Understanding the Difference Between a General Contractor and a Construction Manager
Whether you’re researching for a new project or looking to get into the construction field, understanding the ins and outs of all potential roles can get complicated. Construction projects don’t just get designed and built overnight, and sometimes there can be hundreds of people involved that bring a construction project to life.
The lines between General Contractor and Construction Manager can seem especially blurry because both are involved in coordinating a construction project, and sometimes a General Contractor can also serve as a Construction Manager. Even though that can be some overlap, we’ll break down the difference in each role so you can be prepared and fully understand if you’re looking for a General Contractor or Construction Manager.
General Contractor vs. Construction Manager
|General Contractor||Construction Manager|
|Hired through bidding process||Hired based on experience and credentials|
|Begins work after design process||Involved in pre-design phase|
|Builds entire project from beginning to completion||Oversees project from pre-design to completion|
|On job site physically construction entire project||Not involved directly on the job site|
The key difference between a General Contractor (GC) and a Construction Manager (CM) is that a GC will be a business entity, and a CM will be an individual. GCs are going to be hired as a 3rd party through a bidding process to manage the construction of a predetermined design, while a CM will work on behalf of the company owner and be hired based on qualifications to work on a project from design to completion.
While both are important to a successful construction project, it’s easiest to understand the differentiations by taking a look at each role.
What is a General Contractor (GC)?
A GC will be hired on to a project through a bidding process, where generally the lowest bid from the most reputable, trusted company would win the project. The GC will be working to complete a project within the projected bid, but if the project costs go over the estimate the company owner that hired the GC is completely responsible. This is why it’s vital to work with a trusted GC that you know will give you an honest estimate and work to stay within budget and time constraints. Conversely, if a project is completed ahead of schedule and under budget, the GC will generate a profit from the project, creating an atmosphere where both the GC and project owner need to have competitive pricing to work together.
While a GC isn’t involved in the pre-design process, they are still responsible for planning the project construction from beginning to completion. The General Contractor will approve and hire any necessary subcontractors or additional personnel required for the project, which is why a GC is typically a business entity and not an individual person. A full General Contracting company will have an entire network of specialists and subcontractors required to complete a construction project, and will work to ensure the right people are placed on the project to get the job done.
What is a Construction Manager (CM)?
A CM will be hired by the business owner through a process of evaluating experience and credentials. A CM is going to work based off predetermined fee, and a CMs fee will not change if a project goes over the projected cost or finishes early. Since a CM doesn’t need a design to craft a bid, they can be involved in the pre-design process and ensure the project is built out in accordance to the initial design. Because the CM isn’t “bidding” on a project, they are hired by the business owner because of their background and qualifications.
A CM isn’t going to be directly involved on the job site. Instead, they act as a project manager and oversee the entire construction process as a whole. While a CM is typically going to be one person, there are cases where a group of individuals will work together as one entity, typically involving a group of estimators, project managers and accountants.
Do You Need Both?
Whether you need a CM on a project is completely dependent on the project itself. In many cases when you’re working with a trusted partner, the GC can take on any important roles the CM would take. In some large projects, you will want a trusted CM to ensure the designs and plan for your project and being carried out correctly. It all depends on the size of your project and your individual needs.
Want to discuss an upcoming project with our team? At Green Heart Enterprises, we have an extensive project management team and seasoned general contractors that specialize in commercial construction and renovation projects. Contact us to tell us about your project to see if we can help today.