Frequently Asked Questions

General

What is the best way to contact you?

The easiest way to contact me is on my cell phone (425 241-3119).  Alternatively, you can reach me by email at david@stewcon.com or fill out the contact form on the website. 

Owner's Representation

What is Owner's Representation?

 

An Owner retains an Owners Rep (OR) to protect the Owner’s interests in a construction contract.  Typically the OR acts in an advisory role and recommends courses of action that can be taken in dealings with contractors and designers.  A savvy OR will insure the owner is treated fairly and that, likewise, the Owner provides timely decisions that control costs and delays. 
 
For more information about Owner Representation, please visit the Stewart Consulting Owner’s Representation Services page.
 
How do I know if I need an Owner's Rep?

If you are reading these FAQs, chances are you need an OR.  The construction process is not intuitive and can be a minefield for people inexperienced in construction.   An Owner’s Rep will provide clear, unambiguous advice every step of the way to ensure the Owner gets treated fairly. 

What are the finiancial benefits of hiring an Owner's Rep?

A well-run project is a cost-effective project.  Conversely, failure to provide timely input can, and often does, have a significant impact on construction costs.  A good OR will ensure the Owner is aware of deadlines to ensure excess costs are minimized.  Once the project is under way, the Owner will frequently by bombarded with Change Orders for changes in the work.  Often the costs of such work are represented as being higher than they need to be.  In a typical construction project, a good Owner’s Rep will save the Owner many times more than the cost to hire him or her. 

 
At what stage should I hire an Owner's Rep?

 

Ideally, the OR is the first person retained by an Owner.  Optimizing design effort is a critical OR function and this can only be achieved if the OR is onboard from the very beginning.  Similarly, determining the appropriate form of contract has to occur before any work starts and an OR can provide valuable time and money-saving advice to the Owner from day one.
 
That said, Owner’s Reps can be brought on board at any phase of a project, but the earlier they are involved the better.  
 
How do I select an Architect, Engineer, or Construction Manager?

 

There are a multitude of Architects with different levels of experience and cost.  Selecting the right architect is paramount for the success and your enjoyment of the project.  An Owner should choose a number of Architects for interview.  It is helpful for the Owner’s Rep to participate in this selection process, hence the need to retain and OR early on.  Without Owner’s Rep participation in the selection process, it is difficult for an Owner to properly interview and assess an Architect.
 
Typically, the Architect will retain other professional consultants such as the structural engineer, geotechnical engineer, electrical engineer.    
 
Why isn't the Architect able to fill the role of the Owner's Rep?

Architects are often asked to provide OR services, but most prefer not to.  Architects are typically creative individuals who would rather not have to confront and manage contractors.  Furthermore, many relationships between Architects and Contractors go back a long way and such affiliations (as well as the desire to maintain good relationships for future work) do not always result in the Owner’s interests being fairly considered. Amicable Architect/Contractor relations are a good thing, though, and these friendly working relationships are facilitated by an OR whose job it is to represent the interests of the Owner.

 
How does having an Owner's Rep benefit the Architect or Contractor?

Invariably, Architects will encourage the involvement of an Owner’s Rep to insure timeliness of material selections, reliable cash flow and the knowledge that the Owner is receiving advice from an experienced advocate.  When the Owner’s Rep is happy, the Owner is confident that the Architect and Contractors are doing a good job for a fair price.

 
What is the difference between an Owner's Rep and a Construction Consultant?

All Owner’s Reps are Construction Consultants but not all Construction Consultants are Owner’s Reps. That is, the OR has a specific role (providing advice and assistance to the Owner at all stages of the project, from soup to nuts!) whereas Construction Consultant is a generic term that includes Owners Reps plus a multitude of other functions related to construction. 

Project Management

What was the biggest project you ever managed?

I have managed or co-managed mega projects up to $300million in current dollar value.  The biggest project I have managed myself is $125million in current dollars.  I have provided Owner’s rep services on a $200million condominium project that never proceeded due to the 2008 financial crash.  The biggest single family residence I have provided Owner’s Rep services on is a $3million project in Seattle.  The dollar value of a project can be misleading, however, and sometimes smaller jobs are more difficult and require more managerial attention than mega-projects.

Are you a construction company?

No. While our consultants have experience working in construction companies in their previous lives, Stewart Consulting does not build projects, nor do we guarantee what projects will cost. 

Mediation

At which stage can mediation be used?

Mediation is an “alternative dispute resolution” mechanism that is used, and sometimes mandated by the courts, prior to trial or arbitration.  It is the last opportunity for parties to a dispute to resolve the dispute for themselves.  Beyond mediation, a “trier of fact” will consider the facts and render a judgment, which is out of the parties’ hands.

What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?

In mediation, a neutral umpire, or mediator, is simply trying to find common ground where parties can settle the dispute and move on. The mediator has no authority to impose a judgment on the parties and often the agreement or settlement may not reflect who is right and who is wrong.  

Arbitration is more formal than mediation, but less formal than trial. An Arbitrator will render a judgment that usually favors one of the parties. Often arbitration is binding, so the parties have no recourse to appeal the decision of the arbitrator.  
 
Better to get it settled in mediation.
What are the main steps in mediation?

A mediator will usually start by making the parties realize how unreliable the courts are with respect to finding a just solution.  A good mediator who understands the nature of the dispute will interview the parties alternately, gathering information from one party to encourage the other party to relax its position, and vice versa.  A good mediator has an extremely high success rate and will usually get parties a better and more amicable settlement than the “lottery” that often occurs in trial. 

What is the mediator's role?

The mediator is simply a facilitator, brokering an agreement between the parties by convincing them that their positions are precarious and a negotiated settlement is wise. 

 

Troubled Construction

How can you help me make a claim?

Claim preparation is a laborious, time-consuming and expensive process. It requires the claimant’s consultant to establish the facts of the claim, and thereby address “duty”, “breach”, “causation” and “damages”.  This is the information the claimant’s lawyer will require to convince the court that a breach of contract has occurred and that the claimant is entitled to compensation.  Usually, the cost of preparing the claim is not recoverable and so, often, claim preparation is not warranted.  A good consultant will be able to assess the likelihood of success and advise the Owner whether or not to proceed with a claim. 

I have received a construction claim. What should my first steps be?

The first step is always to consult a lawyer.  If you, as the Owner, have retained an Owner’s Rep, that person will obviously be the main source of information and will be able to advise on the steps to take to protect the respondent from unnecessary 

What is an expert witness?

An expert witness, professional witness or judicial expert is a witness, who, by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience, has expertise and specialized knowledge in a particular subject beyond that of the average person.  This knowledge is deemed sufficient that others may officially and legally rely upon the witness's specialized (scientific, technical or other) opinion about evidence or facts within the scope of his or her expertise. The testimony of this witness is referred to as the expert opinion, and provides assistance to the fact-finder.  Expert witnesses may also deliver expert evidence about facts from the domain of their expertise.