Job Descriptions, Definitions Roles, Responsibility: Construction Managers

Construction managers plan and coordinate construction projects. They may have job titles such as constructor, construction superintendent, general superintendent, project engineer, project manager, general construction manager, or executive construction manager. Construction managers may be owners or salaried employees of a construction management or contracting firm, or may work under contract or as a salaried employee of the owner, developer, contractor, or management firm overseeing the construction project. They may plan and direct a whole project or just a part of a project. The Handbook uses the term “construction manager” to describe salaried or self-employed managers who oversee construction supervisors and workers.

In contrast with the Handbook definition, “construction manager” is defined more narrowly within the construction industry to denote a management firm, or an individual employed by such a firm, involved in managerial oversight of a construction project. Under this definition, construction managers usually represent the owner or developer along with other workers throughout the project. Although they usually play no direct role in the actual construction of a structure, they typically schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes, including the selection, hiring, and oversight of specialty trade contractors.

Managers who work in the construction industry, such as general managers, project engineers, and others, increasingly are called constructors. Constructors manage, coordinate, and supervise the construction process from the conceptual development stage through final construction on a timely and economical basis. Given designs for buildings, roads, bridges, or other projects, constructors oversee the organization, scheduling, and implementation of the project to execute those designs. They are responsible for coordinating and managing people, materials, and equipment; budgets, schedules, and contracts; and safety of employees and the general public.

On large projects, several different management systems may be used. In the general contractor system, the owner hires a general contractor to manage all activities. Working for the general contractor, construction managers oversee the completion of all construction in accordance with the engineer’s and architect’s drawings and specifications and prevailing building codes. They arrange for trade contractors to perform specialized craftwork or other specified construction work. On small projects, such as remodeling a home, a self-employed construction manager or skilled trades worker who directs and oversees employees often is referred to as the construction “contractor.” In the construction management system, the owner hires a firm to oversee all aspects of the project. The management firm will then hire a general contractor to run the construction process and oversee construction of the structure. The major difference from the general contractor system is that the hired management firm, rather than the owner, works with the individual construction manager. In the design-build system, the owners, architects, general contractors, and major subcontractors are brought together to cooperatively plan and design the project. The design-build group may be from an individual firm or a conglomeration of separate entities. The construction manager participates during the design process and may be in charge of the construction project once the design is agreed upon.

Large construction projects, such as an office building or industrial complex, are too complicated for one person to manage. These projects are divided into many segments: Site preparation, including land clearing and earth moving; sewage systems; landscaping and road construction; building construction, including excavation and laying of foundations, as well as erection of structural framework, floors, walls, and roofs; and building systems, including fire-protection, electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning, and heating. Construction managers may be in charge of one or more of these activities. Construction managers often work with engineers, architects, and others who are involved in the construction process.

Construction managers evaluate and determine appropriate construction methods and the most cost-effective plan and schedule. They divide all required construction site activities into logical steps, budgeting the time required to meet established deadlines. This may require sophisticated estimating and scheduling techniques and use of computers with specialized software. (See the statement on cost estimators elsewhere in the Handbook.) They oversee the selection of trade contractors to complete specific pieces of the project—which could include everything from structural metalworking and plumbing to painting and carpet installation. Construction managers determine the labor requirements and, in some cases, supervise or monitor the hiring and dismissal of workers. They oversee the performance of all trade contractors and are responsible for ensuring that all work is completed on schedule.

Construction managers direct and monitor the progress of construction activities, sometimes through construction supervisors or other construction managers. They oversee the delivery and use of materials, tools, and equipment; and the quality of construction, worker productivity, and safety. They are responsible for obtaining all necessary permits and licenses and, depending upon the contractual arrangements, direct or monitor compliance with building and safety codes and other regulations. They may have several subordinates, such as assistant managers or superintendents, field engineers, or crew supervisors, reporting to them.

Construction managers regularly review engineering and architectural drawings and specifications to monitor progress and ensure compliance with plans and schedules. They track and control construction costs against the project budget to avoid cost overruns. Based upon direct observation and reports by subordinate supervisors, managers may prepare daily reports of progress and requirements for labor, material, machinery, and equipment at the construction site. They meet regularly with owners, other constructors, trade contractors, vendors, architects, engineers, and others to monitor and coordinate all phases of the construction project.