Sunday, February 12, 2012

Construction Management: Misunderstood or just Overlooked?

Construction Management, a very old but untapped service that can save time, frustration and help control building costs.

Usually there are three parts of a building team, the General Contractor, the Architect/Engineer, and the Owner. 

Another part of the building team that seems to be overlooked by the Home Owner and Small Business Owner is the "Construction Manager".  Construction Management is "A special management service performed for the purpose of coordination and accomplishment of project planning, design and construction".

The Construction Manager is usually under special agreement with the owner.  However, architects sometimes offer construction management services under separate and special agreements.  Construction Management is not part of the architect's and engineer's basis services, but is an additional service sometimes included in their comprehensive services.

Construction Management is often practiced on extremely large building projects. One of the reasons construction management is used on larger projects is to permit the construction process to start while the design is still progressing which allows the construction manager to recommend construction options for better project and cost control and to allow the building project to be phased over a period of time.

These same construction management techniques are also available to home owners and small business owners for smaller projects.

Construction Management gives the owner the opportunity to act as owner builder (where the owner obtains his own building permit) instead of contracting with a General Contractor.  The professional Construction Manager can assist the owner in obtaining bids from licensed and properly insured subcontractors and materialmen.  The owner signs separate contracts for the construction of the various portions of the project thus saving the General Contractors markup on the separate contract prices.  These savings can be substantial on the average project. The trade off, however, is that the owner signs separate contracts instead of having a single contract with a General Contractor. The separate contracts are often broken into the following phases:

               1.            General Construction
               2.            Plumbing
               3.            Heating (Ventilating, Air Conditioning)
               4.            Electrical
               5.            Sewage Disposal (if applicable)
               6.            Elevators (if applicable)
               7.            Specialties
               8.            Other

The Construction Manager will then assist the owner in overseeing and supervising the building project based on a predetermined scope of services and written agreement between the Construction Manager and property owner.

The construction manager usually works on a fee based on a percentage of the total construction costs of the project.  Also, the Construction Manager is usually reimbursed for his direct out of pocket expenses such as telephone, photocopies, special travel related expenses, and for his direct salary expenses for any on-site staff the Construction Manager employs.

Construction Management fee generally ranges from 2% to 10% per cent of the construction costs. e.g., subcontractors, materials, supplies, equipment costs, and possibly permit fees  plus the Construction Manager's "reimbursable expenses" and "General Conditions" which are usually billed to the owner at cost.  Usually, the larger the project the smaller the overall fee percentage.  Some construction management firms work on a negotiated hourly rate or a predetermined fixed fee.         

The homeowner, business owner, or developer not equipped or interested in managing their own building project could benefit greatly from the services of a Construction Manager.

The most common ways of using an experienced Construction Manager are:
  1. When the Construction Manager acts as the direct agent for the Owner but the owner still assumes total financial responsibility for the project.  Here the owner maintains direct communication with the Architect, General Contractor, and Construction Manager
  2. When the Construction Manager assumes the total financial responsibility for the project.  Here the  owner maintains direct communication with the Construction Manager only.  The construction    manager communicates with the Architect, General Contractor,  and  Subcontractors.
  3. When a joint venture is formed between the Architect, Contractor and the Construction Manager.   Here the owner maintains direct communication with the Joint Venture entity. The joint venture  communicates with the Subcontractors.
  4. When the Construction Manager acts as a consultant to the owner and responds to the owners requests for assistance on building related matters.  Here the owner maintains direct communication   with the Construction Manager, Architect, General Contractor and/or Subcontractors.

Construction Management Companies are listed in the Yellow pages of your telephone directory under the heading of "Construction Management".  Some General Contracting firms have the capability of performing construction management services.

When selecting a Construction Manager or Construction Management firm request a written Construction Management proposal.  The proposal may include all or some of the following depending on the size and complexity of your building project:

  1. Master Planning services, which would include project Budget Information  and                 Scheduling.
  2. Construction Management Services, which would include Systems and Procedures, Cost Management, Time Management, General Consulting, Affirmative Action and Community Relations, and On-Site Management.
Some advantages of using a construction manager are:
  1. Knowledge and payment of actual costs;
  2. Direct control of Subcontractors and Material-men;
  3. Direct control of schedule; 
  4. Ability to negotiate directly with Subcontractors if changes in the work are authorized or if      unforeseen conditions are discovered; 
  5.  Minimize the threat of liens by paying subcontractors and material men directly; 
  6.  Having the option of using a General Contractor or doing the project as "Owner/Builder". 
  7.  Knowledge of  Owners and Contractors rights and obligations during the building process and proper transferring of risk.


  1. As a matter of fact, the construction management is all in the hands of the construction manager. First and foremost, he should be able to protect the client’s and the project’s best interest. Also, he must present strategies to reduce the overall project costs without compromising build quality.

    Lorenzo Hess

    1. Lorenzo, I appreciate your comment and I could not agree with you more. Construction Management and the Construction Manager can offer so much to the success of a project.

  2. I need to know more about the project management process in construction management. I want to get some good links for that.

    construction management

    1. First, I suggest looking at our "Managing Projects Better" section

      Second, I suggest doing Google search using "Construction Project Management" as the search criteria; and

      Third, you may be interested in either or both of our publications that have been written to give a good overview of the Construction Project Management Process

      Or if you have any specific questions please ask and I will do my best to answer or direct you.

  3. Concentric Project Controllers Consulting specializes in Construction Planning],
    Project Controls Consulting, Construction Scheduling], Construction Project Controls]
    providing clients with detailed quantity and pricing for all project phases.

  4. Very good article - I'm already using some of the things mentioned (without WordPress, I've wrote my own blog script), but couple of things sounds very interesting. I'll try to implement it and see how it will work and influence the commentators on my blog.

    Angela West

  5. Great post on learning how the construction contracts are broken down. Thanks for sharing!
    -Jana construction site cleanup

  6. Thank you for sharing the information.

    Construction is helping a lot in the development of the building. I would like to inform that I have recently came across a site called Miller construction who is providing the service of Preconstruction, Construction Management, Design/Build etc.
    South Florida Based Superior Design Build Company

  7. Construction management would be perfect for someone like me who is afraid of conflict. I have a hard time being the "bad guy" and speaking up when something isn't done how I want it. Thanks for posting!

    Lily |

  8. My dad's looking to expand his business to new locations. He's feeling a little overwhelmed by the construction process, though. I'll definitely need to show him this article. It provides some info that would really make the process easier for him. I think he'll especially appreciate the break down of the different phases. Hopefully he can find a good general construction company in our area. Thanks for the post!

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