Taking on a building project can feel overwhelming. With many moving parts, you may be worried about keeping your project on budget and schedule. Luckily, your architectural project manager is there to help.
At Neumann Monson, Client Experience is our top strategic priority. On every project we undertake, we engage stakeholders, guide building owners, and advocate for their goals. Our efforts have paid off—earning us PSMJ’s Premier Award for Client Satisfaction for four consecutive years.
In this article, you will learn:
- The critical role architectural project managers play in your building project
- How they will communicate with you throughout the project
- Qualities you should look for in a project manager
- Questions you should ask before hiring a project manager
By the end, you will understand what you can expect from your project manager and how they will guide you through the process—easing your anxieties about starting your building project.
What Does an Architectural Project Manager Do?
An architectural project manager is your “ambassador” to the world of architecture and construction. From the kickoff meeting to post-construction, they are your primary point of contact.
Their job is to facilitate communication between you, the project design team, and the consultants involved in the project. Throughout the design process, they are also responsible for:
- Managing project team members
- Managing schedules and budgets
- Scheduling and hosting meetings with the project team
- Scheduling and hosting meetings with your project’s stakeholders
A project manager’s main goal is to advocate for your interests, so you end up with a project that achieves your functional, financial, and aesthetic goals.
What Can You Expect from a Project Manager?
Depending on the scope, a building project can last for months or even years. On most projects, you will have one project manager from start to finish.
In the beginning, they will meet with you to kick off the process, discuss programming elements, and create alignment between your goals, budget, and schedule. To help you establish goals and build group consensus, they will lead you and your team through visioning workshop activities.
Involvement in the Design Process
As the project develops, the project manager will play an important role in the design process. They will contribute to design charrettes and facilitate communication between members of your project team, which (typically) includes:
- A principal of the firm
- Interior designers
- Mechanical engineers
- Electrical engineers
- Civil engineers
- Landscape architects
Additionally, they will estimate construction costs and guide design modifications to maintain alignment with your project’s budget. A project manager will always manage construction costs, but, if necessary, they can also manage your project costs.
Throughout the design process, they will meet with you regularly to test concepts and get feedback. They will also update you on budgets and cost estimates. Through regular updates, you will have fewer surprises when the project goes up for bid.
Involvement During Construction
Lastly, your project manager will advocate for your interests throughout construction. They will visit the site regularly to check that the contractor and subcontractors are following the design intent. Additionally, they will review change orders, advise you on approvals, and work with the contractor to make sure the changes uphold the design intent.
For contractors, the project manager is a resource and collaborator. When unforeseen problems arise, the contractor and project manager will work together to find a resolution.
What Qualities Should You Look for in a Project Manager?
When you are selecting an architect, be sure to meet your project manager. You are looking for someone who is highly organized and effective at communicating. An architecture firm’s reputation for project management is just as important as its design talents.
Effective project managers should possess a couple of key qualities.
First, they should be organized in terms of money and budgets. Budgets are one of the most important aspects of a building project, and they will need to regularly reevaluate the project and make adjustments to keep the budget on track.
At the same time, they should be aware of current marketplace trends and factor contingencies and escalation predictions into your budget. By taking these steps, they can reduce the chances of cost overruns.
Second, your project manager should be proactive. Although they will work to manage costs, building projects are unpredictable.
Whether supply chain issues impact materials prices or pre-design surveys reveal that more work is needed, the project manager should be anticipatory and ready to take action. When these surprises occur, your project manager should be forthright about any changes and help you prepare.
Your project manager will also need a level head. As many know, building projects can be stressful. You, however, should not have to bear this stress. The project manager’s job is to approach you with proposed solutions when problems arise.
Perhaps most importantly, your project manager should be ready to collaborate with your team. In addition to managing budgets and schedules, they will need to engage your project’s stakeholders and incorporate their perspectives into the design process.
Successful projects occur when everyone feels like they have contributed to the final product. Your project manager should work to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
Questions to Ask
- When you are meeting with architecture firms, learn their approach to project management by asking questions like:
- What is the project manager’s experience with similar projects and client types?
- How will they be involved throughout the process?
- Does the project manager have any repeat clients?
- How will the project manager manage changes?
- How will the project manager interact with the contractor?
- How will the project manager interact with me?
By asking these questions, you can establish alignment between the firm’s approach and your goals. Remember: depending on the complexity of your project, you’ll be working with your project manager for months, maybe years. It’s important to find the right fit.
Starting the Architectural Process
Building projects are a large undertaking, but your architectural project manager is there to facilitate and ease the process. Their goal is to act as your advocate, communicating your goals to the design team and all consultants involved in the process.
At the same time, they will track budgets and schedules and keep you informed, allowing you to focus on the exciting opportunities your new building will bring. Learn how your project manager will help your team develop a vision for your project by reading our guide to the programming process.
With such importance placed on a project manager, it’s important to find a trusted partner who will align with your values. To learn about our approach to project management, contact us and schedule a meeting with one of our project managers.