Construction Project Management Simplified: Everything You Need to Know

Everything you need to know about Construction Project Management

The construction industry is very vast and continuously changing. If we glance at our surroundings, we can see roads, hospitals, homes, offices, schools, and other buildings. All of these are the results of the construction works. Construction managers, architects, designers, engineers wouldn't have a job if it weren't for the construction industry.

According to the survey, the global construction industry reached a value of $12,744.4 billion in 2019 with an annual CAGR of 6.1% from the year 2015. These numbers clearly state that construction is a giant industry whose value is increasing day by day.

For an average observer, it will be just a construction. But only those involved understand the complex nature of the construction process. Professionals like dentists, doctors, and lawyers contribute to the community in many ways visible to ordinary people, but so does the construction industry. Its contribution to the world has been incremental yet not much visible.

If it were not for the construction industry and architects, engineers and project managers, construction workers, the above profession wouldn't have an office to sit or a roof above their head.

» What is Construction Project Management?

Construction project management definition can be stated as planning, scheduling, monitoring, and evaluating construction-based activities to do specific goals and objectives.

Construction project management ensures effective allocation of resources such as labor, material, cost, and time in a manner that cut costs and risk and maximize customer satisfaction.

Yet, both construction project management and construction project managers are underrated in this industry. Let's look around the world's best architecture, from the Empire State Building in New York to Space Needle in Seattle. These buildings are famous for their designers, architects, or lead engineers but not the construction project managers.

Even the best architectural design in the world or the most complex engineering is just a piece of paper or idea because it won't turn itself into reality; construction does.

And this is where the project management for construction plays a vital role. Construction project management is a field that holds together all the teams from engineering, architectural, design, and labors teams and makes them work together efficiently.

Construction project managers play a vital role in completing the project, but it gets fewer or no recognition in many cases.

As you read further, you will understand what it takes to be a construction project manager and decide whether it is the right field for you.

» Roles and Responsibilities of Construction Project Manager:

As stated earlier, the construction field is too complicated. The construction project manager’s roles and responsibilities will differ according to the company and project size. But the general duties of PM include:

Interpretation of plan and documents to create the cost estimates and get it approved by the owner.

Assembling the best project teams.

Schedule project tasks and assign them accordingly

Schedule weekly, biweekly and monthly meetings with stakeholders and other team members to communicate the project's progress.

Establish a quality control plan and set up firm guidelines for quality assurance,

Assess risk and manage them before getting out of hand

Manage the safety of self and project team members.

Keep a log of daily activities to analyze the project's progress.

Get feedback from those involved in the project.

» What are the types of construction projects?

The needs of society are vast and varied. Individuals need schools and colleges to teach and learn, places for worship, entertainment, living, and bridges.

Each sector has different methods, materials, and means of construction. The structural framework of a bridge is far more complicated than a residential home.

Each sector demands specific expertise and familiarity to build a project which is safe for human use.

Thus, the majority of builders and construction managers focus on one specific sector within the construction industry.

Projects can fall into different sectors. Let's take a closer look at these sectors.

Residential
Commercial
Heavy civil
Industrial
Environmental

It is critical to know the differences between these sectors because of all the projects' governing laws. A residential project will have an entirely different set of rules than the industrial projects mainly due to their size, cost, and safety.

› Residential Construction:

Shelter being one of three basic needs of human life, everybody needs a place to live in.

Residential projects meet the housing needs of society. They can be of any type ranging from a condominium, apartments, and individual houses. Generally, these types of projects are family or privately owned.

Residential constructions are generally low-tech constructions and with the highest demand in the market. Because as long as we live, there will always be a demand to build a home.

› Commercial Construction:

Commercial construction includes schools, universities, stadiums, amusement parks, government facilities, religious facilities, hospitals, banks, and many others.

The building costs of commercial construction projects are relatively high compared to residential ones, and it takes longer to complete these projects. Most will last for three years or longer. These are complex projects which require enormous labors and equipment. For example, cranes are a common need in most commercial construction.

