining room with bar, a fully equipped commercial kitchen, golf pro shop, staff offices, and dressing rooms. As a part of the project, Westerville Road was widened to provide a center turn lane. Site work included installation of a new 1-acre lighted parking lot, retention basin/water feature, rework of existing cart paths, and the modification to the existing driving range to provide improved drainage. As a final piece of the project, the golf course irrigation pump house switchgear was replaced. Construction began in May of 2019 and took just over a year to complete.
Within the first week of construction, the Contractor confronted many hardships, not the least of which was finding an unknown gas line running through the middle of the site through the good work of a bulldozer. ‘What do we do now?’ prevailed, as the roles of the parties began to reveal themselves. At the same time the gas line was hit, the Contractor began a search to find the right superintendent for the job (six by the end of the project). Next, the plumbers and pipefitters went on strike.
Things were in an early stall when we began to help manage the issue by bringing the City of Columbus, Columbia Gas, and the Contractor together. A solution was found for rerouting a new gas line and revising the sequencing so activities could take place without further delaying the project. We pushed the Architect to review and approve a new routing, and this is where we began to develop a positive relationship with the Contractor.
As the project continued, many other issues arose that demanded quick solutions to keep the project on track. These issues included adding underground downspout conductors missing from the plans, seriously large modifications to the HVAC system’s pumps and coils, remediation of electrical code issues within an existing pump house, the need to add a heat source within the building’s attic space to prevent fire suppression system freezing, the addition of a catwalk system to be constructed within the roof truss system for inspection and maintenance, installation of a CMU wall and roof portico necessitated by a conflict between the structural and architectural drawings, and resolution of many other errors and omissions which prevailed to the end.
The issue resolution process consisted many times of jointly finding solutions to propose to the Architect, pushing the Architect for review and approval, and quickly giving direction to the Contractor for execution.
As often was the case, the Architect was unable to keep up with resolving errors and omissions issues. We knew the City had no money to increase the contingencies and this became an overarching driver for the project team. As Contractor’s frustration grew they began sending the City notices of impact as well as requests for stop work notices due to incomplete documents and untimely responsiveness.
However, throughout we were working with the City, Architect, and the Contractor to resolve issues; and at some point, the City and Contractor recognized the true value in our help. The Contractor’s trust in our involvement grew to the point that they began requesting that we attend their internal meetings, reviewing schedules with them, and asking for our input in how to deal with other project participants.
At H.R. Gray, an Anser Advisory Company, our overarching duty is always to look after the Owner’s best interests. This project required more than construction observation and contract management; this project required us to assume a much more proactive, facilitating, and problem-solving role. By the end of the project, it was very apparent to the Contractor that we were not only there to make sure they met the contract requirements, but to make sure all project stakeholders met their obligations as well.
Because of these efforts, the project finished without any claims and within the contingency budget. And despite dozens of warranted items that live on in the change order log they are but a small representation of the trials and challenges that were encountered weekly throughout this extremely difficult 13-month long job.
Had we not maintained a good relationship with the Contractor, the myriad of issues could have led to significant cost and schedule overruns and even worse. For any project, good performance by the Contractor is the best path for the Owner to get the project delivered successfully; and if we do not embrace that fact, and facilitate towards that end, the project could fail.
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