In her viewpoint column, “Managing the Construction Manager in a Cost-Plus Contract,” Barbara Res expresses a significantly obsolete understanding of agency construction management. In fact, what she describes in detail corresponds better with what the industry now calls construction management-at-risk.

For example, Res states, “The CM may have a coterie of subs that it works with, but that might eliminate the owner’s chance of getting a good price.” That is not the case. An agency CM will hold contracts with no subcontractors or general contractors, but only a single contract with the owner, obligating the CM to act as the owner’s trusted adviser in the best interests of the project.

Likewise, she says, “If there is no purchasing department, the buying should be done by the CM’s project manager and executive.” Again, an agency CM purchases nothing on behalf of the owner.

As for her statement that, “often, CMs tell the owner what it wants to hear,” I can only say that this will not be true of any agency CM that subscribes to the Construction Management Association of America’s code of ethics and serves the owner in a trusted advisory capacity.

Nor is it true that “the best project delivery system is the cost-plus-a-fee contract.” A cost-plus-a-fee contract places all the performance risk on the owner—hardly a sound approach to risk management. Owners are not well served by these sorts of confusing misstatements.

Bruce D’Agostino
President and CEO
Construction Management Association of America (CMAA)
McLean, Va.