Optimizing Life Sciences Building Projects with Effective Construction Program and Project Management

Optimizing Life Sciences Building Projects with Effective Construction Program and Project Management

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Regardless of the scope or type of construction project you are undertaking, working with an effective program and/or project manager can be the differentiator between success and failure. Acting as the owner’s representative throughout the build, construction program and project management firms minimize the amount of time owners must spend overseeing their project. These strategic partners bring several other benefits as well such as reducing the risk of gaps in the strategy development and design phases and creating customized approaches and practical solutions that save time and money.

This oversight governance supervision is critical throughout the project and can take one of three forms:

  • Program management focuses on setting up the project for success at the front end.
  • Project management picks up where program management leaves off to offer governance throughout the rest of the project, from design to operational readiness.
  • Construction management is geared specifically for oversight of the construction phase.
Program, Project, and Construction Management Timeline
Program, project, and construction management timeline

4 Keys to Success

There are four elements that impact the success or failure of a life sciences construction project: scope, schedule, budget, and quality. To ensure your project checks each of these boxes, the best solution for novel life sciences projects involves an integrated mix of each role to ensure effective short- and long-term oversight. The best firms offer end-to-end services such as design-build. If your organization has more in-house resources though, you may want a strategic partner for just one or two critical segments of the project lifecycle, such as with program and project management. Below are important facts to keep top of mind:

  • Scope: 25% of all projects grow past the scope of work by over 30%
  • Schedule: 35% of construction professionals’ time is spent (over 14 hours per week) on non-productive activities including looking for project information, conflict resolution, and dealing with mistakes and rework.
  • Budget: On average, large projects across asset classes typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80 percent over budget
  • Quality: 52% of rework is caused by poor project data and miscommunication.

Program and Project Management Across Construction Phases

  • Program managers are most heavily involved during ideation and planning phase. And, when they are effective in these upfront activities, they can save owners a great deal of time and money. For instance, we have saved owners millions of dollars on a project with small, but important, early decisions – a prime example of where specialization matters. As time goes by, however, the ability to influence the project costs decreases. It is imperative to involve program or project managers from the beginning. Some of the important activities program and project managers may lead during this phase include:
    • Business justification
    • Options generation
    • Scope development
    • Preliminary program development
    • Internal capital approvals
    • Site selection
    • Contract methodology
    • Work breakdown structure creation
    • Risk management plan development
    • Communication plan development
    • Contract procurement planning
    • Site selection
Majority of Cost Savings Come Early in Project Lifecycle
Graphic Shows Majority of Construction Cost Savings Early in Project Lifecycle
  • Throughout the design phase, a construction program or project manager acts as a liaison between the owner, designer, and construction team. When effective, they help to translate the owner’s budget, timeline, and other specifications into an actionable project execution plan. If the scope is properly defined, the design team is less likely to over design – resulting in change orders – or miss critical elements necessary for the highly regulated environment for life sciences. Some of the activities program and project managers lead at this stage include:
    • Design firm selection
    • Coordination of architects and/or design subcontractors
    • Basis of design (BOD) development
    • Design standards development
    • Design quality assurance
    • Schedule monitoring
  • Once construction begins in earnest, construction managers are primarily responsible for quality control and coordination among stakeholders. They may be involved in activities such as:
    • Coordination of subcontractors and other stakeholders
    • Maintaining quality and performance standards
    • Procurement oversight
    • Scope management
    • Construction specification enforcement
    • Budget management
    • Documentation
  • Commissioning and operational readiness for life science facilities can be a key factor in getting to market quickly. For instance, enhanced commissioning that starts early in the preconstruction or construction phases can help satisfy elements of the qualification process and drive higher success for a one-time validation effort saving owners resources, time, and money. Services include:
    • Quality assurance
    • Operational readiness preparation
    • Compliance / regulatory oversight
    • Commissioning master plans
    • Master equipment list
    • Critical assessments
    • Submittal reviews
    • Design verification
    • Develop IV/IQ/OV/OQ protocols
    • Installation verification and qualification
    • Operation verification and qualification
    • Discrepancy Log
    • CMMS implementation/consultation
    • Calibration program development/consultation
    • Maintenance plan development/consultation
    • System turnover process
    • Enhanced turnover package (ETOP) development
    • Good documentation processes

Benefits of Working with an Experienced Construction Program and Project Management Firm

Owners who choose to work with an experienced construction program and project management firm benefit from focused oversight and deep industry expertise. It can be difficult for owners, especially for first-time project managers, to learn all the nuances and regulations inherent in building a complex life sciences facility. It can result in multiple delays and a much higher cost. With a dedicated program or project manager, though, the process becomes much more streamlined, easier to manage, and gaps are less likely to occur. Benefits of this partnership include:

