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The Difference Between General Contractor & Construction Manager

April 4, 2024
Osman Dadi
A construction manager and a general contractor are both key players in the Design-Bid-Build project delivery method, but they have different roles and responsibilities. In summary while both construction managers and general contractors play crucial roles in the construction process, a construction manager focuses more on the overall coordination and management of the project from […]

A construction manager and a general contractor are both key players in the Design-Bid-Build project delivery method, but they have different roles and responsibilities.

In summary while both construction managers and general contractors play crucial roles in the construction process, a construction manager focuses more on the overall coordination and management of the project from , while a general contractor is primarily responsible for the execution of the construction work.

Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them often depends on project-specific factors such as budget, timeline, complexity, and owner preferences.

General Contractor

A general contractor hires subcontractors, procure materials, to oversee the construction process of a project from start to finish. General contractors bid on projects based on a set of plans and specifications provided by the client or architect-engineer design team.

Once awarded the contract, they are responsible for executing the project according to the agreed-upon terms, including budget and schedule.

However, general contractors are rarely involved in the pre-construction phase, and typically do not offer input on cost estimates, scheduling, and construction methods.

Construction Manager

Exactly like a General Contractor, the Construction Manager hires subcontractors, procure materials, to oversee the construction process of a project from start to finish. However, the key difference between GCs and CMs are the latter role involves overseeing a project starting in the design phase, and seamlessly transitioning into the construction phases of a project.

A construction manager typically works closely with the client, architects, engineers, and subcontractors early in a project.  They coordinate the various aspects of the project starting in the schematic design or design development phase. The CM is heavily involved in the pre-construction phase, and offers input on cost estimates, scheduling, and construction methods.

In this manner, Construction managers often act as advisors to the client, providing expertise on construction methods, materials, and costs to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.

Additionally, construction managers can make recommendation and take action on pre-purchase packages, including early HVAC, Lighting, and Plumbing fittings orders.

Final Thoughts

  • Both construction managers and general contractors play similar roles in the construction procurement and delivery process.
  • A construction manager focuses more on the overall coordination and management of the project from within the design phase. A construction manager works closely with the client, architects, engineers, and subcontractors early in a project starting in the schematic design or design development phase. The CM is heavily involved in the pre-construction phase, and offers input on cost estimates, scheduling, and methods to get the project done on time and on budget.
  • A general contractor is only responsible for the execution of the construction work from the bid and construction drawings. General contractors bid on projects based on a set of plans and specifications provided by the client or architect-engineer design team, then hire subcontractors to procure materials and to oversee the construction process of a project from start to finish.

3 Comments

  1. Osman Dadi says:

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