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What Is Construction Project Management?
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), Project Management is “the art of directing and coordinating human and material resources throughout the life of a project by using modern management techniques to achieve predetermined objectives of scope, cost, time, quality, and participating objectives.”
We can extend PMI’s definition to construction project management, wherein a construction project manager uses the same model to achieve the same goal, only in a construction context.
At its most fundamental level, construction project management handles the planning, coordination, and execution of a construction project, whether it’s agricultural, residential, commercial, institutional, industrial, heavy civil, or environmental.
Importance of Construction Project Management
Construction project management typically includes complicated tasks that can shift wildly, depending on the work at hand, and it requires strong skills in communication, deep knowledge of the building process, and the ability to problem-solve. Construction project management is a complex field, requiring knowledge in many different areas like finance, law, business, and more.
Construction project management often referred to as CM, is a professional service. It uses specific project management techniques that oversee the planning, design, and of course, the construction of a project from start to finish. The most important aspects to control in the construction of our time, cost and quality.
Construction project management combines the responsibilities of an everyday project manager with the experience of someone part of the construction industry.
Types of construction projects
There are a variety of different types of construction projects, depending on the different construction sectors. There are two sectors in construction: residential and commercial. Depending on the sector, there can be up to four different types of projects:
- Residential home building and renovation
- Heavy industrial construction
- Commercial and institutional construction
- Engineering construction
That means there are a wide variety of types of construction projects that require construction management in order to be successful. Construction management might be required for a simple home to a large bridge, from engineering a dam build to an airport seismic retrofit project. A construction project manager, then, manages the beginning and end of a project build, often managing on-site to ensure the safe, successful construction.
The Main Principles of Construction Project Management
Construction project management requires a broad variety of skills and the ability to interface with a diverse range of agencies and people in order to lead the project from concept to build. It’s important that construction project managers follow the principles of project management during every phase of the project.
It’s no secret that construction project management is a quite complicated field. However, there are some fundamental principles that anyone who just entering the field should keep in mind.
Everything starts with the project owner reaching out to contractors in order to ask for bids. The managers of construction that are interested in carrying out the project will, then, offer a bid to the owner. The bid will include details about the amount of money that the project owner has to offer for the project to be completed.
There are two types of bids:
- Open bid: Open bids are inextricably connected to public projects. It’s an auction where any contractor is welcome to make his offer. An open bid is normally openly promoted.
- Closed bid: Private projects are based on closed bids. The project owner sends a bid invitation to a specific number of contractors.
After receiving all the bids for the particular project, the owner proceeds to the selection of the contractor through one of the following three methods:
- Low-bid selection: In that case, the main focus of interest is the price. The construction management companies present the lowest bids they are open to complete the project for. The project owner selects the lowest offer and proceeds with it.
- Best value selection: This process puts weight both on qualifications and price. The owner is choosing the most appealing bid both in terms of quality and money.
- Qualifications-based selection: The present method is adopted when qualifications are used as the only criterion for the selection of the construction management company. A request for qualifications (RFQ) is helping the owner in order to acquire further information regarding the experience and the project organization competences of the contractor.
Construction project management process flow chart
Project Management Processes
In general, every project has a standard life cycle, regardless of its special characteristics. This structure could be outlined in four basic stages:
1. Project Initiation
During the first phase, the objective and the feasibility of the project are determined. This is a crucial stage of the whole process since it can indicate whether this project is a good opportunity or not. If necessary, a feasibility study is conducted and based on its results a recommended solution/plan is issued.
Once everything is decided, a project initiation document (PID) is created. The project initiation document provides the groundwork for the construction plan and is one of the most vital artifacts in project management.
2. Planning Phase
The project planning stage is where the team singles out all the work to be done. It’s an ongoing activity almost to the end of the project. The main priority, during the planning phase, is to plan time, costs and resources for the project.
The project team develops a road map for all involved. This includes the project management plan (PMP), a formal, approved document created by the project manager to guide execution and control, as well as set baselines for scope, cost, and schedule. You can also expect to see these documents in the planning phase:
- Scope statement and scope documentation: This defines the project’s business need, benefits, objectives, deliverables, and key milestones.
- Work breakdown structure (WBS): This document breaks down the scope of the project into visual, manageable chunks.
- Communication plan: This outlines all aspects of communication, from goals and objectives to roles to tools and methods. The communication plan creates a common framework that everyone can work from to avoid misunderstandings or conflict.
- Risk management plan: This helps project managers identify risks beforehand, including time and cost estimates that may not be met, potential budget cuts, shifting requirements, and a shortage of committed resources.
