After having successfully recovered, borrowed, or assessed funds for the repair of damaged buildings, an owner, property manager, or homeowners association (I’ll use the term “Owner” in this piece for brevity) must shift gears, and determine how most wisely to spend those funds. The Owner may not have experience with significant construction projects, and likely must rely on outside expertise for management of reconstruction.
- Continuation with Forensic Consultants
If the Owner engaged a forensic analyst to study the damage, continuing a relationship with that analyst through the construction project usually makes sense. The analyst can be hired to continue assistance in a number of capacities: convert its recommended repairs to formal construction drawings, review and administer construction through completion, or provide peer review and comment on the work of others. The Owner should confirm with the analyst up front whether it has that capacity and expertise to perform these functions, and meet with the personnel at the firm who would be assigned such duties.
- Use of Professionals to Oversee Construction
Traditionally, the reconstruction process starts with procurement of permit-ready plans from a design professional, which are then put for competitive bid among prospective contractors. However, for time and money reasons, some Owners decide to skip this process, and deal with potential contractors directly, cutting out the design and bid process entirely. Here’s where the going can get tricky. Many contractors are interested in getting their proposal in the door at the inception of a prospective reconstruction project, allowing them to direct the design, materials and manner of repair, without involvement or oversight of an outside professional. The contractor may convince the Owner that this abbreviated process saves time and hassle, and for smaller projects this structure might indeed make sense.
However, keeping the design professional in the loop typically will give the Owner better protection, and often a better end result, than working solely with a contractor. The outside professional can provide guidance and in-depth information during the design process on suitable alternatives that might not be offered by the contractor, who may have a particular way of doing things. And because the design firm must formally stand behind its plans, those plans typically are of better quality than the informal scope proposals we typically see from contractors.
Whether or not a design professional is involved during the construction phase, an Owner who is not onsite, or who is not versed in construction, also would be well served by hiring a professional owner’s representative to monitor construction. Design professionals typically visit the project weekly during the course of construction to confirm the work is in general accordance with the plans. An owner’s representative takes a much more hands-on approach in advocating the Owner’s interests, visiting the site at more frequent intervals, and often detecting and addressing problems before they arise.
- Don’t forget experienced counsel.
However the Owner decides to proceed, careful consideration should be given to the contract relationships between the Owner and the designer, contractor, and other project professionals to confirm that the Owner is properly protected. We recommend that Owners have all such contracts prepared or reviewed by experienced counsel, before issues arise to mitigate the handling of delays, cost overruns, and other issues that may warrant legal action. Further, counsel can review all appropriate insurance contracts prior to beginning a project.