Navigating through the process of building a children’s museum, or any other large scale construction project for that matter, wasn’t something that Cassie Miles had done before. As Executive Director of the Great River Children’s Museum in St. Cloud, she had a lot of questions. So, when she and her team sent out their request for proposal to three building contractors, she wasn’t just looking for an experienced Construction Manager she could trust to do quality work. She was also looking for someone who could walk her through the process and educate her team along the way.
Their request for proposal garnered responses from three constructions firms, and the children’s museum conducted formal interviews before selecting BCI.
“Ultimately, we determined that BCI would be the most effective partner for us. It was clear that this project was very important to them from a community standpoint, but we also knew they would be strong advocates who were willing to take on the extra work and responsibility of educating us through each step of the process,” said Cassie.
Once the relationship was formalized, BCI met with Cassie and her team to get a better understanding of the museum’s needs, goals and vision. Cassie had provided BCI with preliminary renderings of the building in the RFP and BCI’s response included high-level approximations of the cost. But now it was time to apply more detail to a preliminary budget. Having a more concrete understanding of the costs would help the children’s museum verify that its capital campaign target was accurate.
Transparent and comprehensive
When walking clients through the budget process, BCI takes an open book approach, which provides a transparent and detailed view of all costs upfront. Ben Jacobsen, Senior Project Manager at BCI, says the open book approach is important for a number of reasons.
“When clients can see where all the costs come from and are able to take an active role in overseeing their investment, they can make sure the budget aligns with their vision and goals. That helps them feel more secure in the direction of the project, and it develops a relationship based on trust,” said Ben.
BCI develops the preliminary budget in a comprehensive spreadsheet that details all of the costs into specific line items. When they meet with the client to go through the budget, the client is able to see line-by-line where all of the costs are coming from and make adjustments based on their priorities.
“We let the client drive how much detail they want to see. Some clients really appreciate our thoroughness and want to walk through each line. Others just want a summary of that section, knowing they have access to all of the numbers if they want to drill down that far,” explained Ben.
Included in the preliminary budget are areas BCI has identified where the client has the option to enhance or reduce the scope, depending on the budget and vision.
Proactive and collaborative
“We try to be the ambassador of their dollars. So, for example, if the architects proposed a certain material and we’ve found a less expensive material that looks and performs relatively the same, we’ll include a voluntary alternate in the preliminary budget and allow the client to decide if that’s an option they would like to explore for savings,” said Ben.
Cassie said having BCI proactively bring those alternates to the preliminary budget meeting was appreciated and underscored the quality of the relationship.
“BCI came prepared with alternates before we even had to ask. As a nonprofit, it was important to explore all of the ways we could find efficiencies. We also discussed things we could leave off for now and add in later if we had to, and determine how those decisions would impact the project. BCI was very open to having those conversations,” she added.
Beyond just identifying alternate materials, BCI offers direction on varying building approaches. One of those involved HVAC. As a public space for children, the children’s museum needs to find healthy options that are efficient and cost effective.
“BCI did a great job educating us on ways we could provide efficiencies, while making sure we’re meeting our goals and serving Central Minnesota’s families well. That education piece was really helpful for me. I’ve learned a lot working with them,” said Cassie.
In doing its due diligence, BCI often draws from its strong partnerships with subcontractors when gathering quotes. Cassie said her team appreciated the collaborative effort it took to arrive at the preliminary budget.
“Part of what BCI has to do is leverage their own social capital and the strong relationships they’ve built with subcontractors, knowing that there’s not going to be immediate work on the other side of it as there might be in a project that isn’t reliant on fundraising. BCI handles that really skillfully. They and their subcontractors put a lot of thought into creating our budget estimates,” she said.
A living document
After meeting on the preliminary estimate, BCI created a second budget estimate based on more detailed schematics of the space. That budget will be a living document moving forward and will inform any decisions that are made. It also provided the children’s museum with its final capital campaign goal.
Cassie says having access to all of the details of the budget has been an empowering experience and having BCI as a partner has been invaluable.
“Besides being transparent with costs, BCI is willing to brainstorm all of our options to come up with the best solution. To have that kind of support, which isn’t part of your traditional construction manager at risk job description, is really helpful for us. They’re very passionate about supporting us and the community and that’s been evident throughout this process,” she said.