by Anthony N. Papantonis
The senior living market is realizing significant growth in many areas of the country and the northeast is no exception. New communities are being developed throughout the region offering a range of services especially in memory care. New developments continue to create pressure on existing communities to renovate and expand their services of care in order to maintain high census levels and remain attractive to the discerning tastes of boomers and their parents. As owners and developers qualify key project team disciplines for future developments, selecting a well-qualified construction management (CM) firm will pay dividends.
Engaging an experienced senior living CM provides significant value to the owner in many ways. For starters, a seasoned CM can provide the design team with budget estimates based on initial preliminary drawings as well as recent senior living project data allowing for better decisions and design adjustments to be made before reaching the construction document level of investment. Better yet, some project teams may decide before any drawings are produced, to collaborate with the contractor to design to a detailed estimate and continuously update the estimate as the design progresses. This Lean project delivery approach provides accurate, early project pricing and reduces the significant costs associated with redesign and schedule delays. A knowledgeable CM can also offer real time constructability feedback during the design process to ensure a smooth transition into the construction phase of a project. Constructability reviews allow the contractor to explore project-specific value optimizing options such as alternative materials, M.E.P. systems and means and methods of construction specific to senior living construction, enabling the project team to evaluate opportunities to enhance project value and minimize risk.
Experienced CMs recognize technical subtleties unique to the industry that can make a big impact to a project’s bottom-line. Understanding how to work with certain project financing agencies such as HUD or knowing in advance what regulatory agencies such as DPH or a fire department inspector will look for in a skilled nursing environment requires a certain understanding and finesse in how they approach and manage these critical relationships throughout a project. By bringing their industry-specific knowledge, resources and relationships to the table, CMs are able to offer innovative alternatives and solutions throughout a project. CMs also have the ability to leverage trade-specific knowledge from their valuable subcontractor and supplier partners who can help identify alternative products, systems and trends. This knowledge allows the CM to work more effectively with architects and designers as they strive to achieve project goals such as sustainability requirements.
Risk management is improved significantly by partnering with a CM that has proven systems and processes in place that ensure critical schedule and budget goals are achieved. For example, the utilization of building information modeling (BIM) to coordinate complex M.E.P. systems can be a major contributor to a project’s success by increasing the accuracy of electrical and mechanical system installation.
Projects executed within occupied and operational buildings raise even greater risk to the non-experienced CM. The challenges of maintaining high-level care during construction are numerous however, selecting a CM with a proven track record and training in construction within sensitive environments will ensure a project is executed with precision, safety and professionalism. Maintaining building occupant safety is a top priority achieved by minimizing disruption to base building mechanical and electrical systems, emergency support, fire alarm and resident/staff access and egress.
Implementation of an indoor air-quality management and water infiltration mitigation plan are critical throughout the construction process. Ensuring the most optimal emergency vehicle access possible at all times is critical based on the nature of the business. Minimal disruption to resident/staff routine and their comfort is of utmost importance. An experienced CM will proactively work with the owner and facility administrators to ensure that all precautions have been taken to prevent costly errors such as mitigating dust, vibration and noise to the highest degree possible.
There are, undoubtedly, a host of critical items that senior living developers and owners need to manage successfully throughout the project lifecycle. Selecting a construction manager with proven senior living industry experience is one of the critical steps that will help ensure a project’s overall success.
Anthony Papantonis is President of Nauset Construction Corp. in Needham, Mass.