1. Own the process and set the tone. Newer design and construction methods use better integration across disciplines and among parties, sometimes using Lean principles, a collaborative spirit and open communications. Getting to know the others on the project will make the inevitable hard conversations, easier to have.

  1. Spend early time together with both the design and construction teams. Make sure the architect ‘designs to budget’ getting cost estimate figures from the contractor as the drawings develop. Preconstruction planning can reveal the choices, at time when they are less painful to implement.  You can always dictate scope but expect to pay. Early engagement can lead to cost savings from prefabrication.

  1. Use just enough technology. Computerization of drawings through Building Information Modeling (BIM) can be crucial but it can also be overdone.  Sometimes the most amazing and costly renderings aren’t needed. Have a clear plan about the levels of detail you’ll actually need to put up the project. Project communications should have an online home for conversing and reporting.

  1. Pay on time. New laws were designed to attack Owners paying slowly on requisitions. If you intend to hold back money, explain your reasons, in writing. However, careful review of contractor requisitions will keep them from front loading the costs.

  1. Expect Surprises. Your budget should include a contingency and, (whether they admit it or not), the contractor’s will. You will need set reports of progress and you should ask for reports of problems.  Construction people like to solve problems but unless you set the proper tone, they will also want to keep information about job issues from you.

  1. When problems arise, deal with them; without some sort of resolution, they only get worse as they age. You should not plan to sue anyone for design errors or construction mistakes until the costs cross a high threshold. Have a neutral come look at the dispute.  Few smart owners use the legal system to solve construction problems.

  2. Act; don’t be the delay. Owners need to make some selections and decisions during the construction phase and should be set up to make them promptly.  Contracts with short schedules and punishing liquidated damages ($/day for late finish) are set up for time claim disputes.

  1. Urge timely delivery of your close out package. The designer and contractor should have a closeout set of things to make maintenance and operations for your project easier.  This often falls in priority during the rush to substantial completion.

  1. Insist on the importance of safety. The contractor “owns” safety in its agreements, but mishaps or disasters will splatter the reputation of your project.  Attending an early field safety meeting as an owner sends the signal that safety matters to you.  You will not be able to dictate ‘means and methods’ for performing the work but you can and should ask questions.