What is a Construction Manager Anyway?

Posted: March 29, 2013 in CM Articles

A valid question.  Ask 10 people and you will get 10 different answers. Here is mine; A Construction Manager brings a planset to life.  He (or she) assists the contractor in constructing the intent of the designer and the owner in the field.

A Construction Manager (CM) oversees and mentors a team usually consisting of one or more Resident Engineers who have oversight responsibility for a team of inspectors, surveyors, materials testers, and administrative staff. This team ensures the project is built well, on schedule, and built safely, and that the contractor is compensated in a fair and timely manner for work performed. The Construction Manager also assists in dispute resolution, claim avoidance, and performs whatever other duties are required to ensure successful completion of the project. Depending on the size of the project, a CM may have several projects which are his/her responsibility.

In my view, there are 3 basic conflicts present during the construction of most projects;

  • Owner vs. Contractor
  • Owner vs. Project
  • Contractor vs. Project

A successful Construction Manager, through understanding contract administration procedures, construction techniques, the contract documents, and the intent of the Owner/ Designer and Contractor, develops these conflicts into one; Project Team vs. Project. Using the power of synergy (where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts) develops and manages a team with a single purpose; the on time and safe delivery of a project at the lowest fair cost that all members of the project team will be proud to have been a part of.

Whew… That sure seems like a lot of stuff to have to know!

Well, yeah, it is a lot of stuff, but don’t worry, as I have been told throughout my career; it is a marathon, not a sprint.  Being a Construction Manager is a career destination, it is a goal. There is a long path between your first step onto a construction site and managing projects. The key to getting there however, can be simply stated, “Show up and do the best you can every single day”.

There are many different paths to becoming a Construction Manager. When I started my career in this field 21 years ago (this week), I had no idea what I wanted to be when I “grew up”, what a Construction Manager was, or even that the field existed.  My foundations in the field were via materials testing and inspection.  I was not sure where my path would lead, but I knew that it felt as if it was going somewhere, and I was learning a lot about how to build Roads and Bridges. Eventually I came to a level where, without an education, I could go no further. I started looking into construction related college programs to see what was available and discovered this field via a 2 year associates program in Construction Management at my local Community College(in Washington). I enrolled, worked hard and followed through until I emerged with my AS in Construction Management.  It was because this program existed, and because I showed up and did the best that I could every day I am now a Construction Manager. I look back fondly on my journey and am thankful for the existence of programs such as the HCC CM program and I feel extremely fortunate that there are selfless people out there like Norman Takeya and Guy Fo who work so hard to make programs like this available to people like me (and you).

There is a lot of CM opportunity coming our way here in Oahu. There will be a huge need for construction oversight professionals’ right here in our own backyard. Get ready for it. Study hard, work hard and focus on doing the best you can today. Keep track of each day and the years will take care of themselves, and before you know it, you will find you have succeeded beyond what you could have hoped for.

Tim Bramsen  CCM


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