Interview with Verity Commercial’s Senior Project Manager: Managing Projects in DC

Learn from Verity’s experienced project manager, Billy Frye, on managing construction projects in DC. Q&A on DC permitting, managing project and market challenges, and use of technology tools.

Currently, Verity Commercial is involved with two multi-family residential projects in the Ballpark District in Southeast, DC, totaling approximately 800,000-square-feet of new mixed-use development including over 700 residential living units. Billy Frye is Verity’s Senior Construction Manager on both projects. He has 15 years of experience in construction and project management and has completed projects ranging from $5 million to over $800 million for clients in the commercial, government, institutional, healthcare, educational, and multi-family residential markets.

Questions and Answers

Which part of the DC construction process can be the most challenging for clients?
Permitting. Many project schedule pitfalls can be attributed to the overall permitting process. In addition to Zoning, there are many agencies in DC to consider such as DCRA, DDOT, DOEE, DC Water, and Green Review, and navigating through the process is complex and time consuming. Having a project manager that understands the complexities of the DC permit process can reduce the client’s stress level, and save time and money. In addition to selecting the right project manager, I highly recommend using a 3rd party peer reviewer and a permit expeditor to initiate and push through the many levels of review.

What is a recent unique project situation you faced on a DC project?
Building near Nationals Park. We’re faced with many different site challenges not experienced in other areas of DC. We deal with regular street closures around the ballpark, three hours before and two hours after each game or major event. We’re constantly coordinating with the Nationals, DDOT, and adjacent developers/contractors for vehicular & pedestrian traffic modifications and road closures. Additionally, this area of DC is extremely busy with many construction projects occurring simultaneously. Coordination among the various development and construction teams is a must to make each project function efficiently.

As senior construction manager on two multi-family projects, what challenges do you face with residential construction in DC?
Market challenges. DC is in the middle of a building boom, so subcontractor trade resources are spread thin overall. Multi-family construction has a relatively small pool of contractors and trade resources that specialize in this product type. Finding the right team for your project is a key first step to any project. Then, selecting the “right” finishes such as kitchen/bath cabinetry, light fixtures and plumbing fixtures can be challenging. Availability, cost, functionality and appearance are all factors that must be considered to achieve success during construction and during leasing activities. Maintaining quality over a large quantity of living units is crucial and can be a difficult task for all involved. A defined QA/QC program is fundamental for the contractors and project manager.

What technology tools do you use to help manage your projects?
Eyrus for labor resource tracking and Multivista for photo-documentation of the construction process. Verity is working with these latest technology tools at 1221 Van Street and West Half Street projects. Eyrus is a real-time trade resource program that uses site based positional technology to identify who is onsite at any time and translates the analytical data into a valuable project management tool. By understanding the quantity of workers needed at any given time to successfully complete the project, Eyrus gives us an early indication of potential schedule concerns. Additionally, Multivista delivers relevant project photos that are correlated to the building plans, where the construction process is documented and tracked from construction start until completion. This is a key tool to assist with progress tracking and then later, is a valuable tool for property management and maintenance staff. They have the ability to determine what and where items are located within walls and ceilings.

In Closing

Managing a construction project in DC can be complex because of its dense population, traffic, tourism and events, construction, and required coordination of multiple DC agencies and stakeholders.

So before moving forward on your next DC project consider the following:

  • Hire a qualified and DC experienced project management firm to help simplify the complexity of a project and to deliver successful results.
  • Don’t underestimate the DC permitting process – in addition to a qualified project manager, consider bringing in a 3rd party peer reviewer and a permit expeditor.
  • Subcontractor trade resources can be overextended so hire project managers that use technology tools to help manage trade resources and project schedule.

Learn more about Verity’s project management services and how we can help you on your next project.