Four Years Out, CMAR is Delivering Results in Missouri’s Education Sector

May 6th, 2020 - By

If you haven’t been in the commercial construction arena before, you might not know about the important decisions an owner has to make before even hiring a designer. The most important of these decisions is choosing which construction delivery method to use to, as the name implies, deliver a particular scope of work.

“Construction delivery method” is an industry term, which boils down to describing the type of contract under which the owner, designer, and construction manager operate. Traditionally, there was one choice: design-bid-build. The owner hires a designer, the designer creates building plans, the owner engages the low-bid construction firm, and the construction firm constructs the facility using the low-bid subcontractors.

However, owners and construction firms alike realized this method rarely delivered the best end product. Other, more collaborative delivery methods were created, such as construction manager at-risk, also known as CMAR.

In CMAR, the owner still selects and retains the design firm, and the designer starts with the early stages of the design process. Then, the owner enters into a second contract with a construction manager, based not on low bid, but rather on qualifications. The construction manager provides the owner with a guaranteed maximum price, or GMP, for the project, meaning the construction firm, and not the owner, assume the risk of any budget overages.

With both the designer and construction firm on board early on, they can work together to shorten schedules, solve design clashes before on paper rather than in the field, and go through the value engineering process. The construction firm can also provide early cost-estimating and constructability reviews.

Private companies have eagerly embraced the CMAR delivery method for their construction projects. Yet, with projects funded by taxpayer dollars — such as schools — it has taken a longer time to convince governments that low bid isn’t always the best option.

However, in 2016 the Governor of Missouri signed a bill allowing political subdivisions to utilize CMAR contracts for public works projects, including school construction. Nabholz has been working in Missouri for years, building some of the state’s top tourism and retail attractions, but this change in legislature positioned our firm to delve into the state’s education sector.

Altogether, over 90% of Nabholz’ $960 million annual volume is delivered through the CMAR system. This experience, paired with our history in Missouri, uniquely positioned Nabholz in the state for the introduction of public CMAR projects.

These factors led the Independence School District to award Nabholz with its 2017 bond projects, the first school construction in the state to be delivered under the CMAR delivery method. More than 85 percent of voters in Independence supported a $38 million bond issue that included renovations and additions to multiple existing schools, as well as new construction of an elementary school. Nabholz completed this work in 2018.


Next, voters in Jefferson City passed a $130 million bond issue, which funded the construction of a brand new 270,000-square-foot high school and renovations to the existing high school. The new school is on a 119-acre site and includes all new sports builds. At the current school, two buildings were adjoined with a connector piece. This is the biggest CMAR job for the state of Missouri to date.

In Lake Ozark, School of the Osage patrons supported an $11.3 million bond issue, with 79 percent of patrons voting yes. The bond issue will fund improvements to the District stadium, including constructing a new track, synthetic turf, visitor restrooms, as well as upgrades to existing bathrooms, concession stands and bleachers. In addition, the bond will include safety and security improvements at the high school. Nabholz added a new early childhood center to the district under the CMAR model, which is already up and functioning.


In Springfield, Nabholz was recently awarded the Hillcrest High School remodel and addition, a $24 million portion of an overall $170 million bond project. It is also the first CMAR venture for the district. Initial partnering sessions began in July 2019, with construction set to start in August 2020. The project is expected to be completed in August 2022. We were also recently selected to be the construction manager for Williams Elementary for SPS. This $17 million project is slated to start this summer and last a year.

Nabholz is also currently managing a $5 million bond issue for Forsyth, MO. This scope of work covers renovations, upgrading security, and add more classroom space to make room for special programs

Four years out from the initial approval of CMAR as a delivery method for public projects, it’s clear from voter response that taxpayers in Missouri are in favor of a more collaborative construction approach that reduces taxpayer risk. With decades of experience, Nabholz is more than ready to assume additional risk to deliver the quality educational facilities that will shape communities for years to come.

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