Everywhere you look, construction projects are underway – bridges, airports, schools, apartments, highways, hospitals, sports arenas. How do these complex projects come to fruition? Behind each one, there’s a qualified Construction Manager. From blueprints to ribbon cutting, the Construction Manager makes sure the project goes smoothly and finishes on time.
So, what does a Construction Manager do?
Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from development to completion. At a high level, a Construction Manager does the following:
- Plans the entire construction project with timelines and milestones
- Hires and manages subcontractors and staff
- Prepares budgets with an eye to maximizing resources
- Collaborates with architects and engineers
- Negotiates contracts
- Keeps construction workers safe
- Ensures compliance with local and federal construction laws
- Obtains necessary work permits
- Responds to construction emergencies or delays
- Ensures construction meets quality standards set in contract
- Reports to construction/property owner
According to the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), the Construction Manager has six areas of responsibility – tasks, cost, time, contracts, quality, and safety. Let’s look at each of these in more depth.
Before starting any type of construction project, the Construction Manager must carefully plan each stage to avoid unforeseen issues. Typically, project plans are divided into five phases:
Each phase requires detailed tasks and milestones, which are agreed upon by the Construction Manager, project owner, and other key stakeholders.
Construction Managers will often use construction management software to keep track of everything. Since this is a critical role for construction managers, Everglades University offers several courses to prepare its graduates, including Project Management for Construction and Managing a Construction Project.
Construction Managers must develop a detailed budget to prevent construction delays and insufficient resources. Although the goal is to plan for everything, experienced Construction Managers know to include a small contingency budget for the unexpected.
The budget should include hard, soft and site costs. Hard costs relate to the actual physical construction. For example, excavation and site preparation, plumbing, window and door, HVAC, mechanical, and electrical costs. This includes the cost of materials, labor, and equipment.
Soft costs are legal, design or management fees, insurance, financing, interest, and taxes. Lastly, site costs include land costs, surveys, permit fees, and environmental compliance measures.
Time is a very important factor for everyone involved, from the architects and project owners to the contractors and lenders. Construction Managers should have realistic timelines for each phase of the project. Not only that but have a mitigation plan in place if there are delays.
Understanding the applicable government building codes is critical to keeping projects on time. For example, plumbing codes may dictate restroom and water fountain requirements. Environmental restrictions may limit the type of HVAC system. If these are not considered, the timelines can quickly expand. The Codes and Standards course in our Construction Management program will provide the knowledge necessary to make good planning decisions and keep the project on track.
A major responsibility of the Construction Manager is making sure the contracts match the final product. Everglades University classes such as Construction Contracts and Construction Law will prepare graduates to handle these important topics.
Construction Managers need to document the answers to:
- How will contractors be evaluated and chosen?
- Who is responsible for approving and directing the work of each contractor?
- How will the contractor be monitored and reported?
- What types of inspections should be performed?
- How will each contractor be paid and financially audited?
- How will any types of records, such as contract documents and correspondence be managed?
The Construction Manager is responsible for implementing quality controls throughout the project. This avoids construction defects and other building failures. With so many people involved in a construction project, this cannot be overlooked. Quality management may include clarifying the scope of work with the project owner, processes for approving work by contractors, inspection schedules, and other systems to ensure consistency.
Worker safety is a high priority. Construction Managers will reduce risk for worker accidents by:
- Monitoring the project to detect any possible hazards
- Confirming the surrounding area and public are protected from the construction site
- Providing workers with proper training and safety education
- Managing the project in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
What types of projects does a Construction Manager work on?
Construction Managers can choose to specialize in a particular area or manage projects across sectors.
If the construction is for housing people, equipment or supplies, it would fall under this category. Single family homes, apartment buildings, and townhouses are examples. For new home construction, such as a development, this includes the installation of utilities such as electricity and water and sewer, as well as paving.
Institutional and Commercial Building
Typically, commercial and institutional building projects such as retail stores, shopping centers, and skyscrapers are commissioned by a private owner or company. Schools, medical facilities and sports arenas are often managed and paid for by both local and national government agencies.
Specialized Industrial Construction
Oil refineries, nuclear power plants, and steel mills are categorized under specialized industrial construction. Obviously, this requires a high degree of specialization and technological skill in construction, planning, and design. It’s usually carried out by industrial or for-profit corporations.
Infrastructure and Heavy Construction
Highways, tunnels, transit systems, bridges and overpasses, pipelines and drainage systems are examples of this category. This type of construction is typically managed by large private corporations and government agencies.
Where does a Construction Manager work?
The Construction Manager’s work location depends upon the status of their projects. They may have a main office but usually work from a field office at the construction site. This enables them to monitor the project more closely, be accessible to their team, and make daily decisions about construction activities. If they have multiple projects, travel between them is necessary.
Who does the Construction Manager work for?
While a Construction Manager may work for a construction contracting firm, government agency or an architectural or engineering firm, approximately 75% are self-employed. Self-employed Construction Managers must know how to generate their own business opportunities, market their services, bid on jobs, and work on a wide variety of projects. Here at Everglades University, we’ve recognized this trend and incorporated courses like Managing a Construction Business and Accounting Principles in our bachelor’s program so our graduates are fully prepared upon graduation.
Who does the Construction Manager work with?
Construction Managers work with a variety of construction specialists. They coordinate with architects and engineers early in the planning process and as needed for consultation. During construction, they oversee trade workers such as stonemasons, electricians, metal workers, plumbers, painters, landscapers, carpenters, and excavators. They also interact with lawyers and local government officials to obtain licenses and permits required by building code regulations.
For exceptionally large projects, there might be multiple Construction Managers who need to coordinate with each other. Often, each manager is responsible for a specific construction phase such as foundation preparation, land clearing, and installation of electrical, plumbing, and sewer.
What personal qualities does a Construction Manager have?
Now that you’ve learned about what a Construction Manager does, it’s helpful to know if your personality is well suited to this career. Here are a few personal qualities that you’ll need to have (or actively develop) to succeed as a Construction Manager.
Construction Managers are the hub of the project. Everyone on the team looks to them for direction, instruction, and priorities. Good writing and speaking skills are critical when communicating with employees, writing proposals, coordinating subcontractors, procuring materials and dealing with clients. Everglades University ensures that you get the foundation to be a good communicator, with requirements in English, Communications, Psychology, and Speech.
Calm Under Pressure
Construction Managers cannot be easily rattled by change or surprises. They must be on call to respond to emergencies, work around construction delays, and handle inclement weather. Construction Managers frequently work long hours, especially when a deadline needs to be met or there’s a delay.
Willingness to Learn
The field of construction management is always evolving, whether through new construction materials, advancements in sustainability, or methods of managing projects. To excel in this industry, you must have an open mind and be willing to continue learning. You may want to pick up the latest must-read books in construction management, obtain certifications or network with your peers.
What education does a Construction Manager have?
While valuable, work experience alone is not enough. Both clients and employers are demanding that Construction Managers hold at least a bachelor’s degree in construction management or a related discipline, like civil engineering. The industry has recognized that the increasing complexity of construction projects requires a comprehensive higher education. Sophisticated technology, new standards for buildings and construction materials, worker safety, energy efficiency, environmental protection, and the potential for legal risk have further complicated the construction process.
Construction Managers need extensive training in business and management applications as well as law, regulations, planning, design, theory and methods used in the construction field. A Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management from Everglades University provides the education required by today’s employers and clients.
Being a Construction Manager is a challenging, rewarding career. Find out how you can contribute to this exciting industry by contacting Everglades University.