If you have a project in mind, chances are you are exploring whether or not to utilize a construction manager and beginning the journey towards finding the right manager for your project. Understanding the duties and responsibilities of a construction manager can help inform this process by giving you a basic understanding of exactly what a construction manager is, what they do, and what they are responsible for.

Construction managers serve in a key role in construction projects. Throughout the design and construction process, construction managers are involved in nearly every decision, helping guide a project from concept to reality. The role of construction manager is distinct from the architectural and engineering teams, as well as the general contractor and subcontractors used for the completion of physical construction, yet performs oversight and coordination functions over each of these entities.

Due to the expansive responsibilities of a construction manager, this overview will provide only a basic outline. We will provide a broad overview of the construction process and discuss the responsibilities of a construction manager within the context of each of the phases in the process. As such, it is crucial to understand from the beginning that a construction manager will typically be involved in each of the things we go over, as well as many others. Also keep in mind that each construction project is different, and because of this the construction manager may have unique responsibilities from project to project.

What is a Construction Manager?

In projects, a construction manager occupies the highest level of responsibility. Construction managers exercise top-down oversight of a project from beginning to end. This means that construction managers will be involved in the design stages, help get the appropriate permitting, assemble the various teams that are required to complete the project, oversee the physical construction process, and close out the project at completion. Construction managers are, at their core, an entity that provides oversight for projects and organizes all of the various entities involved in a project to bring it to completion.

The job of a construction manager is to collect all of the required resources for a project and oversee that their team of employees utilizes them to complete the project as efficiently as possible. To do this, construction managers need to work closely with owners to assess the scope, budget and desired outcome of a project. This information provides the foundation from which construction managers work. They then work closely with each of the entities involved in the project to bring about the desired outcome.

The qualifications for an individual serving in the role of construction manager isn’t easy to pin down. Construction managers clearly need to have a firm grasp on the design and construction process from beginning to end. At the same time, construction managers must have an understanding of engineering principles, local regulatory requirements, budget and accounting principles, physical construction processes, and design and architectural considerations. Alongside these requirements, a large part of what construction managers do requires dealing with how to manage people effectively. This means construction managers must have a firm understanding of human resources, and must utilize this understanding to coordinate and exercise control and oversight of each of the various entities involved in a project.

Pre-Project Administration

During the initial phase of a project, an owner with an idea for a project in mind will bring a construction manager on-board. The owner and construction manager then go over the proposed project to assess it’s viability. This phase of the project includes tasks such as collecting information such as budgetary and timeline considerations. It is during these meetings that a strategic plan for the project is drafted. The strategic plan is critically important, as it provides the foundation for moving forward. Typically, strategic plans include budget and scheduling considerations, project goals and objectives, project design, and the desired completion date.

The pre-project administration phase is often overlooked, but much of the work that is required to bring a project to completion is done during this period. Think of this phase as the planning period, where the outlines of the project are discussed and agreed-upon and any legal hurdles to the project are surmounted. A project timeline is discussed and agreed-upon, and a project budget estimate is generated. At all times during this phase, the construction manager works closely with the project owner to ensure that their goals and objectives for the project are kept in mind at all times. Once a strategic plan is in place, construction managers will tour the actual construction site if one has been selected to determine its viability, assessing it for any environmental considerations and beginning to get a sense of the regulatory requirements for building on the site.

Design and Pre-Construction

Once the initial administration period is completed and both the owner and construction manager deem the project viable, it will move into the design and pre-construction phase. During this phase, a design for the project is completed and any necessary permitting is secured. An important part of what a construction manager does on a day-to-day basis involves coordination and oversight, and this is readily apparent during the design stage. In order to create a project design, the construction manager will bring onboard a design team and an architectural and engineering team. In the process of creating the project design, the construction manager will work closely with both of these teams to ensure that each has the information they need to complete their part of the project.

Either before or while the project design is progressing, the construction manager will begin working towards getting the necessary permitting in place. If the project requires any land-use entitlements, such as variances or zoning exemptions, these will be secured during the pre-construction phase. Keep in mind that permitting and entitlements can take some time, depending on where the project is being built and what type of regulatory or legal hurdles exist. In some cases, securing land-use entitlements can take months or even years. For complex projects, securing entitlements alone can absorb much of the pre-construction budget. During this process, the construction manager will ensure that all required paperwork is submitted to the appropriate authorities.

