If you’re planning a construction project, you may have been advised to hire a construction consultant. Perhaps you wonder what construction consultants do. Or if the value a construction consultant provides will be worth the added expense.
Just ask anyone who suffered through a construction project gone wrong. You’ll hear some common themes. Poor planning. Bad communication. Mismanaged change orders. Scheduling glitches that caused delays. Lack of attention to red flags.
The list could go on. But one way to make sure these problems do not derail your project is to hire a construction consultant.
While it’s true that by using a consultant, you’ll add some expenses to your project, but qualified construction consultants can save you time and money every step of the way.
Using an experienced construction consultant will help ensure that costly mistakes aren’t made, that all the participants are communicating well, and that the project is completed on time and within budget. And most of all, they work to make sure you are satisfied with the outcome. The larger the project, the greater the need for a construction consultant.
What are the Steps in the Construction Process?
Depending on the size of your project, you might need a construction consultant for all of the steps in the process, or maybe just some of them.
Before going into the details of what construction consultants do, let’s briefly review the stages of the construction process. This is important as the work of the construction consultant depends on the stage of the process.
Generally, there are six steps in the construction process.
1. Project Planning
The first step is the planning stage. Sometimes this is called project development or project conception.
Whatever it’s called, this is time for brainstorming ideas for what you really want to build. For new construction, this is when the location is selected. Finally, all projects’ initial plans are drawn up, and the architect and general contractor are chosen.
Now we’re at the point where your hopes and dreams for the project meet the reality of what can be achieved within the constraints of your budget. Finally, detailed plans are drawn, meaning the design and construction documents are finalized. At this point, everyone involved will get an idea of what the finished construction will look like.
This is the phase where the final planning and logistics are worked out. Most of the work in this phase is done by the general contractor. The first task is to assemble a project team, including a contract administrator, a project manager, a superintendent, and a field engineer.
This is when your general contractor goes shopping for the building materials needed to complete your project and lines up the necessary labor and equipment.
And now the work begins. Finally, the vision that was drawn on the plans comes into reality.
During post-construction, all the final quality checks are performed. Then, the project owner walks through the project for the last time, ensuring all the items on the punch list are completed. Finally, any necessary inspections required by the government are conducted, and applicable occupancy permits are issued.
What Construction Consultants Do
Now let’s consider what construction consultants do to complete the project more smoothly every step of the way.
Project Planning and Design
Construction consultants can help right from the start. They can help ensure that the initial plans include the most essential features and truly capture your vision for what you want to build.
They also can assist in the design phase. This is where their technical expertise will be critical. They can advise you on enhancing the project’s value or how to incorporate green technology into your building.
Construction consultants will also advise regarding structural issues. They will assess the plans and make sure your project will be structurally sound and will meet construction codes.
They also prepare project timelines and estimates. This means the process of how your project is carried out is clear to all players. And that there is a precise project start date and end date.
This early planning and design work, if done properly, can help avoid delays, miscommunications, and other problems that can make your project go over budget.
Preconstruction, Procurement, and Construction
Once the design and construction documents are complete and the project moves forward, several administrative and management tasks are to be completed. Construction consultants work closely with the general contractor to ensure that all facets of the project are running smoothly and are completed on time.
They might also manage the project budget and handle any problems that arise. Often they serve as the go-between who keeps communication flowing between the general contractor and the client.
Another critical role a construction consultant can fill is anticipating issues before they come up. By knowing the plan, the contractors, and the project owner, the consultant is well-versed in all aspects of the project. So they can continuously monitor progress and expenses and be proactive in anticipating problems. Then they can be either avoided or managed when they are only minor.
They also monitor any discrepancies between the blueprints and the actual implementation. Then, they analyze the reasons for these and resolve them to ensure they do not cause problems later.
Some construction consultants employ a technique called intelligent value engineering. This helps them focus on performance and costs as the project proceeds. Keeping costs down and the project within budget help maximize your return on investment in your building project.
At the end of the process, the consultant can help with inspecting the work of the contractors, coordinating the inspectors, and ensuring that all post-construction tasks are completed.
Working with Construction Consultants
One significant benefit to using a construction consultant is you only work with one when you need them. For example, you might decide you don’t need their services for some stages of your project.
For example, you might hire a construction consultant for the planning and design phases. Once your project is off to a good start, you may decide to use your in-house personnel to manage the preconstruction, procurement, or construction phases. Then you can bring the consultant back to help wrap things up during post-construction.
It’s important to remember that the earlier you engage a construction consultant, the greater your benefit. It’s far better to involve them early on and avoid mistakes rather than have to hire someone to come in and try to salvage a project that has gotten in trouble.
The best time to hire a construction consultant is in the planning and design phases. That way, they are familiar with your project from the start. And you haven’t purchased any expensive materials yet, materials you might not end up using because they won’t work for your project.
How Much Do Construction Consultants Cost?
Generally, a well-qualified construction consultant will charge between 5 and 15 percent of the total project cost. For jobs less than $1 million, the fees will average between 10 and 15 percent. For larger projects, consultants may charge a smaller percentage. On the other hand, residential projects are much lower: typically less than 5%.
While fees are often calculated on a percentage basis, sometimes the consultant will charge a fixed fee based on the number of hours they will spend on the project. Or, sometimes, they will charge based on the project’s square footage.
Fees will also vary based on what services you’ve hired the consultant to provide. The usual practice is to pay fees as each project phase is completed.
What to Look for in a Construction Consultant?
At a minimum, ask about the following before hiring a construction consultant.
1. Technical Expertise
Your consultant must have experience working on projects similar to yours in scope. In addition, you want someone well-versed in the leading technology and trends. Then, you can apply their knowledge and expertise to your project.
Check references carefully to assess what past clients thought of the quality of the consultant’s work.
Bad communication can sink a project. So you must ask the references how well they felt the communication was handled. Also, evaluate your own experience with the consultant. For example, suppose they aren’t communicating to your satisfaction while trying to get your business. In that case, it’s not going to get any better once the contract has been signed.
Four Reasons to Hire a Construction Consultant
While construction consultants perform various tasks that vary from project to project, the reasons people hire them are nearly always the same.
1. Develop a project plan that fits your budget
The last thing you want is to develop a detailed plan, only to learn it will not come anywhere close to fitting into your budget. A construction consultant can help you sort through your needs and help you realize as many as possible within the financial parameters you have set. For example, they may be able to help you save on labor costs.
2. Avoid mistakes and costly overruns.
When there is a dedicated consultant monitoring project progress, mistakes are more likely to be avoided. And as we all know, mistakes are nearly always expensive in terms of time or money.
3. Ensure good communication between you, the project owner, your contractor, architect, and other participants.
We all know how time-consuming adequate and effective communication can be. This is why a construction consultant can make sure this critical element of project success is in place.
4. Construction consultant firms have more resources in terms of specialists with vast experience in their fields of expertise.
Unlike your in-house staff, the consultants can dedicate themselves to the project. This means other responsibilities won’t delay them. They also will be up on the latest technology and trends, so they won’t need to spend time researching. They’ll be able to quickly advise you on the best solution for your needs.
A skilled construction consultant will be well worth their fee in the time and money they save you by making sure the job is done right, on time, and within budget while saving you the stress of dealing with all that time-consuming, stressful coordination yourself.
If you’re planning a large project and want to make sure it’s done right the first time, think about hiring a construction consultant. The services of these professionals can save you time and money and increase the value of what you are building. And help keep your project on schedule.
If you’d like to know about our experience and the construction consulting services we offer, give us a call.