A Comprehensive Guide to Construction Management

Learn the basics of construction management: its definition, advantages, functions, phases, and some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about this process.

construction manager talking to employees

Published 15 Aug 2022 | By Kevin Gausch, Leizel Estrellas

What is Construction Management?

Construction management is a professional service involving oversight and control over tasks and activities in the construction phase. Typically handled by a Construction Manager (CM), it covers all essential elements of the construction process, including its schedule, cost, quality, function, and safety. This service is ideal for large-scale construction projects such as industrial facilities, commercial properties, transportation infrastructure, and other capital projects.

Purpose

Construction management aims to deliver high-quality construction projects in the allotted time and budget while meeting safety standards and the owner’s expectations. It establishes systems and procedures to ensure all construction activities are completed according to plan.

For this to work, the CM collaborates with all key stakeholders involved in the project: owners, architects, engineers, and general contractors. They are also responsible for the following tasks:

  • determining what the project needs in terms of its construction;
  • developing and weighing proposals for construction materials, assets, equipment, and workers; and
  • aligning construction costs within the set budget.

In other words, construction management handles all aspects of construction work to guarantee its success and satisfy the client’s requirements.

Construction Management vs. Project Management: What’s the Difference?

Aside from the project owner, the top-level aspect of a construction project often involves two key players: the project manager (PM) and the construction manager (CM). These people work alongside each other to plan and coordinate tasks and provide status updates to the owner. While their jobs overlap with one another, there are striking differences between their duties.

The table below compares construction management and project management in terms of their scope, purpose, the expertise required, and responsibilities.

  Project Management Construction Management
Scope Involved in all phases of the construction project

Mainly concerned with the construction phase

Purpose Takes charge of project-related activities in the project Manages the construction aspect of the project
Expertise Overseeing the scope, cost, and schedule of the project Handling construction work and how tasks are completed
Responsibilities
  • Timeline and schedule monitoring
  • Budget management
  • Staff management
  • Inspections
  • Cost management
  • Change management

Benefits

It goes without saying that effective management is crucial when handling construction works, but how exactly does it benefit construction projects?

The primary strength of construction management lies in organizing workflows to ensure that tasks and activities go according to plan. This practice promotes a systematic order of carrying out jobs while avoiding disjointed processes. The latter, according to the most recent McKinsey Global Construction Productivity Survey, is one of the main drivers of poor construction performance. In other words, construction management improves overall productivity and boosts project performance.

The advantages of construction management also flow into other aspects of the construction process. In particular, it helps construction teams:

  • Save time and money
  • Optimize resources for a more efficient project delivery
  • Prevent, mitigate, and manage risks in the construction process
  • Build safe and better-quality infrastructure

Functions

Construction management consists of the following functions and tasks to fulfill the objectives and requirements of the construction project:

  • Cost management –track and control funds throughout the construction process to ensure it stays within the allocated budget.
  • Schedule management – map out and consistently follow a master timeline for construction tasks to complete projects on time.
  • Quality management – develop, implement, and monitor quality assurance and quality control protocols in all levels of construction work to meet the owner’s standards, purpose, and objectives.
  • Safety management – establish procedures to ensure safety within the construction site and building before occupancy.
  • Change management – assess, carry out, and document necessary modifications or alterations in the original construction plan.
  • Inspections – perform regular inspections throughout the construction process to verify its quality, safety, and legal compliance.
  • Documentation – maintain a record of all correspondences, procedures, approvals, and change orders throughout the construction process.

Phases of Construction Management

Planning

In the planning phase, the CM develops a construction management plan comprising all relevant information about the construction project. It informs project teams and stakeholders about the owner’s vision and goals for the project and guides them throughout the construction process.

In addition, the CM also carries out the following activities:

  • Collaborating with the designers of the project to evaluate and agree upon the feasibility of the owner’s objectives, targets, and specifications
  • Determining the delivery method suitable for the project
  • Assessing potential risks and setbacks during construction and devising strategies to avoid or mitigate them

Preconstruction

The preconstruction phase includes all necessary preparations before proceeding with the construction itself. The hiring process begins in this phase as the CM works hand in hand with the PM to choose the members of the construction teams.

Moreover, the CM also compiles the required documents for building permits and contractor bids, such as technical specifications, design drawings, and contracts for construction management.

Procurement

In this phase, the CM plans the procurement procedure for the construction equipment and materials in line with the project’s budget and schedule. During bidding, the CM will review all submitted proposals and negotiate the best terms for the construction’s goals and targets.

