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The Various Roles of Owner’s Representation on Public Construction Projects

October 19, 2022

For almost 20 years, use of third-party owner’s representatives roles has become increasingly popular both in the public and private sector and across all segments in the construction industry. Generally speaking, the owner’s representative roles are central on the owner’s side and have a significant and direct impact on the success or failure of the project.

What are the various roles within Owner’s representation and project advisory?

There are a range of terms used to describe consultants who serves as owner’s representation and include: owner’s representative, project manager, program manager, tenant representative, and construction manager agent/advisor.  Because the myriad of terms used to describe the role of the individual or firm tasked with representing the interests of the owner throughout the duration of the construction project, misunderstandings about the scope of authority can arise. The basic scope of services includes project management, coordination, facilitation, oversight, monitoring, and project evaluation. However, across the spectrum of roles, there are several differences. For example, a Construction Manager as agent/advisor is a fee-based consulting role, just like the Owner’s Project Manager role. Also like the Owner’s Project Manger, the Construction Manager as agent/advisor role does not hold contracts for design or construction. However, where they differ is in their scope of services. The Construction Manager as agent/advisor has shared and often overlapping responsibilities with the contractor and designer. The owner’s representative often works alongside designers and construction contractors to observe, report, advise and coordinate progress.

In Massachusetts, what is Owner’s Project Management role responsible for and what duties does this role include?

On July 19, 2004, Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 193 of the Acts of 2004 inserted a new provision into M.G.L. c. 149, § 44, which governs public building procurement. The new provision, M.G.L. c 149, §44A ½ , requires public awarding authorities to engage the services on an Owner’s Project Manager on all building projects estimated to cost $1.5 million or more.

The duties of the owner’s project manager shall include, but need not be limited to, providing advice and consultation with respect to design, value engineering, scope of the work, cost estimating, general contractor and subcontractor prequalification pursuant to section 44D ½ or 44D ¾ when applicable, scheduling, construction and the selection, negotiation with and oversight of a designer and a general contractor for the project, ensuring the preparation of time schedules which shall serve as control standards for monitoring performance of the building project, and assisting in project evaluation including, but not limited to, written evaluation of the performance of the design professional, contractors, and subcontractors.

On private projects, the duties of an Owner’s Project Manager can vary depending on the private owner’s needs and resources.

When does an OPM get involved on a project in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts law requires that the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) be hired before the project designer, meet required minimal qualification standards, and be selected through a “qualifications based” selection process. The OPM acts as the awarding authority’s agent and consultant throughout the project from design through completion and must be completely independent from the designer, general contractor and any sub-contractors involved in the project at all times.

How are OPMs selected on Massachusetts Construction projects?

The law requires a “qualifications based” selection process, similar to a designer selection process that focuses on qualifications as opposed to lowest price. The law sets forth minimum qualifications standards for the OPM that require the OPM be a registered architect or professional engineer and have at least five (5) years of relevant experience in the construction and supervision of construction of buildings. In the event the OPM is not a registered architect or professional engineer, they must have at least seven (7) years of relevant experience in the construction and supervision of construction of buildings.

These are truly minimal requirements and awarding authorities ensure they retain a highly qualified and experienced OPM to serve as their agent and consultant by carefully reviewing OPM applicants to ensure they have significant relevant experience in the supervision of construction of the type and complexity necessary for the project.

It is critical that the selected OPM be identified as an individual within a firm and that the identified individual meets, and preferably exceeds, the minimum qualifications. In evaluating applicants, due consideration is given to the potential OPM’s personal experience, skills, existing workload, staff available for back-up and assistance, and prior direct experience providing services in both the mandatory tasks and any other additional tasks the awarding authority requires.

To learn more about OPM and additional Project Advisory services or to speak with an expert, contact us with your inquiry.

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