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Mar 22, 2021
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What is the Difference Between an Owner’s Representative, Project Manager, And Construction Manager?

Post by 
Justin Dubrow
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construction project requires the skills of a variety of professionals, including architects, designers, construction workers, landscapers, and more. It can become confusing on who provides which functions, especially when you hear the terms Owner’s Representative, Project Manager, and Construction Manager. These roles tend to be confused at times, even within the industry. You may come across construction managers or project managers who may present themselves as Owner’s Representatives, so it is important to know their differences. Simply stated:

The Owner’s Representative is your advocate. An OR monitors your project. 

Project Managers are responsible for completing the work. A PM manages their portion of your project.

Construction Managers are responsible for managing construction. A CM manages the process of construction.

The Owner’s Representative is Your Advocate 

Owner is a team member. You'll recall this description from the article, What is an Owner's Representative. The weight of monitoring the entire design and construction process falls upon your shoulders as the owner. This is where the OR steps in to monitor the technical oversight and advocate on your behalf. This central coordination has several functions, some of which are:

  • Monitoring the design team to make sure all required elements are incorporated into the plans without over-designing the project, which can cause budget and schedule overruns.
  • Monitoring construction progress to ensure quality expectations are met. 
  • Monitoring change orders to determine why the change order was issued, and if it will affect cost and timing because of a change by the owner or an oversight by a contractor.
  • Reviewing schedules and applications for payment. 

Project Managers are Responsible for Completing the Work

As you get started on your project, you will quickly see that each discipline (construction, architect, landscape design, etc.) has a project manager (PM) on their team.  The project managers will create a plan, assign tasks, procure materials, manage their teams to hand over their portion of the project. 

The General Contractor will assign a Project Manager, who is typically the most visible manager on the job. The General Contractor’s Project Manager is the main point of contact for construction and is responsible for the day-to-day activities on-site. This person will:

  • Create the construction schedule
  • Communicate with subcontractors
  • Procure materials
  • Submit pay applications
  • Ensure that the construction is delivered in accordance with the design team’s specifications

The function of project managers will be much the same across all disciplines. You may or may not have interactions with the various PM’s on your project, depending on that discipline’s process. The Owner’s Representative, however, will interact with all of the project managers on the team. The OR receives reports and updates from each PM on their work status. Questions that the owner needs to respond to also flow through the various PMs to the OR. 

Construction Managers are Responsible for Managing Construction

It is easy to confuse this position with an owner’s representative for two reasons. As with an OR, there is only one Construction Manager (CM) on a construction project. Secondly, a CM hires and manages the general contractor. So, it may seem as though an OR and a CM are synonymous. It is important to note, not all projects have a construction manager, however. It depends on which project delivery method you are using for your construction project. The CM’s main focuses are managing the cost of construction and managing the process of construction. A few examples of services provided by a construction manager are:

  • Provides cost estimates throughout the design process
  • Provides cost-saving construction and material recommendations along the way
  • Sets the guaranteed maximum price for construction
  • Starts the process early for shop drawings to eliminate revisions and changes during construction

In the case of a CM, it is important to remember that they are only responsible for construction. The team as a whole is not accountable to the CM in the way they would be to an owner or OR. Think in terms of design approvals, coordination with lawyers, and pay-apps for the various vendors not held under the CM. Also, there is the matter of the budget. A CM is responsible only for the construction budget. While the construction budget takes up about 70% of the overall budget, it is not the whole picture, leaving the owner to manage the rest. 

Different Roles = Different Responsibilities 

An Owner’s Representative is there to capture all of the activities that fall outside of construction and monitor the construction process. As you can see, each role comes with very different responsibilities and has a place within your project. Project success comes when every professional is operating in its center of excellence and collaborating seamlessly.

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