What is the difference between a construction manager and a general contractor? The two roles are very similar, and, in fact, can be performed by the same company at the same time. Contractually the two differ by the level of responsibility for the quality and performance of the construction  work. If you’re a general contractor who’s looking to add construction management services, this article will help you understand the additional services you’ll need to provide.

General contractor roles

A general contractor (GC) oversees and coordinates the day-to-day activities on a construction jobsite. They are also responsible for subcontractor management and workforce scheduling. In some cases, they may order materials and be responsible for ensuring that they get to the job site in a timely fashion. A GC usually finds out about a job after the design is complete. At that point, the project is sent out to multiple contractors for bids, and GCs recruit subcontractors to provide pricing for trade work. A GC may also have their own workforce that performs a portion of the construction work, like framing or concrete. The GC is responsible for finding and getting bids from quality subcontractors for all the trades in the building project. The GC communicates with the project owner, architect, and design team about potential construction challenges or changes to the work. They are responsible for managing the project’s construction budget, ensuring that the owner’s budget needs are met. If the contract is for a lump sum, the GC’s profit is the price of the work less costs. This provides an incentive for saving money and expediting the building project. The general contractor is responsible for ensuring that the construction project meets local building codes and that the necessary inspections are completed and passed. Often, the GC is held responsible when there are problems with work quality or the performance of subcontractors. The GC has a contractual obligation to defend the project owner from claims and help them if there is a problem with the work.

Construction manager roles

A construction manager (CM) is similar to a general contractor. In fact, general contractors can perform the role of construction manager if they are brought onto the team at the beginning of design. The CM is responsible for overseeing the all  phases of a construction project from the owner’s perspective. They provide oversight for quality control, code compliance, and project budget decisions. A CM is usually brought into projects at the very beginning of the design process. They provide valuable feedback to the owner and architect regarding the constructability of the project, budget, and scheduling. The CM is part of the owner’s project team and is generally paid a fee by the owner. They serve as the conduit between the general contractor and the owner and may provide additional services in the role of an owner’s representative. Their selection is not based on a competitive bid but is usually based on qualifications and their relationship with the owner.

Construction manager vs general contractor comparison

Construction Manager General Contractor
On board at beginning of design On board after design is complete
Paid a fee by the owner Profit is the price less costs
Oversees quality control, code compliance, design intent, budget, schedule Oversees quality control, code compliance, budget, schedule
May oversee project bidding Bids work and chooses trade contractors
Not responsible for the work Legally and contractually responsible for the work and its performance
Selected by qualifications, not necessarily price Generally selected by lowest bid
  General contractors looking to provide construction business management services will need to add skills such as design review, constructability review, preliminary budgeting, quality control, and project management. With these additional services, you can market confidently to project owners and provide them with a service that’s in high demand. Visit PlanHub today!  


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