You may have heard of construction management before, but may not know why it’s necessary for construction projects. Not all construction projects require construction managers, further leading to confusion for some people that are outside of the construction industry. Projects that are smaller in size or scope often utilize a general contractor who functions in a manner that is similar, in some ways, to what a construction manager does. The truth is, there are significant differences between general contractors and construction managers, and the role of construction managers themselves is vital to bring about large, complex construction projects to completion.
In this article, we’ll explore why construction management is necessary for construction projects. There are many benefits associated with the use of construction managers, and these benefits translate to a more streamlined and efficient construction process. Construction managers are able to identify potential problems before they become big issues. Working with a construction manager will also ensure the owner that their vision will be reflected in the end product, without pieces of that vision lost along the way. Construction managers are adept at coordinating and overseeing all aspects of the construction process, giving project owners a full-field view of the construction process as it is occurring.
Understanding the importance of construction management requires having a better understanding of what construction managers actually do. Due to the fact that there are many misconceptions about the role of a construction manager, we’ll break down exactly what construction managers do to help bring a job to completion. This will, in part, help illustrate the importance of having construction management on large projects.
Construction managers help drive improved efficiency in construction projects. Efficiency isn’t usually a word that is associated with construction projects as a whole, and for good reason. Two common problems that many construction projects are going over-budget or over the estimated timeline for completion. There are many famous examples of this, including The Channel Tunnel and the Three Gorges Dam. But massive public works projects aren’t the only ones that suffer from budget and completion problems.
So, how do construction managers improve the efficiency of construction projects? First, let’s break down a construction project itself. A construction project is an event that has a defined goal and brings together all of the various resources that are required to complete that goal. This includes expertise in the form of designers, architects, and contractors, as well as raw materials and equipment. Each of these entities completes their designated part of the project, at which point they are done with it.
Construction projects also traditionally occur linearly, with design occurring before procurement, and procurement occurring before construction. This matters because delays often occur when one stakeholder in a project doesn’t finish their portion on time, or if they fail to provide the necessary information to other stakeholders in the project, it can produce delays that only continue to increase over time. This creates a ripple effect where one delay translates to a second, larger delay, which translates into other subsequent delays.
Construction managers help drive efficiency in construction projects through close coordination of all of the various stakeholders involved in the project. While construction projects generally occur linearly, construction managers will often have different stakeholders in the project involved at the same time. For example, a construction manager may have the design and engineering teams working together to finalize a design while they are also going through the bidding process for general and subcontractors. By having a deep understanding of the flow of construction projects and how to bring about the designed outcome, construction project managers are capable of ensuring that each group involved in a construction project are operating as efficiently as possible throughout the duration of the project.
A huge component of what makes a successful construction project is a communication between the various stakeholders in the project. This is an undertaking in its own way, and the importance of this is often underestimated. Communication is key between entities involved in a construction project. Poor communication results in costly delays, or an inaccurate translation of the owner’s vision into the real world. Either of these outcomes is not ideal, and avoiding both requires every entity involved in the project to be on the same page.
Communication between the owner and the project management team is the first level of communication. This occurs throughout the duration of the construction project but is especially important early on. From the first moment that the construction management team sits down with the owner, their ability to listen to the owner and clearly translate their desired outcome for the project into a strategic plan is essential. This strategic plan provides the framework from which the construction project will be completed. At any point during the project, the construction manager should be able to look back at the strategic plan and find a guidepost for how things should be going and what direction the project should be headed in.
Effective construction managers know that in order for each party involved in the project to do their job, they need to have access to certain information. One important aspect of a construction managers job is to facilitate communication between different groups involved in the project. This includes between the design and architectural teams, as well as between the engineers and general contractor. Construction managers that can quickly identify areas where the flow of information has stagnated can quickly address the issue and ensure that any costly delays are avoided. At the same time, by working with a construction manager that understands the importance of communication, owners will have a better understanding of the progress on their project from beginning to end. Construction managers regularly report back to owners to give them status updates regarding the project. It is through these that the owner can be assured that the project is moving along within the budgetary and timeline constraints and that the finished product is going to align with their stated objectives.
