Construction management refers either to the study and practice of the managerial and technological aspects of the construction industry (including construction, construction science, construction management, and construction technology), or to a business model where one party to a construction contract serves as a construction consultant, providing both design and construction advice.
Study and practice
Construction management education comes in a variety of formats: formal degree programs (two-year associate degree; four-year baccalaureate degree, graduate degree, etc); on-job-training; and continuing education / professional development. For information on degree programs, reference ACCE, the American Council for Construction Education, or ASC, the Associated Schools of Construction.
According to the American Council for Construction Education (the academic accrediting body of construction management educational programs in the U.S.), the academic field of construction management encompasses a wide range of topics. These range from general management skills, to management skills specifically related to construction, to technical knowledge of construction methods and practices.
Typically, the construction industry includes three parties: an owner, a designer (called the architect/engineer), and the builder (called the contractor). Traditionally, there are two contracts between these three parties as they work together to plan, design, and construct the project. The first contract is the owner-designer contract, which involves planning, design, and possibly, some aspects of construction. The second contract is the owner-contractor contract, which involves construction. An indirect, third-party relationship exist between the designer and the contractor due to these two contracts.
An alternate contract or business model replaces the two traditional contracts with three contracts: owner-designer, owner-construction manager, and owner-builder. The construction management company becomes an additional party engaged in the project to act as an advisor to all three parties. The construction manager's role is to provide construction advice to the designer, design advice to the constructor, and both construction and design services, such as materials and subcontracts as necessary, to the owner.
"Agency" CM is a fee-based service in which the construction manager is responsible exclusively to the owner and acts in the owner's interests at every stage of the project. The construction manager offers advice, uncolored by any conflicting interest, on matters such as:
- Optimum use of available funds;
- Control of the scope of the work;
- Project scheduling;
- Optimum use of design and construction firms' skills and talents;
- Avoidance of delays, changes and disputes;
- Enhancing project design and construction quality;
- Optimum flexibility in contracting and procurement.
Comprehensive management of every stage of the project, beginning with the original concept and project definition, yields the greatest possible benefit to owners from Construction Management.
"At-Risk" CM is a delivery method which entails a commitment by the construction manager to deliver the project within a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP). The construction manager acts as consultant to the owner in the development and design phases, but as the equivalent of a general contractor during the construction phase. When a construction manager is bound to a GMP, the most fundamental character of the relationship is changed. In addition to acting in the owner's interest, the construction manager also protects him/herself.
ACCE, American Council for Construction Education: http://www.acce-hq.org
ASC, Associated Schools of Construction: http://www.ascweb.org/
CMAA, Construction Management Association of America: http://cmaanet.org
US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos005.htm
In the UK the industry is regulated though Construction Design Management regulations, which prevent incidents on construction sites and civil engineering structures once completed
- "Standards and criteria for accreditation of postsecondary construction education degree programs" (PDF). American Council for Construction Management. Retrieved 2006-05-29.