If you are planning a new construction project in the near future, you may be curious about project and construction management services. Construction management services fulfill a number of vital functions that you may not be aware of. Most people that are outside of the construction industry don’t have a full understanding of what construction project management services are, what their function is, and what they look like on a day-to-day basis.
In this article, we’ll address the question that many people wonder, “what are construction management services?” Construction management is a complex topic and a field that is relatively new. Both of these facts lead to some degree of confusion surrounding what a construction manager’s role is and how that role is important in construction projects. We’ll seek to provide clarification about what construction management services actually are, and why they developed in the first place.
In the end, if you are planning a complex project, or simply have a desire to, you will almost certainly want to work with a firm that offers construction management services. Today’s construction projects are inherently complex and require a high degree of coordination between all of the parties involved. Construction managers serve in an oversight and coordination role, guiding the project from idea to completion. Through a mixture of high-level orchestration and direct guidance, construction project managers make projects come alive while helping to reduce the risk associated with construction projects themselves.
What Construction Management Is
Project and construction management services grew directly out of a need for high-level coordination on complex construction projects. Distilled down, construction and project managers coordinate and oversee construction projects from start to finish. This usually occurs from the moment that an owner approaches a firm with a potential project, all the way to turning over the keys for the completed project to the owner. Construction project management services, therefore, are usually an end-to-end service that handles the daily coordination required to complete a construction project.
Why is a Construction Manager Necessary?
The growth of construction management services and the establishment of construction management as we see it today stemmed from a very real problem plaguing construction projects. First, let’s get out of the way that you don’t need construction management services for every project. If you are rebuilding a deck outside of your house, you probably don’t need a construction management service unless the project is large, complex, and requires a high degree of engineering to complete. Normally, a general contractor themselves works directly with an owner on smaller projects to coordinate the project, including drawing up plans, ordering materials, and selecting subcontractors. While this works fine for smaller projects, as projects grow in scope they become more complex. At a certain point, coordination of projects is better left in the hands of an entity who is tasked specifically with coordinating the project itself.
This explanation still doesn’t get to the heart of why construction management services are necessary. To understand this a bit better, let’s break down some features of construction projects in general. Construction projects are inherently temporary, meaning that the project has a definitive beginning and end date. Within this time period, various resources are brought together to complete the project. These resources include labor and expertise, such as designers, architects, engineers, general contractors, and specialty subcontractors. Each of these entities has a role to play in bringing a project to completion. And each component of a construction project is usually completed sequentially, meaning a design must be finalized before supplies are procured, and supplies must be procured before a general contractor can begin work, or the framing must be done before an electrician can do what they need to do.
These are defining features of construction projects, and have been for as long as construction has been occurring. However, today’s construction projects are far more complex than construction projects in the past. Construction projects of the past had also been completed the same way they always had, which was generally without an individual aside from the owner serving in a coordination and oversight role. Construction management services grew out of a need to have a figure coordinating a project from end-to-end. What owners realized was that utilizing an individual or team in this role, that had extensive experience and expertise in the construction industry, allowed projects to be completed more efficiently. Costly delays were able to be avoided, and therefore the risk associated with the construction project itself was reduced.
This isn’t to say that construction management services completely eliminate risk. Risk will always be present in construction projects, no matter the level of care that is exercised in organizing and coordinating them. Rather, the reduction of risk stems from an individual or team that is adept at recognizing potential risks and seeking to mitigate them from happening. There is also simply a need for high-level organization on construction projects. Each entity in the project needs to have certain information in order to do their job. Delays regularly crop up from the stagnant flow of information between entities, and these delays have an impact on project cost and completion.
Construction and project management services also introduce a certain level of accountability into the project itself. The construction manager has a firm understanding of what work has been ordered and what the end result looks like. An aspect of construction and project management services is verifying that the work completed matches the work that has been invoiced. This may be a very small portion of what a construction project manager actually does, but it is critically important nonetheless.
What do Construction and Project Managers Actually Do?
