Construction Manager vs. General Contractor

Construction Manager vs. General Contractor Graphic

In most commercial construction projects, either a construction manager or general contractor is ultimately responsible for overseeing the building process. While both roles share the same goal of successfully completing the project to the owner’s satisfaction, there are fundamental differences between the two. Some of these differences include how they were selected for the project, their organizational structures and their relationship with the project owner.  

So, how exactly does a commercial contractor differ from a construction manager?

About Commercial General Contractors

In most cases, a commercial general contractor is a company/business entity that oversees the building process. They typically have their own employees, including project managers and superintendents, who supervise the jobsite. They are also in charge of hiring various other subcontractors who complete much of the labor. General contractors are in charge of collaborating and communicating with the engineers, architects and owner throughout the construction process. 

General contractors are generally hired through a bidding process and work to complete the project within that set budget. Therefore, they are third parties to the construction process, which also includes the owner and design teams. If a commercial contractor spends less than the bid price, they make a profit. However, if the project costs go over that estimate, the owner is responsible for the added costs. 

About Construction Managers 

A construction manager is an individual or group of individuals hired by a project owner based on expertise and experience. Construction managers assist in pre-construction before overseeing the construction process. Construction managers generally don’t have any full-time employees, but they are in charge of hiring subcontractors, and in some cases, general contractors. They tend to work exclusively for the project owner.

Compared to general contractors, construction managers have more of a collaborative, fiduciary partnership with project owners. The construction manager works with the owner from the pre-construction stages to develop a budget for the project. They then execute the project based on that budget. Any money left over is returned to the owner. Construction managers are most often used in large, high-cost commercial projects where it makes financial sense.

Differences Between a General Contractor & Construction Manager

General Contractor Construction Manager
Company Individual
Hired through a bidding process or project owner Hired by the project owner
Third party to construction process Partnership with project owner
Usually begins after design process  Involved with design process

About Graphite Construction Group 

Graphite Construction Group is a leading commercial general contractor in Des Moines, Iowa focused on the educational, office, retail, industrial, medical, multifamily, hospitality and religious building markets. From small tenant remodels to large design-build projects, Graphite Construction Group has a team of experienced contractors able to ensure your commercial construction project is successfully completed. Contact us today for your free consultation and cost estimate.