Last edited 28 Dec 2021

Construction manager

Construction management is a procurement route in which the works are constructed by a number of different trade contractors. These trade contractors are contracted to the client but managed by a construction manager (CM).

The employer places a direct contract with each of the trade contractors and utilises the expertise of a construction managers who acts as a consultant to coordinate the contracts. The trade contractors carry out the work and the construction managers supervises the construction process and coordinates the design team. The CM has no contractual links with the trade contractors or members of the design team. Their role includes preparation of the programme, determining requirements for site facilities, breaking down the project into suitable works packages, obtaining and evaluating tenders, co-ordinating and supervising the works.

Construction management differs from management contracting, in that management contractors place contracts with works contractors (equivalent to trade contractors in construction management) direct, whereas construction managers only manage the trade contracts, the contracts are placed by the client.

Construction managers are effectively acting as a consultant to the client, the client takes the risk for the trade contractors' performance. In legal terms the management contractor is acting as a principal whereas the construction manager is acting as an agent.

As the client is required to place and administer the trade contracts (of which there may be a large number) and perhaps to accept price uncertainty, construction management is only appropriate for experienced clients.

The construction manager is generally appointed early in the design process so that their experience can be used to improve the cost and buildability of proposals as they develop, as well as to advise on packaging, the risks of interfaces between packages, and the selection of trade contractors. Construction manager's are often appointed at the end of the concept design stage.

Appointing a construction manager enables some trade packages to be tendered earlier than others, and sometimes, even before the design is completed. For example, piling might commence whilst the detailed design of above ground works continues. This can shorten the time taken to complete the project, however, it means that there will be price uncertainty until the design is complete and all contracts have been let.

The services provided by a construction manager might include:

Construction managers are likely to be paid based on reimbursable costs (such as site facilities, staff costs, statutory fees, offices, and so on), and a management fee, comprising pre-construction and construction fees, which may be fixed, or calculated based on an agreed formula. It is important to establish what is included in the construction manager's price (for example, insurance requirements or payment of statutory fees) and to agree the limit of the construction manager's delegated authority in issuing instructions which affect the cost of the project.

As a construction manager performs a consultancy and management role (unlike a traditional contractor), their appointment may be on similar terms to the consultant team. They may be required to hold professional indemnity insurance and to provide collateral warranties for tenants, purchasers or funders, and collaborative working with the consultant team will be vital to the success of the project.

As construction managers tend to be appointed early in the project, their appointment is unlikely to include a completion date.

When is it appropriate?

What are the advantages?

What are the disadvantages?

NB: The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) created a new profession of 'Chartered Construction Manager' in 2013. CIOB's use of the term 'construction manager' is a much broader one than the contractual definition described above. They describe construction management as, 'Management of the development, conservation and improvement of the built environment'. This might involve any role managing construction activities, rather than the specific role of managing trade contractors who are contracted to the client.

DBWCTA c link construction payment mechanisms ebook.png

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings


To start a discussion about this article, click 'Add a comment' above and add your thoughts to this discussion page.

The Privy Council have given the Chartered Institute of Building consent to establish the Chartered Institute of Construction Managers as from March 2014. It is open for any member of the CIOB to exchange their membership to the CICM if they feel it is more appropriate.

In this and its related articles the title is wrong - it is about the Construction Management process - which does indeed include the appointment of a construction manager.

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again