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Should You Hire a Construction Manager vs. a Local General Contractor?

When a community realizes the need for a new jail, healthcare facility, or administrative building, it’s not always easy to know where to start. Local general contractors are often eager to work on the project, but are they the right choice for early phase planning, scheduling, scoping, budgeting, and putting together a bid package?

Unfortunately, not all local contractors have the necessary experience or expertise to handle the scale, specialty materials, and compliance requirements needed for niche industries like healthcare and law enforcement.

Ideally, complicated projects involve a construction manager early in the planning process to assist with the development of plans, specifications, budgets, and schedules. Then, when the project is ready to construct, the construction manager will bid out the project to qualified local contractors who will perform the work. The construction manager provides onsite management throughout the project to ensure it is built to the specifications, stays on schedule and within budget. Here, we’ll take a look at some reasons to hire a construction manager for major projects.

What Does a Construction Manager Do?

Ideally, the construction manager is there from the project beginning to completion. They will work as a team alongside the project owner, architect, and other stakeholders in a leadership role to provide comprehensive construction services, including:

  • Assist with writing RFP for A/E services (when needed)
  • Develop plans, specifications, and bid packages
  • Ensure that all regulations and codes are enforced
  • Set budgets and schedules
  • Vet and hire local subcontractors (when possible)
  • Work with the project owner to determine winning bids
  • Serve as an on-site superintendent
  • Develop a strategy for conflict resolution and troubleshooting
  • Ensure timelines and budgets are met
  • Provide quality management to ensure no corners are cut
  • Evaluate and ensure safety measures are in place
  • Review contracts and control construction costs to stay within guaranteed maximum price
  • And much more

Misconceptions About Construction Managers

Project owners, executives, and administrators often want to work with contractors in the community, such as a local HVAC company, electricians, or others who have serviced their facilities before. A big misconception is local contractors won’t get an opportunity to work on a project if there’s a separate construction manager overseeing it, but that’s not the case.

A project owner can provide a list of preferred contractors to be included in the bid process. The construction manager then sends out bid packages that are right-sized for those subcontractors and reviews submitted bids for accuracy and contractor qualifications.

Finding a local general contractor that can also provide construction management services within your community can be a major challenge. The more complex a project is, such as those for healthcare or detention facilities, the more practical it is to hire a construction manager with deep knowledge of the industry.

Some project owners may assume involving a construction manager adds another layer of costs. However, the expertise and industry experience they bring to the table almost always results in cost savings and a smoother experience in the end.

There is a misconception that the construction manager does not need to be involved until the building is ready to be built. However, a construction manager will bring the greatest benefit to the project when brought on at its inception to help navigate decisions relating to the team, design, budget, and schedule.

How a Construction Manager Benefits a Project Owner

  • Saving money through effective budgeting. About 75% of the savings occur during the design phase. An experienced construction manager provides input on costs and helps bring them down. Professional service fees are determined upfront and, since the owner contracts directly with trade contractors, any fees and markup associated with them are eliminated.
  • Saving time and keeping the project on schedule. Because a construction manager is experienced in the industry and knows expectations, project completion dates are realistic, and some activities can be fast-tracked.
  • Eliminating potential errors and compliance issues. An experienced and qualified construction manager knows the ins and outs of the niche industries they specialize in, and their expertise can prevent costly oversights.

Working with a local contractor who has no experience building facilities for niche industries could become a liability to a project owner. They may have outstanding skills as a builder, but their inexperience with expanded timelines and various types of specialty projects may result in costly delays and rework.

It pays to consult with a construction manager to explore their services and benefits before moving forward with your next project. If you’re considering a healthcare facility, jail, government building, or other commercial building project, reach out to the construction management team at The Samuels Group to talk through what’s involved.

And, if your community is in the planning stages of a new jail construction project, check out the Jail Construction Guide below.

Guide to Jail Construction Planning

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