Commercial projects need expertise. For example, a hospital requires specialized equipment, and hence the contractors must have sound knowledge of medical equipment before planning.

On the other hand, there is a need for sound and acoustic engineers for building a theatre or performance halls.

› Heavy Civil Construction:

These construction projects include roadways, airports, bridges, dams, tunnels, railways. These projects are expensive, whose cost runs over millions. These projects are public-funded, and construction may take five or more years to complete. Similar to commercial construction, these projects require highly specialized knowledge and have large engineering teams involved.

In most cases, the civil engineering team designs such projects.

There is an enormous demand for heavy civil construction because building and maintaining roadways, airports, and bridges, railways are high. Every year, the government takes measures to improve the road structures and maintaining public properties.

Heavy civil construction firms have enormous demands, both nationally and internationally. But because of large capital and startup costs, this sector is difficult to enter.

› Industrial Construction:

Generally, construction managers available for these projects are relatively low due to technical knowledge requirements.

Gas and oil pipelines, factories, steel production, and chemical processing are examples of industrial construction projects.

Installation of large equipment and various types of machinery such as boilers, reactors, and processors makes up a significant part of industrial projects. It requires sophisticated knowledge and great attention to detail. Hence mostly tech-savvy and specialized engineers lead industrial construction work.

The risk factor is incredibly high in these projects because one mistake can cause massive damage.

› Environmental Construction:

Many will argue that this project comes under a heavy civil sector, but it is certainly not the case. Environmental projects have their own needs and requirements.

Generally, waste and sewage management, water purification, and maintaining public sanitation come under environmental projects.

These projects may not seem glamorous initially, but they constitute the most vital aspect of the industry. These projects help sustain the communities. Everybody needs clean and potable water for drinking, while the sewage systems are basic public needs.

These are public-funded projects. They might not seem luxurious like building skyscrapers, but they are necessities.

» What are the stages of construction project management?

Like projects in another field, the construction project management process follows the linear path where the next stages are started only after completing preliminary steps. Construction project management stages are subdivided into six parts. Following are six construction project management lifecycle phases:

Concept
Design and bidding
Pre-construction
Procurement
Construction stage
Post-construction

› Concept:

This is the first stage of any project. During this stage, the project is just a concept or an idea in the owner's mind. This is where the search for the perfect location and other details begins.

This phase lasts anywhere between a week to several months. Workers don't have any input in this stage, and all the control is still in the owner's hands.

After the finalization of a concept, owners search for people who can complete it. Many times it starts with an architect, designer, or civil engineer.

› Design and bidding:

After finalizing the concept, architects and engineers start the designing process. The design process is complex and needs intensive study. The designer considers the owner's wishes, simultaneously meeting the individual standardized requirements necessary to construct a new building that is both usable and safe for living.

The design process is further divided into four stages: Programming and feasibility, Schematic Design, Design Development, and Contract documents.

The programming stage helps gather information about the project, such as the number of rooms, spaces used, their requirements, and others. In this stage, the owner informs designers about their likes and dislikes. Feasibility comes into the picture when the designer needs to meet the specific budget without compromising the project design.

Schematic design or conceptual design is when the designer draws a rough sketch to identify the available spaces, adjustments, shapes, patterns, orientation sizes, etc.

At this point, the design team outlines the preliminary specifications and estimates required to complete the project.

Design development is the phase when all the intricate work is complete. This stage considers various factors such as material, equipment, and systems to go into the project through research and investigation. Cost estimation takes place in this phase.

The project manager draws the contract documents after the completion of final drawings and other specifications. These documents are then used in the bidding process to assign the task to the winning builder.

› Pre-construction phase:

Up until this stage, the owner and architect-designer calculated all the project related estimation. Now it's time to put the project team together. This is where the estimator hand over the job to the construction manager. CM is the captain of the project team and is in charge of handling the construction work. The construction manager most probably gets their first exposure to the project in this stage.

The project teams have the duty of preparing the site for construction before the project takes off the ground. People involved in the project team generally include:

Construction Manager
Superintendent
Contract Administrator
Field Engineer
Health and Safety Manager

All these people together work in a team to complete the examination of the project site. They have to ensure that everything is well prepared and checked before starting the construction work.

