What is project management for construction? (Plus types)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

For a construction project to be successful, a high level of project management is key to every step in the process. Construction project management is the specific process that each project goes through to achieve the desired outcome. All projects, from small residential jobs to large-scale commercial builds, require a degree of project management to streamline the construction process. In this article, we look at what construction project management is, how it works and what's involved in managing construction projects of all shapes and sizes.

What is project management for construction?

Project management for construction provides the coordination and management needed to see construction projects through from initial planning to completion. As a specific form of project management, construction project management includes various tasks and time-sensitive services to ensure a project runs smoothly. These tasks can include anything from managing material ordering and resources to coordinating on-site staff and necessary compliance paperwork.

Specialists generally conduct project management for construction projects to deliver the best outcome. These specialists could work alongside a dedicated project manager across the project's scope or provide expertise for specific stages in the construction process. Construction project management requires the ability to look at the bigger picture and oversee the day-to-day details of an ongoing project.

Related: Project management skills and how to improve them

Types of construction project

Different construction projects require different areas of expertise and specialism. The type of construction project varies depending on the specific sector and the project's scope. For example, a residential renovation on a single property may require a different level of project management than the construction of a bridge or large-scale commercial project. The four types of construction projects include:

Residential renovation and home building

The renovation or building of houses, flats or similar residential structures is one of the most common types of construction project. Residential renovation can include anything from the renovation of luxury property to building multi-unit, high-rise buildings. Residential construction projects may have project management per individual job or whole development.

Heavy industrial construction

Heavy industrial construction refers to designing and building heavy-duty facilities, such as refineries or power plants. Construction project management is valuable for this type of construction, as there are often specific regulations and requirements involved in building. For example, it's important for industrial facilities to meet certain compliances for safety and security on-site.

Institutional and commercial construction

The construction of retail stores, offices and schools is an example of institutional or commercial construction projects. As many commercial buildings have a specific purpose, project management can ensure the establishment meets that standard and provides the solution needed for a particular business or industry. Schools, hospitals and similar facilities all have specific requirements for their construction, making professional construction project management essential.

Engineering construction

Infrastructure, roads and bridges are all included under engineering construction. As complex jobs that often require specialist knowledge, design and planning, construction project management can support the safe construction of large-scale structures. For example, the construction of a bridge requires extensive planning for safety and reliability in a range of weather and temperatures.

Related: 10 high paid construction jobs and their responsibilities

The stages of construction project management

Construction projects go through multiple different stages and processes to achieve completion. Construction project management supports every step in the process to maintain the life cycle and improve efficiency. The six stages in construction project management are as follows:

Design

The design phase is where all the plans, objectives and goals for a construction project are put in place. Project management at this stage can include creating a site plan, the collating of required documentation and preliminary reporting on the cost and scale of the project. In this early stage, the goals, needs and objectives of the project are set for the whole of the project.

Related: How to become a design manager: a step-by-step guide

Planning

The planning stage of a construction project involves accounting for all legal and compliance requirements for upcoming construction. At this point, project management may include creating risk-assessment plans, submitting necessary compliance and permit paperwork and creating the scope document. The planning stage is crucial as it provides a foundation and overview for the project's success.

Procurement

Once planning is complete, bidding can begin for services, equipment and materials. Many of the financial parts of the construction project need management at this stage. For example, the submission of purchase orders and negotiating contracts help procure staffing, tools and materials as outlined in the planning stage.

Execution

During the execution stage, construction begins on-site, with hired staff, materials and equipment starting work on building the project. Construction project management is actively used at this stage to monitor construction progress, establish new budgets and maintain schedules. Depending on the success of execution, management can establish new timelines, increase budgets or revise existing plans.

Commissioning

Towards the end of a construction project, commissioning is carried out for system and equipment testing. For example, a bridge construction project may carry out stress testing at this stage and testing mechanisms for the lowering and lifting of the bridge. Project management involves recording and monitoring the results of testing and reporting to the clients in preparation for completion.

Completion

Completion of project closeout is the final stage in the construction process. Project management involves finalising all outstanding tasks, supporting handover to the client and providing reports on the project's success. Ongoing work at this stage can also include examining what improvements they could make upon for future projects in terms of cost, timeframes or workflows.

Who works in construction project management?

Construction project management often involves a team of trained specialists. The management of a whole project involves various professionals, from engineers and construction specialists to financial experts and architects. Some of the people involved directly with the management of a construction project include:

Project owner

The project owner is the person financing the project either directly or indirectly. Their role is to supervise the project from a top-down perspective and make critical decisions relating to the project's scope, plan and financial requirements. The project owner is the person that hires other members of the project management team in the majority of cases.

Construction project manager

A construction project manager handles most project management responsibilities for a construction job. Their role covers all stages of the construction process and includes anything from coordination of staff or supervision on-site and reporting. Construction project managers may be a single person or several specialists working together to achieve the project's final goal.

General contractors

General contractors are the people on the ground floor for construction projects. They work directly with project managers, and in some cases, owners to execute a project. Unlike project managers, contractors are often not actively involved in every stage of the construction process and the majority of their job is in the construction and commissioning phases.

Related: What does a construction worker do?

Delivery methods for construction project management

The scale and requirements of a project can change the specific delivery model used in construction project management. Depending on individual requirements, such as whether it makes sense to hire one specialist or work with several experts, different models may be more suitable. These construction project delivery models include:

Design-bid-build

The design-bid-build model is the typical option for many construction projects. This process involved the hiring of the general contractor following the design phase. Typically, project management includes working with a separate architect or designer before hiring a contractor to execute your construction plan.

Related: How to become a construction estimator: a step-by-step guide

Design-build

Hiring a design-builder for the construction project condenses the number of people involved in project management. These specialists cover both the design and execution stages of the project, working directly with project management to achieve results. For smaller projects, design-builders can be a suitable solution.

CM at risk

CM at-risk stands for construction management at risk and refers to the use of a construction manager in addition to a project management team. As a fast way to complete construction, the CM at-risk model allows the manager on-site to control costs and handle day-to-day requirements. CM at risk can be a viable solution for projects with a strict budget, placing the responsibility on the construction manager to achieve results.

Related:

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