Failing to plan…is planning to fail.
When pursuing capital improvement projects, showing owners they have done the “right thing” with community resources is one of the biggest, on-going challenges faced by volunteer Boards and their Property Mangers. To execute this work well, requires a lot of communication – written and otherwise – that not everyone can capably perform.
In the absence of comprehensive project planning, the HOA Board and owners can often be left wondering if valuable community resources have really been properly managed.
Therefore, irrespective of projects size, it is essential that HOAs pursuing capital improvement projects need to create a formal document – a Project Plan (also Project Manual or Work Description for smaller projects) – used for bidding, contract, and project management purposes. These documents can vary in size from ten pages to over a hundred pages. The project plan and details must be appropriate to the work.
Any Project Plan worth its salt must define
1. The Nature of the Work – i.e., technical specifications and drawings.
2. The Nature of the Deal – i.e., the Bid Form/General Conditions and any other documents that define business behavior requirements of both the Contractor and Association.
The Project Plan document simply resumes the work of the HOA’s Facility Plan … confirming that the ideas and budgets set forth in the Facility Plan are valid…and adding additional technical details/standards…which ultimately determine project outcomes and costs.
There is no project manager or contractor that can eliminate the negative consequences of a bad project plan. No such magic exists.
Therefore, Project Plans need to be developed by individuals or companies that can assume legal responsibility for that work…which excludes HOA Boards…as well as most property managers and contractors.
At Community Planners, we take this responsibility seriously…bringing $1 million in errors and omissions insurance for architectural design and engineering to all of our projects.
CPLLC’s success is measured not just by immediate project outcomes; but also, by the testimonials of clients – HOA Boards, Property Management companies, and contractors – regarding the efficacy of our work and how is has withstood the test of time.
“Plan to build…build the plan.”
It is vital to the success of any project, that bidders and the Owner understand and agree upon the technical requirements and standards associated with the work. These written materials – technical specifications, specifications, or simply “specs” – are often a mix of construction practices as defined by the Building Code, installation requirements set forth by a manufacturer, construction drawings/details, or performance outcomes the designer (and HOA) seeks.
Regardless of where they come from, once a HOA has determined the outcomes they seek from a project and decided to proceed with the work, it is imperative to create technical specifications that define construction tasks, methods, materials, and processes that the successful bidder must bring to the project.
Aside from their importance in setting work standards for the work, the specifications – in conjunction with other bid materials – become part of the legal documents (the Contract) of your project once work begins. No small matter.
“Some people believe that fairness comes with obeying the rules. I’m one of those people.”
Aside from being a “tool time” event, capital improvement projects are also interactions where Owners and Contractors will enter a business relationship. In order to achieve success, there must be agreement concerning the rules of engagement – quite separate from the technical aspects of the work – concerning matters of price, business behaviors and field conduct. Without such an agreement, the project possesses an intrinsic absence of fairness…making it flawed and unlikely to succeed.
To that end, a good project plan must contain language that speaks to a host of behaviors and responsibilities – “standards”, if you will – to which the HOA and Contractor must agree.
How much…and for what. This information – including bid alternates that help Owners and bidders price different approaches to the work in a competitive way – is set forth in the Bid Form that is part of all CPLLC Project Plans.
Length of the Job:
How project time is computed and the consequences of not meeting the project timeline. Time is money for everyone.
Who/what is insured and for how much.
How payment information is presented to the Owner, the Owner’s responsibility for payment within a determined time period, when invoices are paid, and whether a portion of invoices are retained (held back) until project completion.
What constitutes a project change and how that work is computed, approved, billed, and paid.
Conflict and Dispute Resolution:
People can/will disagree. If it becomes particularly egregious, there needs to be rules regarding how those disagreements can and will be resolved.
Contractor’s use of the owner’s property; and, their responsibility for protecting it and keeping it clean.
Contractor’s responsibility to demonstrate compliance with regulations…building permit, environmental, etc.
Job Oversight & Job Documentation:
Contractor’s responsibility to supervise work and demonstrate (prove) they have performed the work per the technical specifications.
For projects of significant consequence and size, Community Planners includes a General Conditions for the Contract of Construction that sets forth these ideas in more detail.
Behavior and expectations matter…even the simple things, when left undone, can lead to massive headaches that seriously affect project success and cost.
In our experience, it is the inability of HOAs to define and enforce contract standards as it relates to the “Nature of the Deal” – the fundamental business behaviors and deliverables for the Contract – that often tarnish great projects.
CPLLC places tremendous importance on these ideas in all our projects. You should too.
Elsewhere on the site, we have discussed the need for establishing clear project values, rules and buying choices. This particular Project Manual from a modest concrete stair replacement was for a townhouse Community in Hartford County, Connecticut.
View sample plans on the Resources page.
Page 2: Technical Specifications that establish product and installation standards…as well as rules for engagement for the bidders.
Page 5: The Bid-Form which clearly defines project choices and buying options for Owners and bidders.
Page 9: The General Contract Conditions (i.e. rules of the road) which serves as the backbone of the Contract once a bidder is selected.
The remainder of the document provides detailed drawings, specifications and pictures of the Community to ensure the bidder and project stakeholders all fully understand project scope, terms and conditions.