Project management has quietly exploded over the past five years

The real estate recovery following the 2008-09 recession has been a boon to project management firms as large investors and governments have turned over responsibility for big developments to PM specialists.
Jean-Philippe Picard, managing director of project management for CBRE’s Western Canada operations, has seen the growth first-hand.
“The driver has been the bigger, more sophisticated players, the head office types who realized we need some support to address the ebbs and flows, but it doesn’t make sense to have somebody in-house to do that.”
Growth in project management has also been spurred by government stimulus funds in the post-recession years which have resulted in municipal government construction. Much of that has meant more work for third-party project managers.
“Because of the public scrutiny and because of the large influx of cash that municipalities received, they needed supplemental project management services,” he said.
“Those projects couldn’t fail; if they were late, the money disappeared. So in an effort to mitigate their risk, they did turn to the private sector for project management.”
CBRE biggest
CBRE operates one of the largest project management business in the country, with 245 project management specialists in major cities delivering 2,500 projects annually. The firm specializes in real estate projects such as interior fit-up, facility upgrades, restoration, new build, life-cycle renewal and relocations for private and public sector clients.
In 2010, the total project value under management was $1.4 billion, of which $780 million was delivered that year. In 2012, the total capital project value managed was $2.46 billion.
CBRE’s offering starts with clients seeking properties through its brokers or looking to build/renovate through its project management group. Clients would then hire CBRE’s property management group to run their properties and again use brokers to sell properties.
“It’s the full life cycle that we are able to provide,” said Picard.
More growth expected
The CBRE executive does not expect growth in project management to stall out any time soon.
“Project management is certainly here to stay. I am now seeing more and more clients that are a little smaller looking towards project management services. I think it will become the standard practice, the best practice in terms of project delivery.”
That expected growth stems from the reality most real estate investors do not have the expertise or inclination to manage the design-build or renovation process, he said.
“They are not in the business of building and they are not in the business of designing. They have seen too many of these projects fail because they were managed on the corner of their desk; it wasn’t a high priority and projects became over-budget and behind schedule and they are seeing the value that project management can bring regardless of the size of the project.
“Call me an optimist, but I see project management applied on a much broader spectrum of clients . . . to the smaller, more specialized clients.”
Calgary contained
Picard, who is based in Vancouver, left Calgary just days prior to the massive flooding that hit Alberta and returned at the start of clean-up operations.
“The city has done a tremendous job, and the citizens, too, at rallying together and volunteering to help at some of the restoration and cleanup projects.”
Picard’s Calgary-based team prepared for the worst prior to the flooding, setting up sandbag barriers at client sites and having staff on call to respond to any potential emergencies.
He expects Calgary and other provincial jurisdictions will look at the 100-year flood plain that forms the basis of its building design standards.
“People will be a lot more cognizant – I believe this broke the 100-year floodplain. In reality it is probably a little too early to be able to say whether or not the design is going to be changed. Just by virtue of the geography, it is something that needs to be addressed.
“I think the city may end up looking at ways to maybe increase some dikes, maybe look at ways to provide defence against a 200-year flood event.”
The firm shifted a number of employees from other cities to Alberta to deal with potential flood issues, said Picard.
“We were lucky that our major clients weren’t hit significantly. One of our clients was in High River and they were the ones that took the brunt of it.”
One of the firm’s High River project managers took his small fishing boat out on the flood waters to transport seniors trapped in their homes.
“He and his neighbour rescued about 50 people that afternoon,” said Picard.



Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

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Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

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