For most construction jobs in residential and commercial settings, general contractors and construction management services are the two most common types of entities that consumers will interact with. They both serve much the same role, acting as liaisons and supervisors for construction tasks, hiring specialists or other firms as needed to complete the work. For more extensive operations, construction management services are the equivalent, usually with a central point of contact who oversees several workers. In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between general contractors and construction management services, talk about the typical kinds of things they do, provide some brief advice on when you may need to hire a specialist vs. a general contractor and offer some information on how to choose the right construction management company to suit your needs.
From the start, though, we should point out that not all general contractors or construction management services are equal. Depending on the region, competition, bonding, licensing standards, and other factors, the skills and abilities of one general contractor firm or construction management services firm to the next might vary considerably. As always, consumers are advised to do some basic research online as to the areas of expertise, work history, and reviews of any home or business construction management service before committing.
It’s important to understand a bit more about the differences between general contractors and construction management services. At the basic level, it is a question of scale. General contractors are usually a single individual, overseeing a small team, generally of in-house personnel or a few outside specialists. It’s rare that a general contractor would be handling multiple dozens of workers. That means they are usually the most common with residential and small commercial jobs. The most typical building, renovation, and construction tasks can be carried out by a general contractor, their firm, and any specialists they may hire.
In contrast, construction management services tend to be much larger firms. They may hire general contractors to work on a job, as a sort of sub-supervisors, and pool the resources of several general contractor firms while providing a single point of contact and liaison for the customer. At the same time, many more significant or more well-established construction management services are full-featured, one-stop shops, offering all the various general and specialty construction services that a builder or commercial property owner may need.
For most consumers, they are much more likely to be dealing with general contractors for their needs, just because most consumers don’t even have the kind of projects that would necessitate a larger team run by a construction management service company.
General contractors and construction management services can do pretty much anything with regards to residential and commercial property building, renovation, repair, expansion, and similar. For small jobs, a general contractor may merely work for himself, taking care of the task. More commonly, for situations that are a bit more involved, a general contractor serves as the prime point of contact or manager of the project and hires additional firms or individuals (or use staff from his firm) to complete the various aspects of the job. In a sense, they are managers, who also must be skilled in all the different trades that they oversee, at least to some extent, to know what personnel, materials, and equipment are needed, and whether the work provided according to the code and expectations for quality.
The same holds true for larger jobs, which are the domain of construction management services. Here, an individual, or a team of individuals, runs more complex job sites, using internal staff or external contractors and services, to manage the project and get the work completed.
In both cases, the general contractors or construction management service providers may be involved in an active role, doing some work themselves, or providing more managerial or supervisory tasks – it all depends on the firm, the job, the staffing levels, and similar. Most consumers will tend to interact with a single general contractor, who may have employees working for him, for most residential-type jobs. General contractors are hired typically for a wide range of services, including:
While both general contractors and construction management services hire specialists to work on areas like plumbing, electrical, and similar, consumers may sometimes need to refer to a specialist on a job, rather than leave it up to the general contractor or construction management services firm working the job. For example, highly customized work is an example of when specialists, chosen by the consumer, are usually called. A lot of time and effort between a consumer and a firm to custom design something (e.g., a custom fireplace, custom bathroom, or custom flooring, etc.) usually warrants the consumer integrating that specialist firm into the construction process.
That can be difficult in some cases, as some general contractors and construction management services quite rightly expect to be given a free hand to hire who they want to complete the job and act as the central point of contact and decision-maker for all aspects of the building project. At the same time, ultimately, the consumer who is footing the bill has the final say. If you retain the services of a specialist for complex or unusual work, it is not unreasonable. Just keep communication lines open between yourself, your specialist, and the general contractor or construction management service running the worksite. Discussion and planning up-front can avoid any turf wars or other conflicts on the job site.
Of course, most people don’t hire general contractors or construction management services companies on a regular basis. They are usually hired when there is a specific building project or job that must be done. Therefore, many consumers don’t have a great deal of experience in evaluating and choosing one of these construction management companies for their building projects. Below are six key areas that all consumers should use as a guideline when trying to select a general contractor, construction management service, or any home or office improvement or construction-type service provider.
