Predictability is Key in Today’s Construction

Careful Planning and Collaboration Will See Us Through Staffing Challenges

It’s a familiar story by now: there’s too much work to do, and not enough hands to do it. Thanks to sweeping infrastructure legislation, public entities are flush with cash and eager to rebuild their facilities. At the same time, fewer young people have been gaining trade skills and joining the construction industry, and more veterans are hanging up their hard hats and readying for retirement.[1]

Staffing has been a primary concern for industry professionals for a few years now, and it’s not the type of problem that can be solved overnight. As a leader in construction in the Southwest, Jaynes has put several plans in motion to help solve this, from serving on the board of ACE Leadership High School to focusing on skilling up our existing workforce.

But these are initiatives for the long term. Here and now, we need solutions for getting projects staffed and completed so our communities can grow and thrive. And for that, we need creative thinking and collaboration across all areas of our industry.

Understanding the Forces at Work

There is a finite number of designers, contractors, and subcontractors, and labor is stretched thin. General contractors may be stuck competing for the same pool of talent, forcing projects to take longer. By the same token, materials costs and availability have fluctuated wildly thanks to supply chain disruptions and inflation.

Taken together, these factors mean it’s difficult to predict expenses and timelines. It’s tough to put in an accurate and competitive bid when you don’t know whether the price of lumber will jump in a few months, and it’s hard to get a project underway when your subcontractors are tied up in other things. These delays are costly, time-consuming, and frustrating for everyone involved.

Predictability is key to managing projects. And while no system is perfect, we’ve found that utilizing the CMAR delivery method can improve predictability, helping projects go smoother.

How CMAR Helps with Predictability in Construction

CMAR stands for “Construction Manager at Risk,” and it’s a delivery method that helps get a general contractor involved early in the process. In CMAR, a construction manager is contracted at the outset of a project, often at the design phase or even earlier. That construction manager, or CM, sets a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for the project early on and is then held liable for anything that goes over that budget.

What makes CMAR work so well is it hinges on transparent communication and collaboration between stakeholders. Getting a CM involved early means being able to assess a design for feasibility at the outset and having a clear picture of the project’s scope. The earlier a contractor is involved, the more predictable the project becomes. The CM can flag potential problems early and deal with them before construction gets underway, instead of being caught by surprise midway through when change orders and backtracking can get costly.

One of the strengths of CMAR is that the lowest bid is not necessarily the one selected for a job. Instead, the construction manager conducts a prequalification process for subcontractors, weeding out weak prospects and ensuring a tighter pool of potential bids. This often results in higher quality work, fewer lien claims, and, as a result, lower long-term costs.

There’s also potential for a construction manager to fast-track some elements. For example, it’s sometimes possible to break ground on the site and start preparing it for construction during the design phase, and some elements can be prefabricated while other parts are being built. Having a construction manager overseeing that process from the beginning, with a full vision of what the project entails and all its moving parts, helps eliminate unexpected and unwanted surprises.

Shared Experience Builds Stronger Connections

Successful CMAR requires an experienced and knowledgeable construction manager. A good CM knows the available subcontractors in the area and can lean on those relationships. They also are intimately familiar with the realities of work in an area, from the cost of materials to local building ordinances and other potential pitfalls.

Although the CMAR process is well-established, it’s not the traditional way of doing things, and some Owners, designers, and contractors can be nervous about change. There are also procurement hurdles to handle, especially for the public sector, and added challenges with contract language and the level of trust and communication required.

But when it works, it works very well—and at Jaynes, we’re committed to helping our industry partners find effective solutions to the problems we’re all facing. If you’re an Owner or contractor with questions about the CMAR method as a way of improving predictability in your projects, reach out to us. We’re happy to share our experience and insight, and we want to hear about what’s working for you, too, in navigating our current market challenges.


1 – Construction’s biggest staffing struggles for 2024. Phillips, Z. (2024, January 11). Construction Dive.