American has been in the business of providing general construction services since 1989 on projects of all sizes up to $75,000,000. Through the years, we have provided our clients construction management services to supplement Owner project teams. Most of these construction management services are the same services we provide internally for our general construction projects, where we have been involved from concept through turnover of construction. Below is a description of our construction management services.
During American's over 30 years of experience, our professional architects and engineers have been involved in design assist on a number of large projects. These have included complex geo-technical issues involving a full range of soils conditions, many dealing with dewatering, tar, methane, and contaminated ground water. soil stabilization issues have been involved in most of our projects. All of our projects have involved work in city streets and onsite street curbs and sidewalks, many with pavers and textured concrete and asphalt patterns. All of our work has involved underground utilities, many in city streets including storm drains, site water lines up to 60 inches in diameter, site gas and underground high and low voltage systems. Many have involved signals and traffic control devices. All have involved transformers and transformer vaults. Drainage, irrigation systems, site and building access issues have all been successfully solved on our projects. Foundation systems have included stone columns, drilled piles, caissons and mat slabs. Though our design assist efforts in all these civil, soils and structural areas, American has saved our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars.
American's housing units have been built over one, two and three levels of subterranean parking and over and around on-grade parking structures. Our housing structures have included two, three and four stories of Type V, five stores of Type III modified wood and five stories of Type III bearing steel studs. All of our projects have involved integration of the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire sprinkler systems. Our design assist services have involved evaluating alternative heating and cooling systems, alternate sources of hot water, alternate methods of metering utilities, alternate low voltage control and monitoring systems, and alternate life safety devices.
Integrating the finishes into the frame requires detailed coordination with the subcontractor community to work out cabinet and cabinet top details; door and room trim details must be integrated with the heating, electrical and plumbing fixtures. On higher end products we have even worked out joist spacing so sprinkler heads could be aligned with other room fixtures. Floor coverings have different thicknesses which must be properly transitioned or the rough must be properly depressed to receive the finish flooring to meet code accessibility requirements. Our design assist architects are code specialists who assist in this in-depth coordination effort to help ensure the finished product fully complies with code. Additionally, all of our design assist efforts involve life cycle cost analysis of products we recommend. Our engineers' and architects' skills in all of these areas have been seasoned by the bottom line responsibility to complete the construction of these designs.
our pre-construction services have involved consulting with stakeholders to develop project scopes, developing project budgets based on our proprietary estimating database, providing project scheduling utilizing our industry's state of the art scheduling system, developing consultant requests for proposals, reviewing and validating consultant experience, recommending consultants to perform on projects, developing consultant scope of work and contract documents, negotiating consultant contracts, managing consultant meetings, reviewing and managing consultant work products, update cost estimates and budgets as the project progresses, providing proactive value engineering guidance to keep projects within budget, providing design assist, plan reviews, and help with identifying plan and specification errors and omissions, coordinating with City and other governmental agencies involved in project requirements, and subsequently coordinating plan check efforts and obtaining permits.
Our design assist, estimating, scheduling, purchasing and plan review services, discussed separately in this area of our website, are all integral parts of our pre-construction services.
Prior to the commencement of construction, we provide trade contractor scopes of work, solicit trade contractor bids, prepare trade contracts and negotiate their terms (we administered nearly 300 trade contracts 2008). We became actively involved in all aspects of construction management: obtaining and processing submittals, processing change orders, processing, reviewing, coordinating and responding to request for information (RFIs), collecting, reviewing and processing monthly payment draws, coordinating, managing and supervising trade contractor work, providing quality control inspection of trade work, coordinating and resolving technical, sequencing, and performance issues, updating schedules and budget forecasts on a weekly and monthly basis, coordinating interface during construction with City and other regulating agencies, obtaining temporary occupancy permits, developing punch lists of remaining work, managing its completion, and collecting, preparing and processing final payments, coordinating training and start up of all project systems, obtaining final occupancy permits, and administering warrantee programs. Throughout pre-construction and construction, our project management responsibilities are carried out using our state of the art, web-based Primavera Contract Manager Software.
The heart of all of American's success is its ability to consisently and accurately estimate cost. Our success is based on the recognition that each project is unique. Even when we are asked to provide a price from a sketch on the back of a napkin, we proceed with a detailed set of assumptions based on our experience, identifying quantities for every element of the project, and with an outline specification, identifying specific equipment material and finishes our estimated costs are based on. Since 1989, American has developed a proprietary estimating program. For the last 14 years, this program has been under the direction of the Company's Chief Estimator Jeff Chen, who is involved from creation to close-out on each project, ensuring that the system is continually updated as new information is available from the market place and the field. Commodity price changes are reviewed at the Company's executive staff level each Monday morning. This followed by a review of each project's variation from budget, with discussion and analysis of the causes of the variation. On a monthly basis, each labor and material budget line item for each project is reviewed in depth to determine the cause of any variation from budget, and, along with corrective action as needed, American's estimating database is updated with the experience of these lessons learned. Through the years American has used t he R.S. Means database to back-up American's proprietary estimating system to provide pricing for new and different elements. This pricing is subsequently revised with field feedback. This pricing which has been revised to reflect the actual costs involved is then integrated into American's database. Collectively, it is our most fanatical attention to detail, which has provided us the ability to consistently develop highly accurate estimates at every stage of construction, along with American's emphasis on quality that has been the hallmark to American's success.
American performs purchasing centrally to provide control and consistency.
The purchasing lessons we have learned during the last twenty years are proactively available to our clients during our pre-construction services. With our focus of bringing the maximum possible value to our clients, we evaluate the materials, equipment and systems we have used on each of our projects to determine if these products performed as expected, and recommend carrying forward on future projects only those products that provide the best value coupled with this historic perspective. Through our continuous networking and attendance at trade shows, we stay at the cutting edge of new industry developments, helping our clients take appropriate advantage of advancements in product and technology.