From the smallest roadwork project to the significant building construction, almost any project can benefit from well-organized and skilled project management. Building project management services and construction project management services help to plan and execute all manner of building projects. They are essential to ensuring a project has the necessary people and equipment, stays on budget, and completes on time. Like project management in other fields, building project management services and construction project management services use various software programs, coupled with time-tested project management principles, to ensure projects go as smoothly as possible. They also tend to make the construction and building process more comfortable for the clients. As they reduce the points of contact for a client to have to deal with – a dedicated building project manager or construction project manager who coordinates with all the various personnel and suppliers, serving as a central hub of contact, is much more comfortable for most customers to deal.
Finally, building project management services and construction project management services can also help save time and money on most projects, despite the increased expense of retaining their services. Through solid project management, planning, scheduling, and communication, costly delays, inefficiencies, or rework can be reduced or eliminated. Ultimately, a building project management service or construction project management service can be thought of like queens in a beehive – organizing and orchestrating the activity of all the various other bees as they go about their tasks to make sure everything is proceeding optimally.
The terms building project management services and construction project management services are often used interchangeably and are one in the same thing, though there are some subtle differences. In general, a building project management services company may be limited in the types of projects they work on – that is, they are primarily concerned with the building of buildings and related tasks. A construction project management services company, on the other hand, may work more broadly, on both building projects as well as things as diverse as road and bridge construction, paving/resurfacing, road modifications and widening, excavation and installation of tanks or piping, watershed management construction projects, storm preparation or recovery projects, and many others.
So, while it is fair to use the terms interchangeably in most discussions, in general terms, a building project management company is probably not suited for non-building-related tasks, whereas a construction project management company covers the whole range of construction projects. One can consider them as a specialist in building projects vs. a jack-of-all-trades for construction projects, respectively. As always, it is best to do research and consult with a specific project management company to know their capabilities before retaining one or signing any contracts for a given building project.
Building project management services and construction project management services companies typically operate as consultants, though maybe affiliated with larger full-service building or construction operators in some cases. Regardless, while their sizes and expertise may differ, and depend much on the specifics of the job, they all generally offer services in the following areas:
As always, the specifics of a job dictate what kind of services a building project management services or construction project management services company must provide. Often, specific building project management services or construction project management services will specialize in certain types of projects – companies that only deal with building high-rise buildings or residential neighborhoods, for example, are common.
One of the essential services that they provide, which not explicitly mentioned in the list above, is the act of being a central hub of activity and reporting. The project manager becomes the “boss,” in a sense, of the various contractors, companies, or groups working on a project, and the client doesn’t need to get involved trying to manage or micromanage all these activities. The building project manager from the building, construction project management services company serves as the client’s point of contact, both flowing information to the client and decisions/directions from the client to the various personnel on the building project. It helps reduce miscommunications and confusion and ensures an orderly schedule and deployment of resources so that no one is working at cross-purposes and everyone is moving in lockstep towards the same goal.
Choosing the right building project management services or construction project management services company for a project can be challenging. Aside from the obvious consideration – picking a company that claims to be capable of handling a specific project –several areas should be investigated. These include:
Experience – do a building project management services provider has much experience in a sector, geographic area, or doesn’t, those are good indicators of whether or not building, construction project management services company right for a task.
Professionalism – all companies should interact with clients and project personnel in a respectful, professional manner, answering questions and providing reports on time in a professional way.
Equipment/technology – good building project management services and construction project management services companies will not need to reinvent the wheel for an individual building project. They should have all the equipment and software/technology necessary to manage a given project, and the systems and training in place to ensure that one uses it efficiently and correctly.
Ratings/reviews/testimonials – like most hired professionals and firms, reviews or ratings are often a great place to get more information. Testimonies or discussion with other companies who have used the firm is also often instructive.
Safety – all building projects can be dangerous, and safety should be a primary focus for any building project management services or construction project management services company. If they don’t prioritize or talk about safety and cut corners there, it is likely they will cut corners elsewhere – both bad things that can end up costing a lot in money and possibly human health and well-being in the long run.
Time and money – finally, the timeframe and time commitment of working with a building project management services company, and their fees or cost, are typically the most significant factors in deciding. It is worth noting, however, that the cheapest option is often not the best one, and all factors weighed before making a final choice.
In summary, building project management services and construction project management services companies are critical for managing building and construction projects. Even smaller projects can benefit from the multitude of organizational, planning, paperwork, monitoring, and communications services that a suitable building project management services or construction project management services company can provide. They help projects get completed on schedule and budget. As is often said, a failure to plan is a plan for failure, and expert project managers can handle the planning to ensure a project doesn’t become a failure.