Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion.
Construction managers typically do the following:
- Prepare and negotiate cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
- Select appropriate construction methods and strategies
- Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to workers and other professionals
- Report on work progress and budget matters to clients
- Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction and building specialists
- Instruct and supervise construction personnel and activities onsite
- Respond to work delays and other problems and emergencies
- Select, hire, and instruct laborers and subcontractors †
- Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations
Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a wide variety of projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, powerplants, schools, and hospitals. They oversee specialized contractors and other personnel. Construction managers schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes to ensure a productive and safe work environment. They also make sure jobs are completed on time and on budget with the right amount of tools, equipment, and materials. Many managers also are responsible for obtaining necessary permits and licenses. They are often responsible for multiple projects at a time.
Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, engineers, and a variety of trade workers, such as stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Projects may require specialists in everything from structural metalworking and painting, to landscaping, building roads, installing carpets, and excavating sites. Depending on the project, construction managers also may interact with lawyers and local government officials. For example, when working on city-owned property or municipal buildings, managers sometimes confer with city council members to ensure that all regulations are met.
For projects too large to be managed by one person, such as office buildings and industrial complexes, a construction manager would only be in charge of one part of the project. Each construction manager would oversee a specific construction phase and choose subcontractors to complete it. Construction managers may need to collaborate and coordinate with other construction managers who are responsible for different aspects of the project.
To maximize efficiency and productivity, construction managers often use specialized cost-estimating and planning software to effectively budget the time and money required to complete specific projects. Many managers also use software to determine the best way to get materials to the building site. For more information, see the profile on cost estimators.
Cost estimators collect and analyze data to estimate the time, money, resources, and labor required for product manufacturing, construction projects, or services. Some specialize in a particular industry or product type.
Cost estimators typically do the following:
- Consult with industry experts to discuss estimates and resolve issues
- Identify and quantify cost factors, such as production time and raw material, equipment, and labor expenses
- Travel to job sites to gather information on materials needed, labor requirements, and other factors†
- Read blueprints and technical documents to prepare estimates
- Collaborate with engineers, architects, owners, and contractors on estimates
- Use sophisticated computer software to calculate estimates†
- Evaluate a productís cost effectiveness or profitability
- Recommend ways to make a product more cost effective or profitable
- Prepare estimates for clients and other business managers
- Develop project plans for the duration of the project
Accurately predicting the cost, size, and duration of future construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of any business. Cost estimators' calculations give managers or investors this information.
When making calculations, estimators analyze many inputs to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs, or how profitable it will be. These estimates have to take many factors into account, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other factors that can increase costs and lower profitability.
Cost estimators use sophisticated computer software, including database, simulation, and complex mathematical programs. Cost estimators often use a computer database with information on the costs of other similar projects.
General contractors usually hire cost estimators for specific parts of a large construction project, such as estimating the electrical work or the excavation phase. In such cases, the estimator calculates the cost of the construction phase for which the contractor is responsible, rather than calculating the cost of the entire project. The general contractor usually also has a cost estimator who calculates the total project cost by analyzing the bids that the subcontractors' cost estimators prepared.
Some estimators are hired by manufacturers to analyze certain products or processes.
The following are the two primary types of cost estimators:
Construction cost estimators estimate construction work. More than half of all cost estimators work in the construction industry. They may, for example, estimate the total cost of building a bridge or a highway. They may identify direct costs, such as raw materials and labor requirements, and set a timeline for the project. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors, architects, and engineering firms.
Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a companyís goods and services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine whether a new type of dishwasher will be profitable to manufacture.
Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and the costs of software development are difficult to calculate. †
Two other groups also sometimes do cost estimating in their jobs. Operations research, production control, cost, and price analysts who work for government agencies may do significant amounts of cost estimating in the course of their usual duties. Construction managers also may spend considerable time estimating costs. For more information, see the profiles on operations research analysts and construction managers.