Ask the Editor: What is CMAR? And other construction lingo

Infrastructure and development across Scottsdale and the Valley of the Sun appear to be in full swing after recovering from the Great Recession.

While construction slowed down during the recession, and slowly came back online, news coverage today regularly includes a variety of local development, infrastructure planning and the creation of tomorrow’s footprint.

Melissa Rosequist

The Scottsdale Unified School District is one local entity that frequently discusses these in-the-weeds construction projects, oftentimes using lingo unfamiliar to the everyday Scottsdale resident, as it completes its 2016 bond projects.

In a March newsroom discussion about the SUSD bond project of the moment, the potential of a rebuild or renovation at Cherokee Elementary School, a lengthy explanation of what a CMAR — or construction manager at-risk — is took place just hours before the local school board was to vote on a CMAR contract with Core Construction.

It’s not surprising the cacophony of construction acronyms confuses the every day human being whose daily attire doesn’t include a hard hat, and I have learned about the different construction methods and processes by learning on-the-job.

Basically, a construction manager at-risk is a collaborative process the school district, municipality or any owner of a project, can choose where a construction firm works simultaneously with an architect or other planning entity, versus staggering the different processes that go into a project. In a hard-bid process, a project owner selects an architect who designs the project. A bid is then advertised drawing interested contractors who submit bids based on the architect’s plans.

In the Cherokee Elementary project, Core Construction and Orcutt Winslow will work together in determining whether the school needs renovations or undergo an entire rebuild by undergoing a feasibility study.

Orcutt Winslow Architect Tom O’Neil explained March 19 to the SUSD Governing Board his definition of a CMAR:

“CMAR is a wonderful working relationship between you, the owner, the contractor and the architect collaborating from the very beginning for best value,” Mr. O’Neil said.

As reported in February, the City of Scottsdale used a CMAR process for its Raintree Drive Extension project, where the CMAR would review design documents for constructibility, phasing and scheduling, coordinate with the utility companies and develop a guaranteed maximum price for the completion of these improvements.

A guaranteed maximum price — also referred to as GMP — is a type of contract in which a ceiling price is put in place for that specific project.

In March, Scottsdale City Council approved a contract with Hunt Construction Group, Inc. with a GMP of $22,853,327 for the first leg of renovations at Scottsdale Stadium. A second GMP is expected to materialize for the second leg of work.

The Cherokee Elementary project is also expected to have a GMP put in place once the feasibility study is complete.

The last acronym commonly used by government officials when preparing for a construction project is an RFQ.

RFQ stands for Request for Qualifications — and sometimes is altered to be a Request for Information. This action is akin to the entity dipping its toe into the water of each project.

The first step to a construction project for the City of Scottsdale, for example, would be to issue an RFQ after design services have been completed to procure businesses looking to bid on the upcoming project. In an RFQ, available businesses who believe they could complete the proposed project submit materials outlining their qualifications, cost estimate and any other pertinent information to throw their name in the hat for consideration.

Once the RFQ deadline closes, a committee comprised of city or school officials and development professionals rank and evaluate the businesses who are interested in the project. From there, elected officials or the project owner would choose the firm best suited for the project.

These methods are used often in City of Scottsdale and SUSD as both organizations are stewards of public dollars, and seek to ensure choosing the best possible option before spending millions of dollars on any given project.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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