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In very broad terms, contractors are the organisations appointed by clients to carry out construction works.
However, this apparently simple relationship is complicated by the fact that contractors tend not to have all the trades required to construct a building in their direct employment.
This means that a contractor is likely to appoint a range of sub-contractors to build the works for which they have been contracted.
 Contractor appointments
Contractors can be appointed in a number of different ways, with varying degrees of risk and reward:
 General contractor, or main contractor
These are often appointed under a traditional contract to construct a development for which the design is complete.
Civil Engineering Procedure, 7th edition, published by the Institution of Civil Engineers defines a 'general contractor' as:
'...a contractor who undertakes the whole of the construction of a project, but usually in turn sub-letting parts of his work to specialist or trades contractors and others as sub-contractors'.
It defines 'main contractor' in the same way but with the qualification that this is distinct from a managing contractor or construction manager.
 Construction manager
The construction manager manages trade contractors, but the trade contracts themselves are placed with the client. This generally requires an experienced client.
A construction manager is generally appointed early in the design process so that their experience can be used to improve the buildability and packaging of proposals as they develop.
A construction manager may also programme construction to begin before the design is completed. This requires careful planning of information release so that the construction process is not delayed by lack of production information.
 Management contractor
This is similar to the role of the construction manager but the trade contracts (or works contracts) are placed with the management contractor rather than with the client.