Keeping each of the various groups involved in bringing a construction project to completion accountable can be a challenging process. This is especially true if you don’t have a lot of experience in the construction industry, and fail to recognize signs that the work being invoiced doesn’t align with the work completed. We’d all like to think that each entity we work with will be reputable at all times, and by and large this is the case. However, even inadvertent mistakes can lead to costly delays. For example, if a general contractor fails to complete a specific portion of a project according to the project’s design, there will be costly delays associated with remediation. If this wasn’t caught early enough, it may be even more difficult to arrange for remediation steps without impacting the project timeline.
There are a couple of key ways that construction management provides greater accountability for each of the entities within the construction project. First is through a detailed reconciliation of invoices against work completed. Construction managers will check invoices against the stated work completed, and, if they find a discrepancy they will negotiate remediation immediately. Project managers know that sometimes mistakes happen. While mistakes are regrettable, it is important to identify them and chart a course to have those mistakes addressed as quickly as possible. The second way that construction managers enhance the accountability of other people involved in the construction project is through document retention. Construction managers actively retain all documentation related to the project and pass this on to the owner at the time the project is completed. If there is ever a dispute in the future, owners will be able to go back and find exactly the information they need quickly and efficiently.
When you decide to work with a construction manager, one of the reasons why you do so is because of the expertise they bring to the project. Effective construction managers have a high degree of expertise with the entire process of bringing a construction project to completion. Before going further, let’s define what we mean by expertise. What we mean is that in order to be effective, a construction manager must have a high degree of familiarity with each aspect of a construction project. Many people outside the industry wonder “is construction management engineering?” or “is construction management the same as a general contractor?” The answer is no to both of these, but a construction manager needs to have an in-depth understanding of the role of both of these entities.
Many construction managers come out of a background working in construction projects in various roles. Some may have a history of working with a general contractor or working as a subcontractor. Some may even be trained engineers, architects, or designers. In their role as a construction manager they may rely on this expertise to a high degree, but in order to do their job effectively, they must understand what each of the other entities in a construction project is doing.
Aside from having an in-depth understanding of each part of a construction project, construction managers must have the expertise to effectively identify risk. Accurately identifying and minimizing key areas of risk to construction projects is essential in today’s age. As the size and complexity of construction projects have increased, the necessity to be aware of the level of risk that is associated with the project is consequently higher. Effective project managers can identify risk and minimize it, but it should also be noted that risk can be reduced in other ways. One of these ways is through the process that construction managers themselves employ to bring a project to completion. Adhering to a proven process can help reduce risk by generating expected outcomes and realistic ways to achieve those outcomes within a given timeframe and budget. Every construction manager has a process to their work, and you’ll want to be sure to work with a construction project management team that utilizes a process that has been demonstrated to work on projects of a similar size and scale to your project. This will ensure that the project management team you are working with has the experience necessary to bring your project to completion as well.
Construction management services are often necessary for construction projects. A core reason for this is to avoid common negative outcomes that are often associated with construction projects, including going over budget and delayed completion. In this article, we’ve outlined a couple of the ways that we think construction management adds important levels of value to construction projects. Large-scale modern construction projects are inherently complex, and finding more efficient ways to bring about their completion ensures that budget and timeline requirements are met. A central component of construction management is its ability to improve the efficiency of construction projects. Through a high-level oversight and coordination role, construction managers can ensure that each entity involved in a project has a clear objective and all of the necessary tools and information they need to complete that objective.
Construction management ensures that each stakeholder in the project is held accountable for their required portion. This is important to ensure that what you are paying for is what you are getting. Identifying any issues early allows your team to seek out remediation without the need for costly delays. Along with greater accountability, the expertise of construction managers can be brought to bear on each specific aspect of the construction project, ensuring nothing is missed and everything is completed according to the strategic document. In this way, construction management fulfills an important oversight function that would otherwise be absent from the process. Lastly, construction managers facilitate communication between players involved in a construction project. This ensures that the owner’s vision for the project is clearly identified and adhered to throughout the project.
While we have touched on some of the core reasons why construction management is necessary, there are also many others. To find out more about how construction management services can help you create your project, contact Gilliland Construction Management today.
- 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.