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What is the difference between a Project Manager and an Owner’s Representative?

Throughout the many years in the construction and the engineering business, I have heard of many nomenclatures and meanings that often get confused and misused.  After all, the construction and engineering businesses are extremely complicated.  Products and materials may come and go and may be referred to by many different names; and after many years, get replaced by other products.  The many services and professionals that are used in the construction and engineering businesses are varied and at times also get confused. Such is the case of the Project Managers being called Owners Representatives and vice-versa.  This blog will explain the difference.

I will begin by defining what a Project Manager is.  A Project Manager is a person that manages any type of project. You have Project Managers that head a team of designers that are building a website, are researching a theory, or any other item that requires a team approach to accomplish. Of course, a project may also include the construction of a building or managing construction of any type.  It would not be a mistake to say “I am looking to hire a Project Manager to manage the installation of the drywall installation of my drywall company”.  It would also not be wrong to say “I am looking to hire a Project Manager to oversee the implementation of a quality control process for the manufacturing of a new electrical automobile”.  It will also not be incorrect to say “I want to hire a Project Manager to oversee the General Contractor for my construction remodeling project”.  So, as you can see, a Project Manager is basically a person who manages a team that is trying to accomplish something; whether it’s a construction project or not.

An Owners Representative, on the other hand, is a type of Project Manager that specifically deals with representing the owner of a construction project (i.e. the person that is paying for the construction). Since the Owner’s Representative represents the owner on a construction project, the specific scope of work and responsibilities that an Owners Representative may undertake may vary widely from job to job. As such, it is important that a good contract between the Owner and the Owners Representative be made where all of the duties of the Owners Representative are laid out in detail.  At times the Owners Representative may be in charge of making sure the safety of the project is overseen, and at other times it will not be.  At times, the duties of the Owners Representative may become so burdensome that the Owners Representative will be required to be present at the job site every day at all times if he is to fulfill the duties as laid out in his contract.

Simply put, an Owner Representative is a type of project manager.  It will not be wrong to use one or the other when you are referring to a person overseeing a job and representing the owner.  However, bear in mind that you are being more specific and that more people will understand exactly what you are referring to when you have an Owners Representative on your project and they are called out as such. It is sort of like saying “I’m going to the cardiologist today” as opposed to “I’m going to the doctor today”. Neither is wrong.  People will just understand the specifics of what the doctor’s scope of work is.

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What is an Owners representative in construction?

Owners representative

Simly put, and Owner’s Representative is a person that represents the Owner on a construction project. This may seem like a simplistic and obvious answer, but given many players that can be involved on a project and its legal and logistical complexities, then the answer may not be as straight-forward. For example, if the Owner hires an Architect to take care of the project and oversee the construction, does the Architect really have a fiduciary duty to protect the Owner in everything related to the job? Not necessarily. This is where the Owners Representative becomes valuable. The Owners Representative actually also watches over the design team, architect, contractor, subcontractors and all other players comprising the construction team.

When Do I know when I need an Owners Representative?

Construction houseThis is a great question that is somewhat difficult to answer. Theoretcially, an Owner should hire an Owner Rep any time the Owner feels that they do not have the time nor the expertise to oversee the details and complexities of any construction project. However, Owners Representatives are not cheap and will be a significant budgetary drain on any project. But most of the time, the Owners Representatives end up paying for themselves by way of saving the Owner money on project expenses such as :

1- Aggressively questioning the contractor on additional expenditures such as Change Orders.

2- Questioning the Design Team, including the Architect, on money-saving alternatives on the project.

3- Getting into the details on the manner in which the project is being executed as far as safety and keeping an eye on the project schedule and making sure that the contractor is doing its job to stay on track to finish in a timely manner.

4- Representing the Owner during meetings when there are issues. All construction projects have issues and problems. Issues and problems usually translate to money expenditures of one sort or another. The Owners Representative protects and fights for the owner to ensure that th contractors and design professionals do not take undue advantage of the Owner.

That being said, the question really comes down to this: “Is this construction project complex enough and large enough to warrant the additional expenditure of hiring an Owners Representative?”.

The reality is that most small and medium size projects that are several hundred-thousand dollars can be handled by the Owner themselves if they have the time. If they don’t have the time, then usually, the Design Professional can fulfill that role. On the other hand, when a construction project is in the millions of dollars, the need for an Owners Representative increases significantly. The more expensive the job, the more the need for an Owners Rep. Once a project is in the tens of millions of dollars, then an Owner should definitely hire one.

What does an Owners Representative do for his money?

Lets start by explaining something about all the players on a large construction project. The Architect is a registered professional that is licensed to design a project and put plans together and to a certain extent assist the owner on some aspects of the job during construction. The Contractor is also a registered professional that is licensed to carry out the instructions on the plans and make them a reality. The relationship between a contractor and the Owner is adversarial in nature since the Contractor is typically under no obligation to protect the Owners interest.

Owners representative The Owner’s Representative, on the other hand, is not required to have a license or be registered. The Owners Representative is also not required to perform any specific duties like a licensed contractor or a design professional would in that, through their licensing, would have to comply with the Law on their basic services.

The Owners Representative main duty is to protect the Owners interests against the Contractors, Subcontractors, Design Professionals, City Inspectors, etc. Therefore it is absolutely imperative that the Owners Representative have an abundance of experience as it relates to construction, design, permitting, engineering and implementation, and must be a well-rounded individual in all aspects of the industry.

An Owners Representative can provide a whole menu of services and basically be on the jobsite each and every day protecting the Owners interests. Conversely, an Owners Representative can only provide one service such as checking the monthly invoice from the contractor and that will definitely not involve having to visit the project each and every day. Typically, Owners Rep services will be somewhere in the middle where there the Rep will show up every once in a while to the project and provide a menu of services that should be explicitly written down in the contract between the Representative and the Owner.

Why Hire G. Batista & Associates?

Because G.Batista & Associates is both a design firm and a construction firm, we are best suited to provide you with Owners Representative services because this is what we do and we know all the tricks of the trade. Most other Owner’s Representatives are former contractors that have lots of experience in construction (and have never had experience working in an actual design firm). G. Batista & Associates is your best bet for protecting Owners interests particulary at the outset of the project when the project is being conceptualized and designed. Most problems are dealt with during the beginning stages of the project. Call us today for a free consultation with the Owner and President Greg Batista, PE, CGC, LEED AP, CEM.