Soil testing should be made a priority before the construction starts to judge the subsurface conditions. It is necessary not to be skipped to prevent any challenging surprises later, like a water stream.

› Procurement:

Once the site is ready for construction, it is time to procure materials, resources, and workforce to complete it. This can be a tricky stage, depending on the overall size and budget of the project.

Many large organizations generally have a separate department to procure equipment, labor, and resources simultaneously in bulk to get discounted prices.

› Construction stage:

In the previous stage, the procurement process of the resources, equipment, and labor was completed. Now it's time for actual construction. Before the construction starts, the project manager held a meeting to make every team member familiar with each other.

Also, the construction manager assigns tasks to respective workers in this stage. After this, the project team moves equipment and resources in their proper position. This stage involves many activities such as setting up temporary storage on-site to store essential materials and field offices, arrange for the removal of trash and debris, establish safety programs to prevent hazards, secure the site to avoid mishappening.

› Post Construction:

The final stage in construction project management. If you think the project is complete after construction, you are wrong. Construction involves a lot of waste and debris. The post-construction stage consists of the removal of trash from the construction site and cleaning it up.

This stage is the final stage and involves much anxiety from both the owners and the construction project management team. The owners are anxious to move into the building, and the construction team is anxious to move on to the next job. Before a construction manager can finally close the project, the standardized procedures like site inspections and awarding certification of occupancy are mandatory to follow.

› Site inspection:

Site inspection helps in finding out the small details which went unnoticed during the construction phase. Construction is too complicated, and there are almost always little things left behind, such as installing doorknobs and checking the electrical activity, amongst others.

› Owners occupancy:

After the site inspection is completed, the building is ready for occupying, and the owner receives a Certificate of Occupancy (COO). The primary concern of a building after the construction phase is that it should be safe to occupy. Generally, the owner cannot occupy the building unless the builders provide the Certificate of Occupancy (COO).

› Closure:

After ensuring that the property is safe and sound, the project closes. Construction management teams can relax and move on to their next project.

» What is the difference between a construction manager and a project manager?

While all the project managers across different fields have similar qualities, they differ in their work and scope. Understanding the critical difference between Construction manager vs. project manager is vital to understand to get the overall look of what goes inside construction projects.

The construction project manager job description includes hiring team members, working with vendors and engineers, buying construction materials, and maintaining their own and team members' safety. They will most likely be involved only during the construction phase of the project.

Construction managers have to report on the construction site daily to ensure everything is going as expected. Their work is more hands-on. Unlike general project managers, construction managers will need a deep understanding of how construction takes place. They will need a degree in construction-related disciplines to qualify for the job, with some experience beforehand in construction projects.

Project Managers, on the other hand, are present in the project from start to finish. Their overall role and responsibility are to ensure the delivery of the project is with time and budget. Construction managers, in most cases, will report their works and progress to the project manager.

Project managers also need to handle work outside of the construction industry like marketing, PR, and other administrative tasks. Most of their job requires them to work from the office while frequently visiting construction sites to check the progress. Likely, the project manager won't come from the construction field. But they will still need a bachelor's degree and project management certification to qualify for the job.

» Key Differences between construction managers vs. project managers

While the construction managers and project managers may have similar leadership, budgeting, managing skills, they have some critical differences.

The main difference between a construction manager and a project manager depends on the project's delivery type. If you are not aware, there are mainly two types of delivery in construction. They are Construction Managers At-Risk (CMAR) and Design-Bid-Build(DBB).

In the Construction Manager at-risk delivery method, the construction manager is more involved in the project than the general project manager. In this method, the CM needs to provide a full commitment to delivering the project within a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP).

The CM acts as a consultant to the owner in the design and planning stages and works as a general project manager in construction phases.

This type of delivery method is only suitable when the owner has sound knowledge about construction projects because it carries no risk about budget, time, and quality constraints.

