Project Parties – Who does what?

Executive summary.  The management structure of sizable projects usually involves four major parties:  the owner, the construction manager, the designer, and the contractor.  Here’s how project management is structured and what the parties’ responsibilities are in two common project delivery methods.

Project conception.  Let’s take a sample project, say, a sewer line which a city needs.  If the city of Anycity, Anystate wishes to construct this project, they will need the following parties with the following responsibilities:

PartyResponsibilities
OwnerThe owner has identified a need for the facility or infrastructure and ultimately will make all decisions on its design, budget, and schedule.
Construction ManagerThis party serves as the owner’s representative in matters of cost and schedule for the project.  This party also manages the day-to-day documentation required to construct a project including, but not limited to, submittals, requests for information, letters, and cost proposals.
DesignerThe designer’s responsibility is to prepare drawings and specifications in accordance with the owner’s needs and all regulatory requirements.
ContractorThe contractor, and his subcontractors, build what is described in the documents generated by the Designer at the direction of the owner.

Dual responsibilities aren’t uncommon.  Sometimes the owner will serve as the construction manager or even the designer.  Sometimes the designer serves as the construction manager.  The assignment of the project players is up to the owner and is a function of the city’s staff availability and competence.

Varying project delivery methods.  There are various methods of project delivery.  Probably the two most common methods are Bid/Build and Design/Build.  Bid/Build is when a project is designed, put out to bid, and built by a contractor.  It’s linear.  The second method is when the owner hires one team composed of a contractor and a designer to concurrently design and build the project.  This second method is usually chosen when an owner wants a project delivered, in both design and construction, as quick as humanly possible.

What follows are the organizational charts of each of these two most common methods of construction project delivery.

My story. I’ve been involved in both of these methods of delivery and as a contractor I’ve always enjoyed the Design/Build projects. The first reason is because it’s fun to help with the design. The second reason is that it’s usually more profitable to control the design. My advice to both owners and contractors, without exception, is to put the designer under command of the contractor. Both cost and schedule can be managed by an entity known for “low bid” and “speed” wins versus a time and materials approach. Work safe!

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