3. Execution Phase
In the execution phase, the construction project management plan is put to work. As a rule, this phase is divided into two main processes: the executing and the monitoring and controlling. The project team makes sure that the required tasks are being performed. At the same time, progress is monitored and changes are being made accordingly. As a matter of fact, a project manager spends most of the time in the step of monitoring and depending on the information that he gets redirects the tasks and maintain the control of the project.
4. Performance and Monitoring
The monitoring phase often happens concurrently with the execution phase. This phase is necessary to measure progress and performance and to ensure that items are in line with the overall project management plan.
5. Closing Phase (Closure)
The final stage of the project represents its official completion. The project manager is evaluating what went well and refers to any potential failures. In the end, the team conducts a project report, calculates the final budget and offer information about any tasks that remain unfinished. The project report in combination with the analysis of the potential failures will be valuable feedback for future construction projects.
The functions of project management for Construction Project
The functions of project management for construction generally include the following:
- Specification of project objectives and plans including delineation of scope, budgeting, scheduling, setting performance requirements, and selecting project participants.
- Maximization of efficient resource utilization through procurement of labor, materials, and equipment according to the prescribed schedule and plan.
- Implementation of various operations through proper coordination and control of planning, design, estimating, contracting and construction in the entire process.
- Development of effective communications and mechanisms for resolving conflicts among the various participants.
Construction management is typically extended to a plethora of different functions. The most important of them could be summarized to the following:
- Specification of the project goals and the plans including a drawing of scope, scheduling, budgeting, deciding upon achievement requisites and choosing project participants.
- Boost of the resource effectiveness through the acquisition of the workforce and of the necessary equipment.
- Conduction of numerous operations through legitimate coordination and management of contracting, planning, estimating, design, and construction during the whole procedure.
- Efficient development of solid communication between the agents for resolving any conflicts that may arise.
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Construction Project Phases | The Stages of Construction Project Management
The stages of construction project work include the following:
Design: The design stage mirrors closely the planning stage of a traditional project. A construction design can be seen as a construction project plan. In construction management, programming and feasibility, schematic design, design development, and contract documents are involved in the design stage of the construction project. A design team is allocated to this stage and it is their responsibility that the design is aligned with all building codes and regulations. Normally, a bidding process takes place during the design stage.
Pre-construction: If the client gives notice to the contractor that they have been chosen to the bidding process the construction project work can begin. A project team will be allocated and will include a project manager, construction project coordinator, contract administrator, and construction project, engineer.
During this stage of the project, a site investigation must be carried out. This will allow the project team to discover if any specific steps need to be included on the job site. It is important to prepare the site before actual construction is begun. Unforeseen conditions are dealt with at this stage along with a soil test which is used to determine if the soil is in good enough condition in order to be built upon.
Procurement: The procurement stage of a construction project is when the labor, equipment, and materials needed to complete the project successfully are purchased. The construction company can do this themselves or this work can be subcontracted.
Construction: During the construction stage, a pre-construction meeting is held. This meeting decides on aspects of the project such as work hours, quality control, site access and material storage. After everything involved in the project is moved on to the construction site and set up construction can begin. A schedule known as a contract your progress payment schedule specifies at which project milestones contractors and suppliers will be paid.
Owner-occupancy: After construction is completed, the owner can move into the building. This is when the warranty period begins. During this period, it is ensured that all the equipment, materials and quality meet the expectations agreed upon during the design and pre-construction phases of the project and that are outlined in the contract between the project team and client.
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The roles and responsibilities of the Construction Project Manager
The Project Management Institute-PMI focuses on nine distinct areas requiring project manager knowledge and attention:
- Project integration management to ensure that the various project elements are effectively coordinated.
- Project scope management to ensure that all the work required (and only the required work) is included.
- Project time management to provide an effective project schedule.
- Project cost management to identify needed resources and maintain budget control.
- Project quality management to ensure functional requirements are met.
- Project human resource management to development and effectively employ project personnel.
- Project communications management to ensure effective internal and external communications.
- Project risk management to analyze and mitigate potential risks.
- Project procurement management to obtain necessary resources from external sources.
These nine areas form the basis of the Project Management Institute’s certification program for project managers in any industry.
A construction project manager is tasked with a number of specific responsibilities in the same way that a traditional project manager is also responsible for certain areas of the project. The main responsibilities of construction project managers include:
All projects need to be planned. It is an essential part of any project, especially in construction. A construction project manager needs to plan out the project carefully so that everyone involved is aware of how the project will progress.
Construction project managers shoulder the responsibility of keeping the project moving according to plan. The goal is to manage the project so that it finishes on schedule and within budget, while still meeting building codes, plans, and specs. A construction project manager may also be charged with setting the parameters, finances, and calendar; vetting and hiring subcontractors and on-site workers; developing a strategy for potential conflict resolution; and more.