In the design-bid-build method, project managers take the lead and demand more authority than construction managers. Project managers will handle most of the project's responsibilities, including cost estimation, resource allocation, and other tasks. This delivery method involves working with two different entities. One for the design process and the other for the construction process. This method is suitable only when the project owner is comfortable working with two different organizations to complete the project.

» What is construction project management software?

Construction project management software is a specialized software used by project managers to plan and monitor the project tasks and schedule various construction-related activities.

Long before the software was available, construction managers needed to build the plan and schedule on paper, and that could take bundles and bundles of paper and fill the whole room when taped together. It was time-consuming and risky, considering if any one of those papers went missing, the project stalled.

They say 'Time is money,' and this is especially true for construction projects. Construction project manager job description includes handling stress, team workers, leadership, technical knowledge, and experience.

Trying to plan, schedule, and assign every little activity takes up a considerable amount of time. As a construction project manager, you must break down a project into manageable activities to ensure it completes on time and adjusted as the project progresses. It is incredibly frustrating to manage papers for every small task, and this is where the construction project management software is your best friend.

In this digital era, the benefits of project management software in construction are numerous. It helps you complete all the tasks from scheduling, monitoring, prioritizing at one place without using a single sheet of paper. All the information you need is at the tip of your fingers. So, use it wisely.

Below we have listed construction project management software benefits. Let's take a closer look at the benefits they provide:

» What are the benefits of using construction management software?

› Planning with ease and comfort:

The plan is like a map. It provides a specific path that a project manager needs to take to reach the destination, aka successful completion. This software has many built-in functions like Gantt charts or network diagrams that can help you divide the project into small parts to make it easier to monitor.

Export all your project information with one click and instantly send notifications to your project members.

› Prioritize the critical task before:

Prioritizing, also known as sequencing, is a critical part of project management. After you have planned the project's activities, it is time to arrange them according to the priority.

Project management software has a network diagram function that will help you map all the activities in the form of diagrams and arrange them systematically in the order of importance or execution.

› Scheduling like a pro:

After planning and prioritizing the task, it's time to schedule tasks and assign them to project members. Project management software provides built-in scheduling tools that will help you schedule project tasks and assign them accordingly. They also offer features for scheduling meetings and calls.

› Communication and updating project teams:

There will be different types of meetings held throughout the construction project, weekly, biweekly, monthly daily; you name it.

› Project Monitoring and Tracking trinity constraints ( Quality, cost, and time):

Quality, cost, and time are the heart of every project. Often. One of these constraints will become more important than the other two. For example, consider the construction of schools. These projects need completion before the school holidays end, i.e., around September. In such a scenario, time is the most important constraint of the project.

Project management software will help understand the three most crucial constraints by data collected throughout the project.

› Assessing and management of risks:

Every project has some or the other kind of risk. It is virtually impossible to find the task completed as planned. There will always be errors in the documents discovered during construction work, or disputes may arise due to miscommunication. Project Management Software will help you assess the risk by planning it.

They help create a risk register, which will enable you to determine what situations can occur and which solution to apply.

› Documenting the project performance:

Documentation is probably the most challenging part of project management but the essential part. Why? Construction sites have many activities running simultaneously, so many conversations and things happen every day on these sites. Unless you are tracking everything, It is easier for things to slip or get miscommunicated.

Project management software makes it extremely easy to document every detail of a project. From reporting the material arrival to workers leaving the job site, the software can make it easier to create a log of all the activities mentioned earlier.

While documentation may not look necessary, it will help you analyze the project progress and monitor control of it wherever necessary.

Conclusion

Construction project management is a vast and complex industry. With the ever-growing demand for new buildings, the industry is booming.

Like any field, construction project management comes with its challenges. With so many teams and people working together, the chances of conflicts are more, and construction managers are responsible for handling them.

Construction projects demand accountability. Team members should take responsibility for their work in case of any errors.

Finally, risk management is extremely crucial in this industry as even a small error can cause severe damages and, in worst cases, loss of life.

If you like to challenge yourself every day and enjoy risk tasking, becoming a construction project manager is the right career choice.

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