At this point, you might be wondering what construction and project managers actually do. We’ve already outlined that construction and management services are intended to serve as an organization, coordination, and oversight function on construction projects. Each of these aspects of a construction manager’s job is crucial to project success, but what does this construction process actually look like on a day-to-day basis? Below, we’ll provide a basic outline of what the role of a construction manager may be on a construction project. Here, it is important to keep in mind that the role of a construction project manager can vary depending on the specific project and project schedule. Thus, there may be things that a construction manager does on your project that isn’t covered in our overview.
The first thing a construction manager does is sit down with an owner to hear about the project itself. An effective project manager must be an excellent listener, not just so that they accurately interpret the owner’s desired outcome, but also so that they can coordinate with the other entities involved in the project further down the road. Once the project has been assessed to be viable, the construction manager begins to create a strategic plan. This strategic plan provides the roadmap for moving forward with the project and will include the desired completion date and project budget among other things.
After a strategic plan is created, it’s time to get a design on paper. At this point, the construction manager will help assemble the designer and architectural and engineering teams. They will coordinate between these entities and the owner to create a design that meets the owner’s desired outcome for the project. During the planning and design stages of the construction project, the project manager will also seek any necessary permitting and entitlements. This critical step can be time-consuming in its own right, and it’s important to work with a construction manager that has demonstrated experience navigating permitting and entitlements.
Either during or after the permitting and any necessary entitlements are secured, the construction project manager will accept bids from general contractors on the project. Construction managers will then work with the general contractor to secure bids for any subcontractor or specialty work that is required.
At this point in the construction project, physical construction can actually begin. This is the riskiest part of the construction project, as delays have a tendency to crop up during this portion. There is any number of ways that construction can be slowed or halted, some of which, like weather, are outside of the construction manager’s control. One way of minimizing risk is by ensuring that all areas that are under the project managers control have been addressed. This includes clearly communicating to crews on the ground about what is expected of them, properly staging equipment and supplies to ensure that there are no delays resulting from shipping materials. This also includes identifying potential areas for delays and proactively addressing them before they become a bigger problem.
Much of a project and construction manager’s ability to identify and reduce risk comes with experience. In order to do their job effectively, construction and project managers must have extensive experience working on all aspects of a construction project. Many construction project managers come from construction backgrounds and use their years of experience gleaned from hard work to coordinate projects. One added benefit of this is that construction project managers often perform regular inspections of job sites to ensure that construction is keeping pace with projections.
While not every construction project requires construction and project management services, most complex or large-scale projects do. As projects increase in scale and complexity, it becomes increasingly important to designate a manager who is responsible for the project as a whole. This responsibility includes organizing the various entities that are required to complete a construction project, facilitating communication between the parties involved in a project, coordinating their efforts to ensure the project is completed as efficiently as possible, and providing regular reports to the owner to ensure that they are kept abreast of the progress on the project.
Securing project and construction management services is an essential component of many modern-day construction projects. Through their oversight and coordination function, construction project managers ensure that construction projects progress smoothly and efficiently, ultimately helping owners avoid costly construction delays. Construction managers can rely on their extensive experience in the construction industry to shepherd projects from concept to completion.
Once you make a decision about whether to utilize construction and project management services for your project, you’ll have to pick a construction management company to work with. This can be a daunting process for some, but there are a couple of tips to keep in mind. Always be sure to work with a construction manager who has demonstrated experience with projects that are similar to yours. You’ll also want to work with a construction manager who understands the local and state regulatory structures that you’ll be working under. These two tips can take you a long way towards finding the right project and construction management services for you. If you are interested in getting your idea for a project off the ground, please contact Gilliland Construction Management today to find out how our construction management services can help.
- Dykstra, Alison. Construction Project Management: A Complete Introduction. Santa Rosa, CA: Kirshner Publishing Company, 2018.
- Sears, S. Keok, Glenn A. Sears, Richard H. Clough, Jerald L. Rounds, and Robert O. Segner. Construction Project Management: A Practical Guide to Field Construction Management. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2015.
- Dewey, Joseph, PhD. “Construction Management.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2018.