What is Construction Management?

Construction Management, or CM, is a service that uses specialized, project management techniques to manage the planning, design, and construction of a project, from its beginning to its end. The purpose of CM is to control a project's time, cost and quality. CM is compatible with all project delivery systems, including design-bid-build, design-build, CM At-Risk and Public Private Partnerships. No matter the setting, a CM's responsibility is to the owner, and to a successful project.

What Do Construction Managers Do? 

Every construction project features some amount of CM. However, professional construction managers (CMs) are typically reserved for capital projects which are generally lengthy, large-scale, high budget undertakings like commercial real estate, transportation infrastructure, hospitals, industrial facilities, etc. The project's commissioning entity is the owner. Few owners maintain the staff resources necessary to pay close, continuing attention to each of the projects details – yet these details can make or break a project. As such, these projects require a dedicated management professional. Construction Managers adhere to CMAA's Construction Management Standards of Practice which establishes industry standards of service and serves as a guide to the range of services that constitute professional construction management. To view CMAA's policy as it relates to safety and the CM, click here.

At its core, a capital project is made up of three parties (excluding the CM):
  • The Owner​, who commissions and subsequently funds the project.
  • The General Contractor, who oversees day-to-day operations and manages specialized subcontractors.
  • The Architect, who designs the project. 
These parties perform vastly different functions from one another, and in most cases, come from different organizations. The CM's job is to skillfully manage these three parties in order to deliver the project on time, at or under budget, and to the owner's expected standard of quality. It is important to understand that professional CMs are not general contractors or constructors. They typically do not perform the actual construction tasks themselves, but rather act as an advisor to or agent of the owner, charged with assuring projects progress smoothly and achieve the owner’s business objectives.
To control a project's time, cost, and quality, the CM leads a team of specialists. These specialists oversee different aspects of construction project management to include scheduling, safety, cost estimating, design, quality assurance, value engineering, commissioning, construction inspection, risk management, and more.

A Construction Manager is either a member of a capital project owner's staff, a consultant, or in some cases, a consultant/contractor hybrid. Most CMs come from a civil engineering background. Many of the top CMs also have extensive A/E/C industry experience as a contractor or architect. Construction management has always been unofficially practiced. However, it emerged as an independent profession in the late 1970's. Due to the growing demand for professional CMs, Construction management has developed into its own, unique academic discipline. CMAA has joined forces with international accrediting agency, ABET, to launch a criteria for undergraduate CM programs. This accreditation has already been adopted by several universities with many more schools in the application process. For more information about how to become a professional construction manager, view CMAA's CM Career GuideTo learn more about CMAA and its mission, check out the About CMAA page.

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