Construction

As mentioned in the previous sections, the bulk of the CM’s work goes into the construction phase. The CM pays close attention to the following construction activities to make sure the project runs smoothly and gets delivered as planned:

  • Conducting regular quality control and site inspections
  • Running safety program audits on the work premises
  • Processing and approving change orders
  • Managing costs and work payment schedules
  • Arranging necessary permits and insurance
  • Responding to Requests for Information (RFIs)
  • Coordinating construction teams for on-time completion
  • Documenting change orders, inspections, corrective actions, communication, and other processes

Close-Out

This phase marks the completion of the construction project, but the CM’s responsibilities are far from over. In the close-out phase, the CM accomplishes all items in the construction punch lists. They must also observe a smooth turnover to the project owner by submitting project documents, manuals, ledgers, and reports for the owner’s reference.

Tools and Systems

The complexity of tasks in managing construction projects calls for efficient solutions to simplify and keep track of these processes effectively. Listed below are some of the most common tools used in construction management.

Daily Logs

A daily construction log provides basic information about the day-to-day site operations of construction workers. It outlines relevant tasks, updates, issues, and other essential details for coordinating effectively across different workstreams. Some examples of daily logs include the following:

  • Communication logs – this document puts into the record all correspondences across teams for improved collaboration, such as phone logs, minutes of meetings, and more.
  • Delivery logs – this document notes all equipment and materials procured throughout the construction process.
  • Requests for Information (RFIs) – typically sent by general contractors, this document clarifies queries regarding contractual agreements, design plans, technical specifications, and similar topics.

Field Reports

A construction field report—also known as a site report, progress report, and inspection report—is a document created during routine site inspections. Through this document, stakeholders can have a clear overview of status updates, tasks, changes, and other relevant information observed in the construction premises.

With accurate field reports, construction teams can identify deficiencies before they worsen, avoid miscommunication among parties, and reduce construction delays.

Construction Management Software

To keep up with the increasing industry demands, construction managers have utilized the power of modern technology. A dedicated construction management software, in particular, is an excellent tool for digitizing time-consuming manual processes. This tool offers features to assist CMs in planning, scheduling, cost, and scope management.

With the help of this software, CMs can save time and effort from performing repetitive tasks and recalibrate their focus on the management aspect of construction.

 

FAQs about Construction Management

Listed below are the challenges and risks that construction managers typically face during the construction process:

  • Hectic schedule for the construction project
  • Multiple design variations
  • Inadequate planning for the construction program
  • Insufficient program scheduling
  • Recurring structural and similar modifications from the client
  • Unrealistic quality and performance expectations
  • Incomplete documentation
  • Inaccurate cost estimates for construction resources
  • Poor coordination among project stakeholders
  • Safety incidents in the construction premises

A construction manager (CM) oversees the entire construction work to ensure that the project meets its target schedule, budget, and quality standards. To achieve this goal, a CM performs the following tasks:

  • Monitoring and managing the construction phase’s schedule
  • Handling the procurement procedure for construction equipment, materials, and labor
  • Ensuring quality assurance and quality control across all construction activities
  • Handling and carrying out all changes as per the client’s request
  • Inspecting the construction site for safety and quality

Construction management requires the following skillsets:

  • Industry knowledge
  • Organization
  • Risk management
  • Delegation and team management
  • Communication with stakeholders
  • Adaptability
  • Negotiation

Project management revolves around handling and organizing tasks, activities, and procedures throughout the construction lifecycle. It aims to accomplish construction projects efficiently and in line with the owner’s goals by managing its cost, scope, and schedule.

This method goes hand in hand with construction management, which primarily deals with the construction process itself.

Customer Engagement Executive

Kevin Gausch

Kevin has a Lean and Six Sigma Black Belt from Villanova University and Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence through ASQ with a focus on the construction industry. Kevin has 13 years of Quality and Project Management experience in the utility contractor space, including; electric transmission, distribution and substation, gas distribution and pipeline, and telecommunications, both inside and outside plant. 16 years of construction experience overall.

Kevin has a Lean and Six Sigma Black Belt from Villanova University and Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence through ASQ with a focus on the construction industry. Kevin has 13 years of Quality and Project Management experience in the utility contractor space, including; electric transmission, distribution and substation, gas distribution and pipeline, and telecommunications, both inside and outside plant. 16 years of construction experience overall.