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The Full Scope of Modern Construction Management

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It has been recognized for many years that the most powerful factor in influencing the outcome of a capital construction project or program is the way that it is managed. Not project delivery methods, technology, or inspections, but leadership, communication, and collaboration are what lead to successful projects.

The role of the modern construction manager is highly flexible, multi-disciplinary, and comprehensive.   

Yet construction management is still occasionally misrepresented or described in outmoded terms. They are often described as the person responsible for managing the subcontractors and supervising the physical, onsite work. However, this simplified portrayal fails to cover the many other things CM’s usually oversee.

This outdated view of construction management is more than just a matter of nomenclature. Owners who act on such obsolete perceptions risk denying themselves and their projects the full benefits of a powerful suite of professional services.

Contemporary construction management does not concern itself with simply the managing of materials and labor on the jobsite. The Construction Management Standards of Practice, published and maintained by CMAA since the mid-1980s, contains these separate chapters:

  • Project Management
  • Cost Management
  • Time Management
  • Quality Management
  • Contract Administration
  • Safety Management
  • Program Management
  • Sustainability
  • Risk Management
  • Building Information Modeling

Each of these chapters address a service within the role of a construction manager, ranging from pre-design to commissioning. 

In this more holistic view, the construction manager acts as the owner’s trusted advisor to plan and manage every aspect of a project. This understanding of the modern construction manager is crucial in project success because the overall business goals of the owner becomes that of the CM’s.  

These goals can include selecting the right project delivery method, arranging financing, generating bidder interest, advocating appropriate new technologies, managing stakeholder and public engagement, achieving sustainability goals, and others.

The results of adopting this comprehensive view of the CM’s duties can far transcend simply completing a construction project. Consider these recent examples:

  1. The new Acute Care Tower at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, required the CM to plan for early equipment installation, patient relocation, and staff orientation, all while maintaining a tight building schedule.
  2. The CM’s innovative outreach program for the Washington Heights Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas, resulted in the school district receiving more bids on this project than any other in its program. The CM also hosted seminars and one-on-one meetings to help contractors craft their best proposals.
  3. The Ordot Dump Closure project in Guam challenged the CM and GC to plan ahead and adapt through a series of violent tropical storms to eventually reach an environmentally acceptable outcome. 
  4. The expansion of the Afghanistan National Security Force Facilities, a six year, $1.4 billion program, required the program manager to direct 46 separate projects across Afghanistan: police and fire stations, military bases, universities, bridges, runways, and water systems… all carried out in the midst of an ongoing war. 
  5. The Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia, required the CM to manage multiple components with multiple design teams, consultants, and contractors, all while responding to owner scope changes driven by evolving market conditions. 

All of these examples portray modern construction management as it truly is: highly flexible, multi-disciplinary, and comprehensive. In these and other cases, the CM provided a degree of leadership beyond what any other project or program participant could have achieved.

Today’s professional construction manager is guided by the owner’s triple bottom line– the business, environmental, and social impacts of every project.


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