Role of the project manager in school property projects

All school property projects, no matter how small, must have a project manager. If the project requires building consent, the board of trustees must engage a professional project manager. As a project manager on a school property project, you will be responsible for managing project delivery timeframes, communication and information sharing and problem solving and dispute management. You must understand all the legal and Ministry requirements for school property projects.

For information about the board’s role, see Role of the board of trustees in school property projects.

Developing the project brief

The board should prepare the first draft of the brief, and then you will develop it into a more detailed document. If you've already been working with the school, such as under a long-term contract, the board may ask you to develop and manage the brief from the start.

In developing the brief, the board will need to consult with interested parties who use the buildings and facilities. These parties may include staff, students, parents, and community organisations that use the building.

For more about the board’s role in developing the project brief, see Role of the board in the early stages of a project.

By the end of the project, the brief will include:

  • a statement of the project’s purpose, objectives and audience
  • the project’s scope – the physical dimensions of the proposed building work, and initial designs and materials
  • a site and site works
  • a budget and budget controls, including prime cost and provisional sums, and the process for spending these sums
  • a project time frame on a Gantt chart that displays the project’s status, assignment of tasks and completion times
  • the people involved in the project and their roles
  • input from interested parties
  • any board delegations for the project (see: Boards role in early stages of a project)
  • reporting lines and functional relationships
  • risks and issues to manage during the project
  • design and construction documentation (see: Design stage)
  • a process for how to manage changes in the project (see: Construction phase).

The project brief will inform the procurement plans for the design and build, and will include:

Updating the project brief

After you add to the brief, send it to the board of trustees to:

  • approve
  • check that the project objectives are still being met.

Maintaining the project file

Before engaging you, the board of trustees should have set up a project file to store all documentation about the project. All documentation must be added to this throughout the project.

The project file structure could include:

  • a contents page
  • a schedule of documents sent to others, such as the Ministry or consultants
  • relevant school information
  • reports
  • plans and designs
  • the local authority and consents
  • budgets
  • invoices and payment records
  • warranties and guarantees
  • correspondence including emails and discussions records
  • the board minutes including project stages
  • conflict of interest records.

Store the file in the same place and ensure it is signed in and out if it leaves the project office.

Return the file to the board of trustees when the project is completed. They must keep the project file for the life of the building.

Managing the project control group

Working with the school representative

The board will appoint a school representative to represent the school’s interests and make sure the project meets the school’s expectations for learning and achievement. The school representative will be a member of the project control group with an oversight of the project. They will be your main point of contact with the school.

Working with the project control group

The board will advise you who they have appointed to the project control group, such as the:

  • school principal
  • board chair or board representative
  • school representative (who can be the same person as the board representative).

You should include others as they are engaged, such as the designer, engineer, quantity surveyor and contractors.

You will chair the group meetings to discuss progress and issues with the project.

You should distribute meeting minutes and monthly progress reports on all aspects of the project.

For the advice we give boards about the project control group, including the communication lines for the project, see Board of trustees roles in the early stages of a project.

Ensuring the board applies for police vetting for anyone who may have unsupervised access to students

Every contractor who is likely to have unsupervised access to students at a school during normal school hours must be police vetted. The school board of trustees is responsible for determining the conditions of access for contractors.

For more information about police vetting requirements, see Police vetting for school property projects.

Liaising with the board to get approval and sign-off at various stages of the project

You will need to seek board approval at various stages of the project.

This may need approval at a full board meeting. Factor this in to any timing as the board may only meet once a month.

The board may have delegated some of its powers and functions for the project, in which case the delegate may be able to sign off some project stages, which will speed up the process.

For more about board approval and delegation function, see Board of trustees role during the project.

Working with the board to manage conflicts of interest

A conflict of interest is a circumstance where someone’s personal interests, obligations or relationships may influence the performance of their position. A conflict of interest may result in an individual’s independence, objectivity or impartiality being called into question.

A conflict of interest can arise during procurement or at any time in the project.

You need to arrange for everyone involved in the project to sign conflict of interest forms and a confidentiality agreement.

See Conflict of interest management on school property procurements.

Completing the project management forms

It is your responsibility to complete the following project management forms:

  • School-led or Ministry-led Project Form
  • Building Update Form
  • Design Fees Release Form, if applicable
  • Procurement forms
  • Invoices

For more information about the forms and when to complete them, see Project management forms.

Managing the budget

You are responsible for budget management for school property projects.

The board of trustees will be provided with funding for its property project from one of the Ministry’s capital funding programmes.

The budget will be an item in the project brief.

For more information about budget management, see Project budgets.

Risk management for projects

Good practice risk management must be followed during the design and construction phases of the project.

You'll need to continually:

  • identify, manage and monitor potential risks (threats and opportunities)
  • react to issues when they occur
  • keep the board of trustees informed.

Risks and issues should be discussed at the regular project control group meetings and site meetings.

Depending on the level of risk/criticality of the issue, you may have to:

  • Adjust timelines to accommodate delays and work in with other project tasks
  • Look for ways to adjust the budget so that the project stays within budget, including making changes to specifications.

Before starting a large and complex project, it may be useful to hold a risk identification workshop with the project control group and relevant stakeholders.

Keep a risk register and an issues register

To manage major problems, keep a risk register and an issues register in the project file.

The risk and issues registers should record, as a minimum:

  • Identification date
  • The person managing the risk/issue
  • A description of the risk/issue
  • Potential impact on the project (risk)
  • Actual impact on the project (issue)
  • Responses to the risk/issue
  • The date by which you need to resolve the risk/issue

Managing the design stage of the project

You manage the design phase of a school building project. Boards of trustees provide the vision for the project and are involved at each stage of plan development. In developing plans, designers follow the Ministry’s Computer-Aided Drawing (CAD) specifications.

Your role in the design phase is to:

  • engage the design team
  • sort out the consultants’ contracts
  • liaise with everyone with an interest in the project
  • manage the budget
  • coordinate the plan development
  • fulfil any local council requirements
  • get the board of trustees’ sign-off for the plans.

For more information about your responsibilities during the design stage, see Design stage of school property projects.

Managing the construction phase of the project

Managing the construction phase of a school building project involves you, as the project manager, working with the board of trustees, the school representative, the supplier, the main building contractor and other parties as needed.

You are responsible for health and safety, managing project changes, and dealing with disputes and defects in relation to the project.

As soon as the contractors are engaged, organise a construction meeting. You should also organise weekly site meetings while construction is going on. Monitor the progress of the project during the construction phase to check that everything goes to the plan in the project brief.

For more information about your responsibilities during the construction phase, see Construction phase of school property projects.

Getting consents and meeting other local council requirements

Getting consents and meeting other local council requirements are part of your role for school property projects. Consents might include building consent and resource consent. The council may also require a traffic impact assessment and/or a cultural impact assessment are done for the project.

For more information, see Local council requirements.

Closing the project

It is your responsibility to do the following tasks to close the project:

  • Do a final inspection
  • Manage the defects liability period
  • Get council sign-off
  • Send the final documentation to the Ministry
  • Collect the building and product warranties and hand them to the board

For more information about your responsibilities when closing a project, see Closing projects.

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