Construction administrators work behind the scenes Enormous impact on campus

Author: Robyn Pola

By Colleen O'Connor for NDWorks

They are not movie stars, but they have their own trailers on site. Their workweek is not 40 hours, but whatever time is needed to get the job done—and sometimes that means literally working around the clock and around the calendar, including Christmas.

They are Notre Dame’s construction administrators, Butch Layman, Ray Phillips and Chuck Hums, who together with their boss, Doug Schlagel, director of construction and quality assurance, all work out of the Office of the University Architect.

Together, they’re responsible for the timely and precise completion of all campus construction projects, including facilities, roads and sidewalks.

It’s difficult to find the right person for the job, said Schlagel. “It’s tough to find the right experience, the right temperament, and the willingness to do something a little differently, as the work of the construction administrator at Notre Dame is about managing a process and coordinating the efforts of several campus units as opposed to managing people. I could not be more pleased with my staff.” Between Layman, Phillips and Hums, they have 130 years of relevant job experience.

Typically, a project starts with design documents, which can take months to develop, and in some cases, be quite voluminous. For example, the design documents for the new ice arena are more than 400 pages in total.

All stakeholders of a project, for example, Athletics, OIT, Fire Safety, Food Services, etc., are asked to review the construction documents pertaining to their operation and sign off on them. The Office of the University Architect must convey up front what the project will look like at the end. “We can’t have someone say, ‘This is not what I expected,’” said Schlagel.

At the same time the drawings are created, a master schedule is prepared. According to Layman, “the schedule is very important at Notre Dame; many times, the academic schedule drives the construction schedule.”

“The end date controls the start date,” said Phillips. All campus projects MUST meet deadlines.

Once the documents have been fully approved by all concerned, and the Office of the University Architect is comfortable with every aspect, they are sent out to bid. “There are basically three forms of construction project delivery,” said Schlagel.

General Lump Sum Bid is the oldest form of contract delivery. Essentially, the owner (Notre Dame) separately manages an architectural firm and
a contractor. With Construction Management at Risk delivery, the owner hires an architectural firm and a construction manager who work together during the design phase to refine the project design and confirm the construction budget.

The construction manager assumes the risk, guaranteeing a price and budget before the project even begins. With the third form, Design/Build, the owner selects a single entity responsible for the architecture, engineering and construction. This
is the fastest method, as construction can begin before designing is complete. Notre Dame has utilized all three forms of delivery.

According to Schlagel, “the construction administrator is a traffic cop at an intersection with 10 roads.” He is a conduit between the contractor, the service providers and the user. It is about quality assurance, or as Schlagel says,“making sure we get what we paid for.”

Additionally, all four agree that safety throughout the process is a primary concern. “Nothing is worth a person’s life,” said Phillips.

The busiest, most compact time of the year is between the Monday after Commencement and Orientation day in August. There is not a minute to spare. Since May 17 this year, Layman, Phillips and Hums have individually overseen multiple student-related projects, such as the renovation of Stanford and Keenan residence halls. Crews are literally working 24 hours a day to complete interior bathroom renovation, new student room lighting as well as roofing repairs and window replacement.

Other summer projects include Lewis Hall interior work, Legends interior work, expansion of the Endowed Chair memorial, ground breaking for the new building for the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), road milling and paving as well as stadium repairs.

According to Layman, “There has been a job in the stadium every year for the past 14 years that must be completed before opening the season.”

Additionally, they are overseeing the ongoing construction of the new ice arena; renovation of the old Joyce Center Ticket Office for the Student Athlete Welfare and Development Office; renovation of the Grace Hall Development Office; Geddes Hall fourth floor build-out; and Harper Hall Cancer Research Center in conjunction with I.U. Projects they completed this year include Stinson-Remick Hall, Purcell Pavilion, Biolchini Hall and Ryan Hall