The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is modernizing the Arthur J. Altmeyer Building, the U.S. Social
Security Administration’s (SSA) headquarters in Woodlawn, MD. The $150 million project, funded by the SSA, involves
complete, comprehensive building renovations.
Aging, original building systems from 1959 and inefficient interior space utilization prompted the modernization,
encompassing repairs and reinforcement of the structural framing, new glass- and metal-panel curtain wall façade,
built-up roof replacement, blast-resistant hardening, energy-efficient building systems, upgraded stairways and
elevators, and upgraded security and landscaping. Work also incorporates sustainable design principles, efficient
space planning, innovative technologies, and contemporary interior design to transform the building into a modern
workplace. The completed building will meet LEED Silver standards, Interagency Security Committee (ISC) Level IV
security criteria, and increase building occupancy by approximately 50 percent.
CMc Delivery Method: Advantages and Challenges
The project, delivered via the Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc) delivery method, offers several advantages
to the project team. For example, CMc involves hiring a contractor (also called a CMc) during the design phase.
Contractor input at this early stage of the project adds value to the design, with an eye toward constructability,
cost, and sequencing. This early partnership between the owner, customer, and consultants also promotes a
harmonious, integrated team, which is key to optimizing the benefits of the CMc delivery method.
For the Altmeyer building, the CMc collaborated closely with GSA, SSA, the designer, and the construction manager as
agent (CMa) from the earliest phases of the project, advising on estimated cost, schedule, risks, sequencing, and
value engineering (VE) initiatives. This process helped the team define the right price for project components based
on market conditions, customize phasing and construction sequences, and capture direct input from trade experts.
While the design details were being refined, the team was able to commit to the overall delivery schedule by
authorizing early release packages and procurement of long lead items.
While CMc has been advantageous for the Altmeyer project, there can be difficulties in executing this delivery
method. First, an owner must identify a qualified contractor with the right mix of pre-construction and construction
phase skills. Though CMc tends to promote more harmonious stakeholder relationships, the designer and CMc are not
contractually obliged to one another, so conflicts over design intent and scope can still arise. Similarly, the CMc,
not the owner, holds the subcontractors’ contracts. This can make coordination and communication just as difficult
as in traditional design-bid-build delivery methods. The owner may even feel they have given up more control over
project decision making than expected. In addition, when the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) is initiated at the
concept design stage, assessing accurate cost estimation can be challenging because the project scope may lack
specificity, forcing trade contractors to base pricing on their interpretation of narratives. As the design
progresses from this stage, it is common for some scope changes to drive up the owner’s financial obligation.
Disagreements over change orders can lead to claims and disrupt the harmonious arrangement of stakeholders within a
Orchestrating the CMc Delivery Method
An experienced representative providing CMa services can help address the challenges but also optimize the benefits
associated with CMc delivery. On the Altmeyer Building, the CMa’s support included:
• Providing cost estimating services to support the development of the GMP.
• Reviewing the concept design to ensure scopes are clear with sufficient design specificity.
• Assisting GSA in identifying technically qualified firms with CMc experience.
• Coordinating among the trades and third-party testing firms.
• Conducting comprehensive risk analyses and management workshops.
• Validating the delivery schedule and identifying opportunities to improve schedule results.
• Integration of the commissioning process, third-party quality control testing, authority having jurisdiction (AHJ)
acceptance tests, and SSA’s furniture, security, and A/V systems.
• Implementing comprehensive quality assurance inspection and testing.
• Managing and conducting third-party commissioning agents.
• Independent auditing of actual costs through a third-party consultant.
Like any sizable project, Altmeyer experienced scope change throughout the design, threatening the GMP contract.
After the GMP contract award, between concept and design development submissions, the CMc estimated cost growth
approaching the entire GMP budget, leaving less than adequate budget contingencies for the remainder of the project.
The CMa worked collaboratively with the CMc to prepare a design scope variance report, showing the detailed scope
that was alleged new when compared to the previous design submissions. From there, the CMa assisted GSA with
analyses determining whether to classify each variance as “design advancement,” a routine change that should have
been part of the initial GMP; “design enhancement,” details that were increased in quality/quantity by the designer;
or an owner initiated change that was documented in the design but may not have been approved by GSA.
GSA and SSA further classified “design enhancement” and owner initiated items as “needed” or “nice to have.” Working
collaboratively, the project team then estimated rough order-of-magnitude costs to help decide whether to accept the
changes, which resulted in the voiding of some potential scope creep. Throughout this process, the project team
conducted VE workshops, where the team relied heavily on the CMc’s ideas. Finally, the CMa assisted GSA in
negotiations with the CMc regarding scope the team believed should have been covered in the GMP or accounted for in
the contingency. Ultimately, the team kept costs below the GMP budget and maintained adequate contingency for
Risks and potential cost changes had to be carefully managed throughout construction. Relying on trustworthy
partnerships established early, the team conducted advanced planning and workshops for known, forthcoming changes.
This included organizing and actively managing architect change bulletins to fast track negotiations and keep
construction progress aligned with the GMP delivery schedule. Through this approach, the CMc provided input on the
best construction options and coordinated the work early to minimize rework, resequencing, and schedule impacts. For
other potential cost impacts due to known project risks, the team tracked actions and followed up during frequent
risk workshops, attended by all stakeholders. These efforts were key to achieving a “no claims” project, and
negotiations were concluded to both the owner’s and CMc’s satisfaction.
Beyond cost success, the project is also tracking to finish on schedule. Security and IT/AV systems are currently
being installed, tested, and commissioned, with this phase expected to conclude in April 2021. Once furniture
installation is completed in May 2021, SSA will resume full use of the building.
CMa Best Practices
The CMc delivery method contributed to the cost and schedule successes on the project. Other firms supporting clients
through a CMc delivery can use the methods used on the Altmeyer Building Modernization to deliver their own projects
Identifying the right CMc for the client’s goals, carefully coordinating between stakeholders, conducting meticulous
cost estimations, engaging team members in a collaborative way, and leveraging the benefits of CMc will improve
project outcomes. Proactive assessment of risks and cost impacts throughout the design will help control changes.
When changes to scope threaten cost security or project progress, the team should collaboratively implement a
process for documenting scope changes, pricing impacts, and formalizing adjustments to the GMP. Cost analysis tools,
such as design variance reports from the CMc, will help to determine what scope was added or enhanced between design
submissions, and initiate the VE process. Identifying potential VE scopes after the design review process, assessing
cost and schedule impacts, and facilitating decisions will also improve cost and schedule performance.
Hill International Senior Project Manager Scott J. Borg serves as the project
manager and point of contact for the Altmeyer Building Modernization.