Construction project management can be very demanding. The typical project has a staggering number of moving parts, all of which need to be monitored and guided toward a successful closeout.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the processes, tools, and resources that make effective project management in construction possible. We’ll also provide some information for those looking to become construction project managers.
What is construction project management?
Construction project management involves using specialized techniques, tools, and resources to ensure a project’s successful completion.
Given the job’s broad nature, it should come as no surprise that project management in construction requires an understanding of many fields. That includes finance, business, resource management, contract law, and much more.
While project managers may not be involved in the minutiae of everything under their supervision, their primary objective of keeping the project on track demands some degree of familiarity.
Types of construction project management
There exists a strong need for management across all types of construction projects, including:
While exact responsibilities may vary depending on the sector, a strong need for good project management exists throughout the entire industry.
Areas of focus for construction project managers
The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) lists a staggering 120 responsibilities as falling under the construction management umbrella. These responsibilities fall under seven general areas of focus:
- high-level project management
- cost management
- time management
- quality management
- contract administration
- safety management
- team management
Let’s take a close look at each area.
High-level project management
At a high level, construction project managers are responsible for keeping things organized. Here’s what that looks like at each stage.
In the pre-design phase, a construction manager is responsible for creating a project plan and keeping information organized (often via software).
At this stage, construction project managers review design documents and distribute them to the necessary parties. They do the same for contract agreements, general conditions, and other important files.
Construction project managers will also typically be involved in the public relations aspects of the job during the design stage.
Project managers who work for general contractors oversee bidding and contracting during the procurement phase. This often means participating in meetings and negotiating with subcontractors.
Once a project makes it to the construction phase, management will be responsible for monitoring expenses, coordinating change orders, and ensuring the project is being completed to the client’s specifications.
This is, naturally, among the most intensive phases for construction managers. Savvy managers use the strategies we outlined in this post to get a better grip on things. They’ll also utilize construction resource management software to keep tabs on scheduling.
At this final stage, construction project management involves working with punch lists to ensure the client approves of the job in its entirety.
The next area of construction project management focus identified by the CMAA is cost management. Here are the common tasks at each stage.
Cost management in the pre-design stage involves conducting analysis to determine the appropriate budget for a project.
At this stage, a project manager’s cost management duties include reviewing estimates and monitoring expenses incurred as part of the design development process.
Aside from negotiating with subcontractors, project managers need to carefully analyze bids from a financial perspective to ensure costs are reasonable.
Once construction begins, project managers are responsible for maintaining a schedule of values. This is a document detailing the entire project, including its budget and how that budget needs to be split across the various activities.
The schedule of values dictates the entire project’s cash flow, so it’s a very important document.
A project manager will also handle change orders and determine their impact on project financials at this stage.
At the post-construction phase, a project manager’s financial responsibilities include preparing a final expense report.
Time management as an area of focus entails the proper scheduling, planning, and coordination of resources.
At the pre-design stage, management begins to give the master and milestone schedules their shape.
The aforementioned schedules are maintained and monitored by construction managers once a project enters the design phase. This will ensure the designs don’t conflict with the existing schedule.
During procurement, a project manager needs to ensure that subcontractors are able to complete the work in adherence to schedules created in the prior stages.
Effective project management in construction ensures that work keeps moving on-schedule. When issues arise, this means working to reschedule things as needed.
During post-construction, time management includes working with an occupancy plan to help clients fulfill their obligations to tenants.
Having all these factors you need to be mindful of while remaining on a rigorous schedule can be stressful.
Of course, completing work on time isn’t the only concern when running project management for construction projects. The work also needs to be completed at a certain level, which is where quality management comes into play.
Here’s what construction project managers do in the way of quality management at each stage.
Before designers get to work, a project manager needs to clarify expectations with the client, which will avoid wasted time. This is when a quality management plan should also begin to take shape.
Here, a project manager needs to review design submittals and evaluate them based on quality. There will likely be several project review meetings with various stakeholders to keep everyone in the loop.
When soliciting bids, a project manager needs to evaluate subcontractors to ensure their suitability from a quality perspective. This involves communicating the project requirements clearly with bidders so they can provide an accurate quote based on the project’s needs.
Throughout the construction phase, managers are responsible for overseeing and coordinating quality inspections and testing. They’ll also need to keep meticulous records of deficiencies and efforts made to address them.
Once construction has been completed, project managers typically need to have a quality review with the client. They’ll also deliver a final quality report complete with recommendations for things like future management of the structure.
Contract administration involves managing and enforcing agreed-upon terms. Here’s what that looks like on the project manager’s end.
Here, a manager will create the necessary communications procedures that will facilitate discussions surrounding contract administration.
When reviewing designs, a project manager will need to evaluate them based on the contractual agreement.
As you might imagine, there’s a lot to be done in the way of contract administration during the procurement stage. Agreements need to be reached and notarized with subcontractors while also considering contractual obligations with the client.
Additionally, the manager will need to issue a notice to proceed, which informs subcontractors when they are permitted to begin work.
During the construction phase, project managers create and manage documents as needed based on their contractual obligations. They also hold subcontractors accountable to their agreements and have a hand in securing permits, insurance, bonds, and other legal considerations.