American has been saving our clients a significant amount of money for eight years through our direct factory purchase of material and products from China. Through our contracts in China, we have directly purchased and imported doors, windows, massive fiberglass cornice elements, rolling stainless kitchen tables, iron balconies and other products which have allowed our clients to incorporate higher quality design elements at or below the pricing for lesser quality, locally produced products.
Once plans are complete, obtaining the right subcontractor, at the right price, who has the proper skill and sufficient financial strength to perform the work, is the first critical step in the subcontracting process. Our stringent pre-qualification process was determined by our Subguard carrier, Zurich, four years ago to meet their insurance standards without charge. Zurich audits our qualification process quarterly to ensure we are in fact following our own stringent program.
The second step is to write a complete scope and subcontract for it. American has developed our proprietary scope templates over the twenty years we have been building multifamily projects. Specifications in the multifamily world are frequently not complete or correct; we work to clarify what is required to get agreement from all stakeholders, and to provide sufficient subcontract direction to ensure the agreed-upon clarifications are properly and fully subcontracted, and that the subcontractor understands their scope.
Through lessons learned, we have found that American’s purchasing effort cannot stop with the subcontract; purchasing must be involved in the processing of all changes to ensure that the agreements worked out during the initial purchasing effort are fully upheld. Further, this involvement during construction provides instant feedback if errors were made, allowing immediate correction of all ongoing work that may be affected by the same problem, and correction of our templates to ensure future projects benefit from this lesson learned. With twenty years of feedback, our proprietary templates are extremely thorough.
Scheduling and project controls provide music and direction for American’s performance. This ability to successfully orchestrate has allowed American to take on the most complex mixed use and multifamily projects, including up to 3 ½ levels of subterranean parking topped with five stories of bearing steel studs with units that don’t stack and don’t have parallel walls. Several of our complex projects have had over 10,000 activities to define and provide the precise timing for each drum beat to be provided by each of our subcontractors, suppliers and vendors, which on some projects number close to 100 separate companies.
American is the first mixed use and multifamily general contractor to have an in-place, fully integrated cost-loaded scheduling program. All of our subcontractors’ and material suppliers’ payment processes are automatically driven by each update of our cost-loaded schedules. Our monthly subcontractor schedule of values is automatically updated by our scheduling system, which then generates each subcontractor’s monthly bill. With each change entered in our project management system, the schedule is updated, keeping our “music” current and fully integrated at all times. This process allows us to generate, at any time, accurate cash flow projections at both the project and subcontractor levels, to help manage cash flow.
Our schedules are updated weekly and our project management system is updated daily on an extemporaneous basis. Weekly, the Company’s Executive Committee reviews the progress of each project by reviewing and examining the available “float” in each project’s critical path and the float available in each of the projects key milestones. In addition to managing float on a weekly basis, the Executive Committee also looks closely at the flow of change order processing and the duration of request for information (RFI) answers, which can impact the schedule from the front end, and the timing of corrections of the Company’s quality control notices, which if not corrected quickly can effect the schedule on the backend.
The Company uses Primavera’s state of the art, web-based, integrated project software, including P5 for scheduling and Contract Manager for project management.
Although our plan reviewing process is an integral part of our pre-construction and design assist processes, and a proactive driver in our design/build service, it is also a service we will contract for separately. The most difficult hurdle to overcome in building any complex mixed use or multifamily project is proactively being able to identify and solve problems in the plans and specifications before they slow or stop construction.
The notion that the “master builder” project manager or superintendent can read the plans from the trailer while the grading is underway and work out all issues in the plans before construction starts is a myth, particularly where complex projects are involved. These complex projects take a team of specialists, working in harmony at the company level and in harmony with the Owner’s consultants, if the delivery system is not design/build, where most of the coordination occurs in-house. On large, complex projects we have found that the most effective process of getting most of the problems in the plans and specifications worked out before framing starts is through formal partnering where the Owner, Contractor, the Consultants and key subcontractors are all focused as a team to accomplish this goal. With our years of experience with this product type, we can be particularly effective in bringing credibility to the claim that if the plans and specifications issues are not proactively solved in this manner the construction will be delayed with impacts to all stakeholders.
American employs architects who are mixed use and multifamily code specialists to assist our construction managers in reviewing and further coordinating the architectural plans with the engineering disciplines. We measure our success on our plan review process by the number of RFIs that have been issued and answered before framing starts as a percentage of the total RFIs at project completion. Our goal is 90% by start of framing.
Where American has the opportunity to provide the design, as well as construction, American is in the position to control the selection of materials and detailing to help ensure they provide the best finish appearance and durability through the years. Where American has not been engaged to do the design, our approach during pre-construction is best described as "design assist." In this role, we work to guide the Owner's consultant team to use the right materials and equipment to provide a quality product that meets both visual and functional requirements, not only initially but through the test of time. Our plan review Architects and Engineers work with the Owner’s pre-construction team to help produce final plans and specifications that are complete, correct, coordinated, and include details that work.
We then further detail and translate key elements of the plans and specifications into vehicles that help us ensure full compliance. These include shop drawings (to further define elements of the projects) and detailed trade scopes, to further clarify the specifications and to state our quality standards.
The final step of quality is execution. Our focus on quality execution is orchestrated by our independent quality control program, which organizationally reports directly to our President, and has the mission of completing the work in accordance with our plans, specifications and the further detailing we have provided. To achieve this goal, we employ proactive procedures to ensure there is a clear understanding of our expectations prior to commencing production work for each element of the project. We then follow through on a programmed basis to ensure that the established standards are maintained. Quality control notices once issued are tracked weekly to ensure their correction is timely to avoid schedule delays.