During the pre-construction phase, the construction manager will also work to procure the necessary resources required to complete the project. This is sometimes referred to as the procurement phase of a construction project. For the purposes of this article, we’ll consider it a part of the pre-construction phase. While these include assembling the design and engineering teams, it also involves accepting bids from a general contractor. Navigating the bidding process can be arduous, and construction managers are largely responsible for securing bids and ultimately selecting the general contractor that will work on the project. During this period the construction manager will also secure any specialized labor required to complete the project, such as electricians and plumbers.

Any necessary materials will also be secured during the pre-construction phase of the project. The construction manager will liaison with material vendors and suppliers to ensure that all necessary materials for the project have been ordered and are ready for when construction begins. Through organization and in-depth knowledge of the construction process, construction managers are able to streamline the procurement stage substantially, while also helping to avoid any costly delays that might be associated with missing or inadequate materials.

Physical Construction

One of the responsibilities of a construction manager is to ensure that all of the parties involved in the project meet their contractual obligations. This requires oversight of each aspect of the construction process, including once physical construction begins. The physical construction portion of the project is a time of greater risk, as unforeseen complications can quickly result in costly delays. Construction managers fulfill their responsibilities by assuming oversight of the physical construction process. Typically, construction managers will either occupy a space on-site to oversee construction or regularly tour the construction site to ensure that physical construction is moving along according to the project schedule.

Oversight of the physical construction process requires a construction manager to have extensive knowledge of the day-to-day realities on the ground. Through their expertise, construction managers can quickly identify potential problems and chart alternatives that minimize the impact these problems will have on the project timeline or budget. Any discrepancies between the work required and the work completed will be addressed throughout this time period by the construction manager, who will work with the contractor or sub-contractor to formulate remedies to the issues that arise.

During the construction phase, the construction manager is responsible for ensuring that the construction adheres to the project schedule. As such, construction managers are largely responsible for the workflow of the project. Effective construction managers are adept at time-management and identifying issues that can impact project completion timelines early on. As with any large-scale project, there are always going to be unforeseen issues that arise. For construction, these can include things like inclement weather or equipment malfunctions. Construction managers are responsible for addressing these issues as they arise, and minimizing the effect they have on the overall completion of the project.

Project Closeout

Once construction is completed, you may be ready to occupy the space, but there is still work to be done. After construction is completed one of the first things a construction manager will do is complete a walkthrough of the project, usually accompanied by the architect, to identify any issues that need to be addressed. This is known as a punch list. Construction managers then work with the general contractor to ensure that each item on the punch list is addressed in a timely fashion.

Once the punch list is completed and all physical work on the project is done, the construction manager will work with their team to assemble all of the documents required for project closeout. Construction managers will then verify that the closeout documents match the project requirements. If any deficiencies are identified, the construction manager will be responsible for ensuring they are addressed. Once the client has been forwarded all relevant closeout documents for their records, the construction manager will then work with the client to go over operation for any of the systems installed in the project.


As our breakdown of the responsibilities of a construction manager throughout the construction process demonstrate, construction managers are primarily responsible for organizing and coordinating all of the entities involved in bringing a project to completion. In each of the phases of a construction project, construction managers are responsible for overseeing and coordinating each aspect required for project completion. This begins with working closely with the owner to develop a strategic plan which will guide the entire project. The strategic plan includes budgetary constraints and a project completion timeline and will serve as a reference point throughout the project. Construction managers will then assemble the design and engineering teams and begin creating the project design, while also working toward securing any regulatory approval and permitting that is required.

During the pre-construction phase, the construction manager is responsible for securing bids from general contractors and selecting a contractor to work on the project. Any additional skilled labor required for project completion will also be secured during this time. Construction managers will ensure that all necessary labor and materials required for the project are secured, and then oversee the physical construction process once it has begun. Once construction is completed, the construction manager is responsible for ensuring that the work completed matches the contractual requirements. Lastly, construction managers are responsible for assembling all closeout documentation and forwarding these to the client.

Throughout both the pre-construction and construction phases, the construction manager is responsible for processing and tracking all invoicing by an entity on the construction team. Construction managers ensure that the work being invoiced was completed and matches the project requirements outlined in each member’s contracts. Lastly, at every step of the way construction managers are responsible for ensuring that communication is flowing between team members involved in the project. Through effective oversight, construction managers are able to streamline the process of bringing a project from concept to reality. Contact  Gilliland Construction Project Management today to discuss how a construction manager can help get your project off the ground.

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By Kirt Gilliland

Jan 07, 2019