Contract administration at this stage involves delivering on maintenance manuals, warranties, final permits, and more. When needed, project managers will also initiate contractor callbacks to address work that has turned out to be below-par.
Safety is a major priority on any job site.
Project managers at this stage ensure safety by laying the appropriate organizational foundation. This may involve assembling the beginnings of a staffing plan. among other things.
The project manager facilitates conversations between the design team and a safety coordinator. This is when the safety coordinator develops a solid understanding of the project and provides input regarding its risks.
This stage sees the project manager working alongside a safety coordinator to create a written safety and emergency response coordination plan.
Here, project managers work with the necessary compliance agencies and oversee safety submittals.
Once construction begins, a project manager needs to work with safety staff to ensure compliance is being enforced. Periodic safety audits need to be conducted, with relevant reports created to document the findings.
If a safety incident does occur, project managers will need to work alongside safety coordinators to address liability concerns.
Lastly, we have team management. A construction project manager plays a very important role in keeping the team working as a cohesive unit. This can mean tracking productivity, using collaborative construction software, and a number of other tasks.
A project manager’s responsibilities here are not limited to any particular phase, of course. Construction projects require teamwork at every stage and the project manager facilitates it by:
- coordinating workforce planning meetings
- keeping the entire team engaged
- monitoring productivity metrics such as workforce utilization
For optimal success, these tasks are typically conducted throughout the entire project.
Construction project management tools
The complex role of project management for construction would simply not be possible without dedicated tools and resources. Here’s a rundown of the most commonly-used tools in construction project management.
Construction management software
Digitization has taken the world of construction by storm. The most effective project managers leverage programs like the ones we discussed in this article to effectively keep tabs on everything.
Check out these case studies to learn more about how Bridgit Bench helps general contractors with project management.
Gantt charts help construction managers visualize the various resources required to complete a project. It’s a feature available within most construction project management software for small businesses.
Gantt charts are particularly useful for project management in construction because the industry requires a firm understanding of the dependencies between various resources and personnel. A Gantt chart lays that out very clearly.
AIA contract documents
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has an extensive collection of contracts available for construction professionals to use. These documents are so popular because they adhere to industry standards and drastically simplify the contract administration process.
You can find everything from change orders to certificates of payment, contractor-subcontractor agreements, and more.
Remote meeting software
One of COVID-19’s most profound impacts on the construction industry has been an increase in the number of employees working from home. As a result, companies have turned to software like Zoom for conducting remote manpower meetings.
Construction project management scheduling techniques
Scheduling is, of course, a very important part of project management for construction. Here are some of the techniques professionals use.
A Gantt chart, as mentioned earlier, offers a timeline visualization of your project. Each task’s start and end dates can be laid out conveniently, which helps you visualize the entire project and see which tasks are dependent on others.
Critical path is among the most popular construction scheduling methods. It involves identifying your project’s most essential tasks and basing your timeline on them. This will help you determine the minimum project completion time.
Line of balance
The line-of-balance scheduling technique is meant for repetitive construction projects (i.e. building a road or adding storeys to a skyscraper). It sees the construction project’s management allocating resources for each “loop” of the repetitive task.
By allocating resources efficiently, management can ensure future stages are not delayed.
Resource oriented scheduling
Resource-oriented scheduling is popular when resources are extremely limited. With it, project managers break the job into phases and assign resources to each one.
An advantage of this method is that it can help professionals identify and address resource gaps effectively.
Construction project management job requirements
Given how integral good management is to a construction project, it should come as no surprise that the job qualifications are extensive. Here’s what you’ll need to become a project manager at a construction company in North America.
You’ll typically need a construction-related university degree (BSc/BA) in a field such as civil engineering, project management, or construction technology. Project Management Professional Certification will also be a tremendous asset on your resume. For more information about construction career development, check out our blog, including the top Project Manager interview questions to prep for.
Many construction companies expect project management candidates to have experience overseeing some aspect of projects in the past (i.e. budgets). You’ll also need to have a solid grasp of industry standards related to health, safety, and quality.
Experience using common construction project management software for small businesses can be an asset as well.
People who thrive in construction project management roles typically have the following personality traits and skills:
- excellent communication
- ability to delegate
- ability to learn quickly
Knowing how to communicate effectively is one of the key qualities of a construction project manager, if you’d like to learn more about how to do this, you can check out this article: 6 Tips for better communication as a construction project manager.
Construction management wages and job prospects
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction managers receive a median pay of $95,260 per year. The position is also expected to benefit from an 8% growth in employment through to 2029 – much higher than the 4% average across all occupations.
Interestingly enough, management positions in other industries are expected to experience growth of just 3%
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies an increase in construction activity along with a move towards retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient as responsible for the tremendous expected growth in construction management employment.
Construction management job titles
Roles covering the construction project management responsibilities we’ve discussed in this article come with various titles, including:
- field engineer
- project engineer
- project coordinator
- project manager
- operations manager
- construction manager
- district construction engineer
Subtle differences exist between these titles thanks to the varying needs of construction companies. However, all are highly sought-after in the construction industry and relate directly to project management.
Construction project managers play a critical role in any successful job’s completion. We hope this guide has given you a solid understanding of what construction project management entails along with the tools and expertise that make it possible.
Visit our blog to learn more about construction and resource management.