Using construction management at risk on the $15.5-million renovation of the National Museum of the Pacific War allowed the Texas Historical Commission and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation to get more bang for their buck and have the project delivered in the tight time frame required to open on the prescheduled, historic date, Dec. 7.

CM-at-risk was “so critical for the success of the project,” says Joe Cavanaugh, THC site manager at the museum. “The goal was to try and build an exhibit and museum for the amount of money we’re spending that was maximum value for the dollar,” he adds.

The contractor, Duecker Construction of Fredericksburg, was brought in during the design phase to work closely with the museum, foundation, architects and key players to “look at cost savings on the construction side that met the owner’s needs and maximized the dollars we had,” Cavanaugh says. The contract allowed Duecker to be involved in preconstruction months before breaking ground, says Glenn Duecker, vice president and project manager. Although contracts may not be specifically labeled CM-at-risk, Duecker performs a lot of projects where the owners ask the contractor to begin working with the architect early in the process.

It’s a logical, practical time- and cost-saving alternative to traditional design-bid-build, Duecker says.

One cost-saving example on the project involved a custom metal sheeting finish suggested by the architect, Cavanaugh says. “It would have looked nice and done a great job but would have been expensive to produce,” he adds. “The construction manager [Duecker] suggested instead using a Galva loon product called paint grip that offers the same visual texture and wearability, but costs much less.”

Thanks to the CM-at-risk process, the THC determined it made sense to use the same subcontractors the contractor was using for the exhibition because it would save cost and expedite coordination, Cavanaugh says.

All of the walls in the Bush Gallery exhibit were constructed of drywall and metal studs. “We had the drywall sub already doing work for the GC continue on and build those walls,” Cavanaugh says. “The GC’s electrician competed all the circuits for the interactive media, resulting in substantial savings from not having a separate contractor bid the work.”

CM-at-risk is not the normal contracting method used by the THC. “This was the largest construction project that the historical commission has ever commissioned,” Cavanaugh says.

In the project development phase, THC hired a consultant, Susan Demz of Austin, who recommended the delivery method.

The state had authorized the delivery method “some time ago,” Cavanaugh says. “I’m awfully glad we used the process in this case because of the advantages for the contractor being able to be involved in pricing long before construction drawings are completed. It’s a win/win for everybody because the contractor gets much more involved in design and working with the architect on achieving cost savings.” — A.B.