The Construction Management Association of America, a U.S. construction management certification and advocacy body, says the 120 common responsibilities of a construction manager fall into these seven categories:
- Project management planning
- Cost management
- Time management
- Quality management
- Contract administration
- Safety management
- Construction management professional practices (manage the team working on the project, define each person’s role and responsibilities, etc.)
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Construction Management Job Titles
There are many different roles in construction project management, with some requiring a more technical background. Here are some of the job titles and their definitions:
- Field Engineer/Surveyor: A field engineer or surveyor supervises a crew of workers known as the survey party. This party is responsible for staking out reference points and markers that will guide the construction process. Before any other work begins, the survey party must define the legal boundaries of the land where the work will be done.
- Project Engineer: A project engineer acts as the liaison between the project manager and the technical aspects of a project. He or she is usually the primary technical point person for the consumer and is in charge of scheduling, planning, and resource forecasting for engineering activities. In some cases, the project engineer is the same as the project manager, but the majority of the time, both roles share joint responsibility for leading a project.
- Project Coordinator: The project coordinator assists the project manager in all day-to-day activities. He or she may act as the liaison between customers, subcontractors, architects, owners, and general contracts on active projects; maintain and monitor records; track budgets, and perform other general duties.
- Project Manager: The construction project manager supervises projects from beginning to end, making sure they finish on time and on budget. He or she plans all aspects of the construction process, including hiring contractors, negotiating contracts, setting budgets, complying with building and safety codes, and dealing with conflict.
- Construction Manager: Also known as a site manager, a construction manager is responsible for running and managing the construction site. He or she works closely with architects to go over blueprints, makes project timetables, determines material and labor costs, gathers permits, and schedules work on site.
- Operations Manager: An operations manager works in a large construction company that oversees many projects at once. He or she develops construction strategies and works with the project manager to manage resource allocation. He or she also works with civil engineers to create the quality checks that a project must go through before it is delivered to the owner.
Construction project management offers many more technical roles and jobs behind the scenes, including design engineer, planning engineer, and project architect, to name a few. But so-called soft skills are just as important in completing a project, which is why design managers, project document controllers, schedulers/scheduling engineers, project planners, project finance managers, insurance representatives, and engineered materials representatives are in demand as well.
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The Legal Aspect of a Construction Project
A construction project consists of many different details. One of the most vital that no project manager should overlook has to do with its legal parameters. A well-prepared construction project manager should always be in a position to offer answers in potential legal disputes or risks that may emerge. In that way, the whole project is secured and built on strong foundations. In general, there are five main areas that should be taken into consideration:
- The parties: This category refers to anyone who is involved in the construction project (contractors, consultants, sub-contractors, purchaser, etc.)
- Contracts: Even though there are certain fixed contract forms for construction projects, many times there is a need for changes in the agreements so legal advice is more than necessary.
- Legislation & Regulation: A solid legal team can make sure that all the different legislation and regulations are followed properly.
- Procurement: The procurement process refers to the purchase of all the different materials and services that are necessary for a construction project. It is crucial, then, that the whole project is thoroughly regulated from a legal aspect.
- Insurance: It’s no secret that, there are plenty of physical dangers on a construction site. That’s why a project manager should have been informed and taken care of every little detail concerning the insurance agreements.
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Terminology and Acronym Used In Construction Project Management
A&E: architectural and engineering
BOT: build operate transfer
BOO: build own operate
CIP: capital improvement plan
CM: construction manager
CPI: cost performance index
CPM: critical path method
CREM: corporate real estate management
DBOT: design build operate transfer
EA: environmental assessment
EIS: environmental impact statement
EPC: engineering, procurement, and construction
FBOT: finance build operate transfer
FEIS: final environmental impact statement
FONSI: finding of no significant impact
GMP: guaranteed maximum price
JV: joint venture
LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
MC: management contracting
MPO: metropolitan planning organization
OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
O&M: operations and maintenance
PC: project control
PD: project director
PFI: private finance initiative
PL: project leader
PM: project manager
Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)
PMC: project management consultant
Project Management Institute (PMI)
PMO: project management oversight
PMP: project management plan
PRD: project requirements definition
ProgM: program management
RE: resident engineer
REM: real estate management
RFP: request for proposal
SOW: scope of work
SPI: schedule performance index
VE: value engineering
WBS: work breakdown structure
The industry demand for qualified project management professionals is increasing day by day, a lot of project management software and application are getting introduced every day. Also, the employment of construction managers is projected to grow 15-20 percent from 2018 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Construction managers are expected to be needed as overall construction activity expands. So, to overcome the future skill gap challenge the study of the construction project management will be an added advantage for the Civil, Mechanical, Electrical Engineers, Architects, and other engineering graduates.