Before a project or renovation of a hotel can begin, it’s essential to curate a skilled project team, ensuring the endeavor is a success.
It should come as no surprise that experience, skill and industry knowledge of the construction project/program manager is vital to the final outcome of any project.
The PM, along with the selected design team and contractor, plays a significant role in determining a project’s success. A skilled and knowledgeable team understands the important aspects of a project schedule and budget. With respect to existing hotels, through proper planning and coordination, an experienced team will help minimize guest disruption and hotel operations. In this article, we will review the importance of engaging a PM and assembling the correct project team to achieve objectives.
This person takes the role of the team coordinator and acts as the fulcrum between the owner, brand, designers, engineers, contractor and hotel operator. They will also monitor the budget and schedule as well as oversee the efforts of all team members. The PM is involved from the onset of the project through final completion and is the key point of contact for the owner. Once a project is under way, the PM will continuously monitor the progress of each discipline, making sure the project remains on time and on budget, solving any scheduling or quality of work issues and reporting regularly to ownership.
The architect role, who on new builds, takes the lead in creating a buildable structure that meets current municipal and building codes. On extensive renovations, an architect is involved in projects where alterations are made to structural and non-structural components, as well as mechanical, plumbing electrical, structural, life safety, ADA and food service components that require drawings be submitted and inspections performed by the municipality. In addition, the architect coordinates the drawings created by the engineers, interior designer, food-and- beverage designer and other team members to confirm no conflicts exist between each discipline and that the documents meet current codes.
The image of a hotel is brought to life through the designer. They will select and recommend a variety of interior components which include, but are not limited to, floor coverings, wall coverings, seating, lighting, furniture and fixtures, ceiling material and a host of other finishes. Their goal is to merge the owner’s vision with budget constraints to create a guest experience that is both warm and inviting. The designer must be well-versed in brand design requirements.
Whether it’s electrical, mechanical, structural or civil, an engineer will create the documents needed to ensure that the physical plant of the asset meets the intent of the local, state and federal laws and functionality of the hotel. This could be as simple as re-locating light switches or creating more complex environmental controls that are specific to a hotel’s location and ownership’s desire to be on the cutting edge of sustainability.
This group is responsible for identifying and purchasing needed materials specified by the designer. This responsibility typically includes items such as wall coverings, soft goods, casegoods, furniture, restaurant supplies, lighting, televisions, bathroom vanities and fixtures.
Ideally, the general contractor should have significant experience in hospitality construction. On new builds they understand the opportunities of the repeat nature of guestrooms and take advantage of preassembling components. On renovations, they are aware of the challenges that arise when working in hotels while they remain open to guests. The most qualified contractors understand a hotel is a living entity, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. They should understand the need to stay “behind the scenes” so guests are largely unaware of their presence and maintain a clean and safe workplace.
Building the team
Proper selection of the team is vital to a project’s success. It is important that all players possess extensive knowledge of the lodging industry and the brand being considered for the project and also are able to work well collaboratively with other members of the team. The first step in building this team is to issue request for proposals for each needed discipline. Key factors in selection (apart from budgetary considerations) include hospitality experience and being able to work within a team concept. Local knowledge is a bonus and influences several important functions: Access to labor and the municipal approval process. If possible, interviewing applicants before they are engaged helps get a sense of their professionalism and understanding of the hospitality industry. When comparing companies, recent experience is also an important factor. For example, an architect or contractor who just completed several successful renovations of the same brand and property type is a plus in the selection process. The project manager creates the RFPs and makes a recommendation to ownership for each discipline.
Furthermore, it takes a plan. In most cases, if not operating or building an independent hotel, brand selection is a key starting point. For a new build or conversion, ownership along with the franchisor will need to determine if a market will support a particular brand. For a renovation, brands will have specified refresh requirements based on a property’s condition, age and current standards.
On the ownership side, the cost estimate (budget) must be identified early on to determine if an acceptable return on investment can be achieved. Integral to the ROI is project timing. A schedule puts into perspective timing for the entitlement process (if a new build), team selection, design and architectural specifications, project financing, procurement of FF&E, permitting, construction buildout and punch list acceptance. When developing a schedule, choosing the optimal construction start time by factoring in winter conditions and minimal disruption to hotel operations and guest experience is critical. Once the project scope, budget and schedule have been determined, ownership must select the team.
Capital investment and ongoing construction projects are important aspects of hospitality investment. As highlighted above, building the team can be a complicated task with many variables to consider, one that requires a qualified and experienced leader. From the onset, establishing a team under the guidance of a quality PM maximizes the potential for success.
Stephen Siegel is principal of H-CPM (Hospitality CPM) where he is responsible for managing his team of professionals in all aspects of renovations and construction. His experience and knowledge with managing projects is comprehensive; from the early planning stage to final completion. He is a proven professional in the areas of design, engineering, contractor negotiation and project management for new construction and renovation projects. He earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Construction Management from the University of Florida.
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