The general contractor and the construction manager are key positions on a construction site and occupy an important place in the completion of the construction project. Though these two positions may look similar in scope and performance from the outside, they are different in many ways and you can find many differences between a general contractor and a construction manager.
Let us see the important points that bring in the vital differences that categorize one construction professional as a general contractor and another as a construction manager.
Knowing the difference between a general contractor and a construction manager will help one understand the nature of his duties and responsibilities in a construction project. As they are handling different roles in a construction project, they are responsible for different things and be answerable to the owner of the project in a different manner.
The fact that many general contractors also act as construction managers and vice versa makes it difficult to label a particular person as a general contractor or a construction manager. But by closely observing the facts like
- How they help in the completion of the project
- Their place in the overall organization of the construction project/ construction company
- Their core structure
- Their organizational structures,
- Their business relationships with owners,
- In their entry points to a project.
will help us in many ways to find if a particular person or an entity is working as a general contractor or a construction manager in a construction project.
A general contractor comes into the project early in the project as in most of the projects it is the general contractor who is entrusted with the starting of the project. When the owner of the project has finalized his requirements for the project, then his next task would be to find out the suitable General contractor so that he can entrust the entire project work to him.
In such cases, the general contractor is responsible for the entire range of works starting from the design of the structure to the completion of the building project and thus the general contractor comes into the project right at the start of the project and has his touch in every aspect of the project. His voice is heard at every corner of the project as he is responsible for each part of the project.
On the other hand, a construction manager is a person who comes into the project after the project has already started if the preliminaries are taken care of by the project owner. In a large construction project, it is common to see that the initial parts of the project like designing, estimation is done by the construction manager and then oversees a particular part of the project or handle the task of managing the construction part of the project.
By way of the organizational structures also there are many differences between a general contractor and a construction manager. Usually, a general contractor is a much larger entity than a construction manager and usually takes the shape of the legal business entity. A general contractor is a role that needs to take care of the entire responsibilities in a construction project usually employs a large complement of employees with specialized knowledge training and experience in conducting various phases of a large construction project.
As a general contractor is expected to provide right persons for each post on a construction project he usually has experienced foremen, superintendents and key construction professionals who will be taking care of every part of the project. These persons work on the worksheet and conduct each of their parts so that the entire project is completed as planned.
On the other hand, a construction manager is just an individual or a group of people with the necessary knowledge, skill set, training, and experience in managing a construction project by implementing the project design. They are simply construction professionals who are more qualified in taking care of tasks connected with the building activity in a construction project. As they are predominantly a group of people who are entrusted with the job of managing and handling the construction of the project, their group is often made by people who are trained to take care of the construction part alone.
In the case of the general contractor the team size is usually bigger and comprises of a diverse group of people who are well versed in different phases of the project right from the early planning stage to the ultimate completion of the project, Towards this the range of people who form the team of a general contractor has the right mix of people who come into the project as designers, estimators, suppliers, general laborers, subcontractors and skilled artisans like carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc.
Whereas the team of a construction manager is usually smaller in size and contains mainly the persons who are trained in administrative capacities. The construction manager is entrusted with the administration of the worksite and focused more on getting on with the project as its administrator the team of a construction manager is made of people who are capable of acting as estimators, accountants, project managers and general administrative and supporting staff whose responsibility is to help the project to be completed as per the plan by effectively managing the people who are actually doing the building work.
A general contractor has a pool of subcontractors to help him in various types of works on a sub-contract basis and for this purpose, he will be maintaining a team of subcontractors needed for the successful completion of the project. A general contractor has the liberty and freedom to select his team of subcontractors to do specific parts of the project. Usually, these will be the persons who will be doing the actual building of the project. These persons will be usually those who have worked under the general contractor on other projects.
Thus, the general contractor by choosing to have and provide his team of subcontractors and others into the project for helping the early and effective completion of the project with the familiarity he commands with the subcontractors and other members of his team with a higher level of cooperation and support through established operating procedures. Due to this, there will be a higher degree of loyalty, cooperation, and camaraderie among the team members.
But a construction manager may be a person who is appointed afresh to conduct the building process and hence he may not be familiar with the building team. As his work is limited to managing the works of other persons engaged in the building process he usually does not have the power to bring in or select his team of subcontractors and other people to work on the project.
Many general contractors are specialists in working on certain types of constructions like foundations, masonry works or framing in building construction. Likewise, many general contractors are specialized in constructing residential buildings only or commercial buildings only or offer their services to certain constructions for specific sectors.
But a construction manager is a person entrusted with just the management of the building process and can work in any type of construction project just taking care of the administrative part of the project.
A general contractor gets into the project usually through competitive bidding or a reference from an old client and hence they are third parties in the relationship to the owner of the project. He is an independent person who takes on the project for completion on a contractual basis and hence there is no employer-employee relationship exists between the general contractor and the project owner in the strict sense of the word.
But a construction manager is directly appointed by the project owner to manage his project usually as his employee. Hence the construction manager works under the project owner.
A general contractor works on a fixed amount out of the project amount and the general contractor makes his profit by completing the project work within the amount agreed to between him and the project owner.
A construction manager is usually appointed based on a fixed salary or fees and there is no question of making any profit out of the project execution. Their remuneration is fixed as a percentage of the total project cost and hence will be less costly to the project.
Thus, it is very difficult to know the difference between the general contractor and the construction manager and compare the other similar projects and closely follow the costing structure of both capacities so that you will be able to ascertain which one will be most suitable for your project.