What are the Key Differences Between a Construction Manager and General Contractor?
By AIA Contract Documents
October 20, 2022
The terms “construction manager” and “general contractor” can seem interchangeable – even to people familiar with the construction industry. Yet, there are important distinctions between these roles. The most significant differences between a construction manager and general contractor come before construction on a project even starts. General contractors come onto a project after the design is already complete, whereas construction managers play a critical role in contributing to the design of a project. Here are a few examples of these preconstruction phase activities that set a construction manager apart from a general contractor.
- Provide Design Advice from a Builder’s Perspective. The construction manager is expected to advise the owner and architect on proposed site use and improvements, selection of materials, building systems, and equipment. The construction manager is also expected to provide recommendations to the owner and architect on constructability; availability of materials and labor; time requirements for procurement, installation and construction; prefabrication; and factors related to construction cost including, but not limited to, costs of alternative designs or materials, preliminary budgets, life-cycle data, and possible cost reductions.
- Recommend Scheduling, Procurement, and Sequencing. The construction manager is expected to provide recommendations about accelerated or fast-track scheduling, procurement, and sequencing for phased construction. The construction manager is also expected to take into consideration cost reductions, cost information, constructability, provisions for temporary facilities, and procurement and construction scheduling issues.
- Provide Cost Estimates. The construction manager is also expected to prepare preliminary estimates for the project while it is still in the design phase. As the design progresses, the construction manager is expected to update those estimates with increasing detail and refinement.
- Create a Procurement Schedule. The construction manager is expected to provide a procurement schedule for items that must be ordered in advance of construction. In some instances, the construction manager can also expedite and coordinate the ordering and delivery of materials that must be ordered in advance of construction.
- Provide a Subcontracting Plan. The construction manager is expected to provide a subcontracting plan for carrying out the work once the design is complete.
For more information about construction manager roles and responsibilities, click here.
AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.