Today, more than ever, public decision makers are required to deliver the most efficient, effective, and safest facilities for the least cost possible. Many states and local jurisdictions enlist an Owner’s Representative for assistance with planning, designing, and constructing these facilities. These decision makers know that hiring an Owner’s Rep provides the most control of owner programs, budgets, schedules, and value.

While hiring an Owner’s Rep is not a new concept in the A/E/C industry, there seems to be a certain degree of confusion as to what constitutes a true Owner’s Rep in the criminal justice market, and the importance of niche experience and expertise when selecting a firm. To provide some understanding of the roles and responsibilities, as well as the value an Owner’s Rep provides, we’ve compiled a list of answers to some frequently asked questions:

1. Why hire an Owner’s Rep at all? Isn’t it an unnecessary expense?

Consider the following scenario:  You’re charged with a crime. You have the opportunity to serve as your own legal counsel and represent yourself in court. However, most likely, you’ll choose to hire a professional attorney. You make this choice because you know it’s in your best interest to hire someone who has dedicated their career to knowing the ins and outs of the law and possesses the expertise necessary to provide you with the best advice and representation possible. The majority of people simply do not have the knowledge, skills, or time resources available to achieve the same results.

Today’s facility owners face a similar dilemma. Capital projects in the criminal justice industry are unique in nature. Successfully managing the many moving parts involved is a time consuming process that requires the consideration of many factors. Most government agencies do not have the qualified staff to perform these functions on a specialized project such as a justice facility, particularly since the construction of a new facility does not typically occur more than once during a career for a public service manager.

Ensuring the process is managed as efficiently as possible requires in-depth knowledge of all phases of criminal justice facility development. This is where an Owner’s Rep comes in. Projects involving an Owner’s Rep will typically experience cost savings in excess of the Owner’s Rep fee.

Video: As Chief of Operations for the Richmond City Justice Center, Lieutenant Colonel Roy C. Witham faced a significant challenge – oversee the successful delivery of the City’s new $135M justice facility to replace the rundown and overcrowded Richmond City Jail. Hear his story

2. What’s the difference between Owner’s Rep services and Construction Management?

Construction Management is an effective tool in assuring cost and schedule control. But the process typically pertains to the management of the construction phase of the project only.

Owner’s Rep services can be utilized to manage every phase of the process – pre-design, design, construction, and post-occupancy. Overall project effectiveness increases by implementing Owner’s Rep services in the early project phases.

3. Does an Owner’s Rep provide Construction Management services?

Owner Reps can provide pre-design, design, and complete Construction Management services, but typically don’t act as a constructor. The Owner’s Rep makes sure the contractor meets the Owner’s needs by keeping the project on track, ensuring quality throughout construction, and preventing cost overruns or change orders.

4. Are Project Management and Owner’s Rep services the same thing?

An effective Owner’s Rep works to facilitate open communication during all phases of the project.

The Owner’s Rep is an independent consultant operating as an extension of the owner. They are responsible to the Owner for strict control of established budgets and schedules and assume responsibility for successful project completion.

PMs manage individual portions of a project, whereas an Owner’s Rep manages the overlying process, facilitating communication and ensuring all portions align with the Owner’s original project goals and operational mission.

 5. How is the Owner’s Rep fee derived?

The initial fee is a percentage of the overall project cost, based on the services provided. The resulting fee is dependent on performance; i.e., the ability to meet established budgets and schedules.

6. Is there an added cost to hiring an Owner’s Rep and an Architect/Engineer?

No. The services provided by an Owner’s Rep are a part of every project. The Owner would pay a planning firm, an architect, or a contractor for overall project planning, programming, construction planning, design management and construction management. One entity performing all of these services manages and maintains control of the project and prevents change orders, keeping the project costs down.

7. Many firms say they provide Owner’s Rep services. What resources must a firm have in-house to make this claim?

A true Owner’s Rep is a technical manager, an expert in all matters pertaining to facility development. To provide complete and effective Owner’s Rep services requires a firm to employ experienced planners, programmers, cost estimators, architects, engineers, and construction managers.

An Owner’s Rep serves as the Owner’s subject matter expert in every facet of the operation and the building itself and therefore must be familiar with all aspects of justice facility design, construction, and operation, with the proven ability to direct all the services necessary to complete complex projects.

8. What specific services does an Owner’s Rep provide?

The Owner’s Rep serves as the Owner’s advocate, managing and monitoring vendors on their behalf to ensure adherence to project goals and mission.

The Owner’s Rep serves as the client’s advocate throughout the project, directing all technical issues and providing the client the most control over the project objectives, budget, schedule and quality. While extensive in the possibilities that can be included, main categories of Owner’s Rep services include:

  • Needs Forecasting
  • Program Development
  • Program Validation
  • Team Selection and Procurement
  • Permitting and Community Relations Support
  • Budget Development and Oversight
  • Value Engineering
  • Cost Control
  • Subcontractor Selection/Management
  • Materials Procurement
  • Quality Control
  • Schedule Development and Oversight
  • Project Phasing and Logistical Planning
  • Design Management Oversight
  • Sustainability Management
  • Constructability and Maintainability Reviews
  • Construction Management Oversight
  • Owner Vendor Management
  • Furniture Fixtures & Equipment (FFE) Procurement
  • Relocation Management
  • Commissioning Oversight
  • Transition/Activation
  • Facility Maintenance Program Development
  • Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)
  • Project Closeout and One-Year Warranty


Las Colinas Women’s Detention and Reentry Facility, San Diego, Cali. Click on the photo to see examples of successful criminal justice projects utilizing Owner’s Rep services.

We are known for leading-edge planning and programming, innovative and award-winning design solutions, and responsive, cost-effective facility management. Our array of services defines us as the only professional services firm in the criminal justice market with the ability to provide true lifecycle solutions, ensuring the resulting total cost of ownership is the most efficient possible. Harnessing this wealth of expertise early on in the development process allows Owners to make the best, most informed decisions possible before any large investment or capital dollars are spent.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of hiring an Owner’s Rep? Reach out today: or (205) 914-4855‬.

How do we know?

Since 1981, Rick has provided owner’s representation, project management, architecture, and design services to justice and public safety clients around the nation. Rick is an expert at assembling large, multidiscipline teams and coordinating with public agency stakeholders to deliver well-designed, functional, and efficient justice facilities. He has worked on large-scale courthouse projects, detention centers, and correctional facilities that cost in excess of $100 million.

Meet the Author

5575Hiring an Owner’s Rep: What You Need to Know

J. Richard Davidson

Deputy Director of Justice Services

Rick has provided owner’s representation, project management, architecture, and design services to justice and public safety clients around the nation for over 40 years. As Deputy Director of Justice Services, Rick works to develop management strategies across departments, meet priority goals, and advise on strategic business development and corporate initiatives, driving CGL’s mission to provide exceptional services to clients. He is an expert at assembling large, multi-discipline teams and coordinating with public agency stakeholders to deliver well-designed, functional, and efficient...