Construction management 101: The ultimate guide

Construction management 101: The ultimate guide

Construction management (CM) is a long and extremely demanding process. It’s the foundation for every building project and the key to its success.

The main purpose of construction management is to sharply control and monitor the progress of a project in terms of quality, cost and time. It covers a wide spectrum of responsibilities and it spreads to many different fields (construction, engineering, law, software etc).

Read more: How to reduce construction delays by more than 20%

For that reason, the role of a construction manager is considered to be fundamental. To ensure a project’s progress, a competent project manager with a plethora of competencies and skills is required. Building projects are in constant need for last minute changes and in that aspect, a strong team leader who can maintain stability and facilitate the coordination between the team members is a must.

Without further ado, let’s have a close look at the core processes and principles of construction management. It’s going to be a long but very informative journey!


  1. Construction management definition
  2. Construction manager: Duties and responsibilities
  3. The role of a general contractor
  4. Construction management 101: The key functions
  5. Winning a construction project
  6. Construction management phases
  7. Construction management and scheduling
  8. Choosing the right construction project management software
  9. Construction progress documentation
  10. Construction risk management

Construction management definition

According to CMAA, construction management is ‘a service that implements specialized, project management methods to manage the design, construction and the planning of a project, from its start to its end‘. The project management process in construction can be extremely perplexed but its main core is always the same.

The coordination, planning, and completion of a project regardless of its type (e.g. commercial, residential, industrial, agricultural, heavy civil). Solid construction management requires good real-time communication between the various project stakeholders.

What makes construction management so challenging is the need for a thorough knowledge of a vast number of areas such as budgeting, business, law, and mediation. At the end of the day, though, the only thing that matters is the delivery of a successful construction project to the client.

Construction manager: Duties and responsibilities

Construction Manager Profile

In simple words, construction managers are the ones who are responsible for the project to proceed according to the existing plan. The primary mission for construction managers is to manage their project in a way that will ensure its completion on the agreed budget and time.

Furthermore, they should make sure that the whole project is complying with the set building plans, codes and other regulations.

As CMAA reports, a construction manager has up to 120 different responsibilities during the execution of a building project. These 120 responsibilities can be divided into the following categories:

  • Set the budget and run cost assessments.
  • Plan the work time schedule.
  • Select the right construction methods and strategies for their project.
  • Maintain a close and good relationship with the clients.
  • Negotiating contract agreements with workers and other project agents.
  • Take good care of the workers on site.
  • Work together with the numerous consultants of the project.

The role of a general contractor

The completion of the design stage signifies that the construction manager is now ready to search for the contractor who will handle the project. Matt Plaskoff, Founder and CEO of One Week Bath, explains that the typical responsibilities of a general contractor are to coordinate more than three trades on a project.

In an effort to provide some additional details, Matt Plaskoff highlights that general contractors’ responsibilities cover four vital areas:

  • Overall liability for the project
  • Coordination of the trades
  • Allocation of the resources
  • Problem-solving expertise when issues emerge

There are two types of general contractors. On the one hand, it’s those who will execute based on the vision of the architect and the designer. On the other hand, there are design-build contractors who are responsible both for the execution and the creation of the project’s design. It is apparent, then, that general contractors are playing a fundamental role during the building process and that their role varies depending on their involvement during the design stage of the project.

Construction management 101: The key functions

Every construction project has certain objectives that need to be met. It goes without saying that many times these objectives may overlap. In such cases, the role of a construction manager is fundamental. S/he is the one who will have to provide clarity in regard to the given objectives and prevent costly disputes that could hinder the uneventful progress of the project. With this in mind, we could summarize the key construction management functions to the following four:

  1. Clearly setting the objectives and the scope of the project. Planning also a massive number of different parameters such as scheduling, establishing performance standards, budgeting, and choosing the participants of the project.
  2. Improving resource allocation by ameliorating the procurement process and equipment management.
  3. Executing numerous operations as a result of the effective coordination and monitoring of the entire process (eg. design, contracting, planning, etc).
  4. Building strong communication channels in order to either avoid or resolve project conflicts.

Winning a construction project

The bidding process can be long and challenging. A parameter that can affect the perplexity of the bidding process is, of course, the total number of contractors who are bidding for the job. A bidding process starts when the project owner shares information regarding the project with contractors and subcontractors in an attempt to plead for bids.

First things first, cost estimation is built based on the available material take-offs and blueprints. Like that, a client can have an overview of the budget that will be required for the general contractor to execute the project successfully. There are two main types of bids that contractors can anticipate:

  1. Open bid: Open bids normally attract a lot of attention and they are very common when it comes to public construction projects. In open bid projects, every contractor has the opportunity to place an offer.
  2. Closed bid: Close bids are normally preferred in private projects. In this case, the client (the project owner) can invite a particular group of contractors to place their offer.

construction site management - construction site

As soon as project owners receive all bids, there are certain selection methods that they can follow in order to decide who will eventually get the project. The same selection methods apply both to open and closed bids:

  1. Low-bid selection: Price is the most decisive parameter in the first bid selection technique. The contractor who places the lowest bid is the winner of the process.
  2. Best value selection: This is a more inclusive selection method as the client is taking two distinct elements in consideration: the price of the bid and the qualifications of the contractor. In other words, it’s a value for money selection approach.
  3. Qualifications-based selection: Similarly to the first method, in this case, there is again only one decisive factor. But this time instead of money this time is qualifications that matter the most. Except for their bid price, contractors should submit a report that documents their experience, their workflow and the management plans that will allow them to keep the project within the set schedule and budget.

The final stage of the bidding process is the selection of the contractor who will execute the project. As soon as the contractor is chosen, the two sides (client and contractor) should find the payment model that fits better with their project. There are four distinct models they can choose from:

  1. Lump-sum: This is the number one choice in most of the construction projects. The client agrees with the contractor on a set price which the first should pay regardless of the project’s outcome.
  2. Unit price: When the two parties can’t agree on a specific price, a unit price is decided for every phase of the project.
  3. Cost-plus fee: That’s the most beneficial agreement for contractors. Simply put, in this case, the client is the one who should cover any additional costs during the building process.
  4. Guaranteed maximum price: There is a standard price decided by the contractor and the project owner which cannot be surpassed.

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