Firstly, to answer that we need to understand two things:
The type of project you have
An understanding of what a Construction Manager does, their role, as opposed to, let’s say, a Builder or a Project Manager.
All three are professionals within the Property Development industry sector, however, whilst their roles may appear similar, even to overlap, they are quite distinct.
So, back to the question: Do I need a Construction Manager in 2022?
Probably not – unless your project is quite large, or you have several larger projects on the go at once. Construction Managers are typically appointed to manage the building side of big inner city hi-rise, or major Government projects. They are usually employed by big building companies [in other words ‘the builder] who may have a variety of contracts underway at once. This means they act as the builder but are not usually the building or prime contractor. Alternatively, if you wanted to take on the risks and responsibilities of a prime contractor or builder you might consider employing a construction manager.
The role of a Construction Manager
Construction managers are professionals who supervise the ‘construction stage’ of a new project. Their duties can include ordering construction materials, delegating tasks to a construction team and collaborating with subcontractors. They often work at the construction site in a site office, where they manage a team, coordinate materials delivery, and check for quality and safety during the building process.
Common Construction Manager activities include:
- Managing subcontractors
- Managing workers
- Supervising day-to-day construction operations
- Ensuring compliance with building codes and regulations
- Ordering & coordinating delivery of materials
- Maintaining & oversight of use of equipment
- Planning work schedules
What About Budgeting & Cost Planning?
Typically, Construction Managers are not involved with overall project budgeting or cost planning. This is more in the realm of a Project Manager. Because the Construction Manager’s experience is usually limited to building things they are often appointed later in a project, usually just prior to the construction stage, than a Project Manager. By then it’ll probably be too late to make changes to a project regardless of their money saving merits as plans will have been approved already. Nevertheless, the Project Manager will weigh the costs savings against the budget, the likely delay and disruption it may cause and any town planning implications that may result.
Construction Manager Vs Project Manager Vs Builder
So, whilst your project may not warrant hiring a Construction Manager, it may well warrant hiring a Project Manager if you are at all unfamiliar with all that goes on to bring your project to a successful timely conclusion. The scope of a Project Manager’s responsibilities are much broader and will include handling critical issues that any developer will either need to do themselves or hire assistance with. On smaller projects, experienced Project Managers can and do include some, not necessarily all, of what a construction manager may do, in collaboration with the Builder or prime contractor.
We’ve shown how the Construction Manager may only oversee the construction of the building itself, whereas a Project Manager will be supervising all parts of a project, from the initial design to the final product. In property development, Project Managers oversee the entire process of new building or development projects. This includes meeting with the client to discuss the initial plans, hiring a team and managing building documents. Project managers often create and implement the project budget, collaborate with the client, or project owner and oversee the construction team, including the construction manager if one is needed.
A Project Manager runs all aspects of the real estate project. A Project Manager’s job includes giving the construction manager and everyone else on the project, including the builder [to a limited degree] the tools and support they need to get the work done. He’s the team leader. He does all this on behalf of the project owner.
So, on smaller projects, a Project Manager may complete the duties of a Construction Manager. On large projects, these two professionals often work together to create new buildings. These roles share some similarities, but it’s useful to understand the differences.
The Role of The Builder
So, that now brings us to the role of the builder. The Builder’s role and responsibilities are very similar in most respects to that of the Construction Manager, except for a very big difference. Whereas most Construction Managers are employees, most Builders are an entity to themselves. They contract with the owner to build something. They are in business to make a profit for themselves, not the project owner.
This is significant. What may advantage an owner may disadvantage the Builder and vice versa. If there’s a cost saving to be had, it’s likely that the builder will benefit rather than the project owner, presuming it does not detract from the proposed finished project and complies with the building contract. Most owners don’t fully understand the intricacies of building, nor subdivision or civil works construction either for that matter. So, they just don’t know. It’s often said that ‘what you don’t know won’t hurt you’ but that may not be entirely true in this type of situation.
Once a contract has been signed the builder carries the risk of completing the task on time at the contracted price. One or two slip ups may lead to their planned profit turning into a loss. This can lead to pressure in many circumstances which in turn can lead to taking short cuts, omissions, oversights, and eventually, sometimes, disputes.
Most small project owners have little to no experience in property development or even building a home for that matter. They rarely fully understand the role between builder and client, frequently misunderstanding the builder as their friend or partner in the project. Yes, whilst it is a good thing to have a good relationship with the builder, you should understand that you are on opposite sides of the contract whatever the project is, whereas a Project Manager is on your side. Furthermore, the Project Manager’s role is very much broader than the builder’s, with responsibility in looking after and protecting the owner’s interests.