  • Consistency and standardization. As in any major project, having a centralized governance structure helps owners avoid pitfalls, bottlenecks, and delays that can run rampant in projects with a lack of clear leadership or a decentralized model.
  • Scope management. There are several classic examples of construction projects that quickly became unmanageable when they exceeded their original scope. Program and project managers help owners sidestep this common pitfall by developing and then closely monitoring the project’s scope of work.
  • Dispute resolution and management. When scope and parameters are outlined clearly by a program manager at the beginning of the project, it lessens the likelihood of disputes or misunderstandings. However, if these do arise, program or project managers can also help to clear things up and quickly get the project back on track.
  • Cost control. Budget is often top of mind for owners when starting a construction project. But, without centralized oversight, it can be difficult to keep track of where the money is going. With a dedicated program or project manager in place, cost containment and budget adherence become easier.
  • Schedule management. Program and project management firms help owners avoid delays by identifying and removing barriers before they become insurmountable hurdles. With consistent oversight and an excellent project execution plan, they can quickly spot potential problems and intervene as needed to course correct.
  • Quality assurance. As with all of the above benefits, quality also improves with streamlined, consistent oversight. Construction managers are held responsible for quality with oversight from a program manager.

Program Management in Action

Specializing in building complex, sophisticated life science facilities, 35 North has worked with myriad organizations to deliver quality program and project management services across the life sciences, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and AgTech sectors. Each project is unique, but 35 North’s expertise in construction management facilitates successful outcomes despite many challenges.

GRAIL’s Genetic Testing Lab Syngenta’s Modern New Campus
35 North was selected as GRAIL’s project management partner and owner’s representative for their genetic testing laboratory project.35 North provided a program manager to lay the foundation for a successful project. Activities the PM supported included:

  • Reviewing existing budgets and schedules
  • Selection of general contractor
  • Selection of subcontractors and vendors
  • Saving several million dollars with scope challenge
  • Evaluating agreements between GRAIL and vendors
  • Identifying cost savings strategies and value engineering alternatives
  • Developing a commissioning, qualification, and validation (CQV) strategy to meet GRAIL compliance and schedule needs
  • Oversight of construction
Syngenta’s existing U.S. headquarters located in Greensboro, NC is undergoing modernization to accommodate new technologies and consolidate corporate functions.

  • As the owner’s representative for this project, 35 North is providing overall preconstruction and project management services including program design development, definition of the project scope, and establishment of the master project schedule and phasing needed to meet Syngenta’s operational requirements and financing restraints.
  • 35 North facilitated the construction-manager-at-risk (CMAR) selection.
  • Additionally, 35 North is serving as the construction manager for temporary swing spaces and is managing Syngenta’s preferred vendors.
GRAIL’s Genetic Testing Lab

35 North was selected as GRAIL’s project management partner and owner’s representative for their genetic testing laboratory project.35 North provided a program manager to lay the foundation for a successful project. Activities the PM supported included:

  • Reviewing existing budgets and schedules
  • Selection of general contractor
  • Selection of subcontractors and vendors
  • Saving several million dollars with scope challenge
  • Evaluating agreements between GRAIL and vendors
  • Identifying cost savings strategies and value engineering alternatives
  • Developing a commissioning, qualification, and validation (CQV) strategy to meet GRAIL compliance and schedule needs
  • Oversight of construction
Syngenta’s Modern New Campus

Syngenta’s existing U.S. headquarters located in Greensboro, NC is undergoing modernization to accommodate new technologies and consolidate corporate functions.

  • As the owner’s representative for this project, 35 North is providing overall preconstruction and project management services including program design development, definition of the project scope, and establishment of the master project schedule and phasing needed to meet Syngenta’s operational requirements and financing restraints.
  • 35 North facilitated the construction-manager-at-risk (CMAR) selection.
  • Additionally, 35 North is serving as the construction manager for temporary swing spaces and is managing Syngenta’s preferred vendors.

Experience Matters

Life science companies must contend with a variety of unique challenges when building or renovating their facilities. In many cases, the most efficient course of action is for owners to partner directly with an experienced program or project management firm. This minimizes the amount of time the owner’s team must spend dealing with the logistics or administrative tasks that come with construction projects, ensures quality, and ultimately is a more reliable way to get to market on time

To learn more about how 35 North serves as a specialized life science construction program and project management partner for clients or to ask about trends we are seeing in the industry, contact us. You may also want to read the full case study focused on the construction of GRAIL’s genetic testing facility.

35 North President and CEO Scott McEntee

Scott McEntee is the president and chief executive officer for 35 North. He is the founder of 35 North and has 30 years of industry experience, including over $2 billion in construction experience.

35 North Director of Project Management Services Pablo Hernandez

Pablo Hernandez is the director of project management services for 35 North. He brings 25 years of practice in engineering, project management, and site operations in the compliance-focused life sciences industry.

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