What’s the Difference Between General Contractor and Construction Management?

This week, we were involved with two exciting events! We started the process of beginning renovations for Woodcreek Elementary as a Construction Manager, and some members of our staff attended the Building Better Futures Career Event for Holt Public Schools! At the event, we had the opportunity to listen to successful trades workers on what the industry is like and network with students of Holt! One of the questions we received was ‘What’s the difference between being a General Contractor and a Construction Manager?’ Considering this question is very popular with those starting their own businesses, as well as new businesses searching for construction companies, we wrote this blog to help you understand the differences, similarities, and the options we offer here at Laux Construction!

Our team at the Building Better Futures Career Event at Holt High School. From left to right, Carter Vandlen (Project Engineer), Mark Taylor (Site Superintendent), Ryan Dorey (Project Engineer), and Chris Martin (Director of Project Management).

Laux Construction is one of Mid-Michigan’s leading General Contractors, and we have worked in 45 of the 83 counties in Michigan! However, we’re beginning to expand into Construction Management opportunities like the renovations taking place at Woodcreek Elementary for Lansing School District. So, what’s the difference, and why is it important? While the titles can also be job titles, for this article, we will be using the terms to refer to delivery methods of construction. To start, let’s compare their definitions!

General Contractor (GC) – a person or entity that contracts to oversee a building project usually involving the use of subcontractors

Construction Management (CM) – a professional service that provides a project owner, or owners, effective management of the project schedule, cost, quality, safety, scope, and function.

The definitions of General Contractor and Construction Manager are similar in tasks required to complete a project, but how they go about completing these tasks differs. GC’s create an estimated cost to bid to the owners against other potentially interested construction companies. Typically, the company with the lowest bid will be awarded the project, and thus the project planning will be passed down to the GC. They are then responsible for bidding out to subcontractors for the specified trades needed for the work scope and communicating materials and lead times between subs and the project owner. GC’s are also communicating with the architect on building designs regarding changes and additions that can be both expected and unexpected.

CM’s on the other hand also handle these tasks but have a much larger area of responsibilities and financial tasks. CM’s will be involved with the project from the absolute beginning. They aid architects and owners in design stage and can offer financial advice regarding materials and project goals to develop the most possible outcome. CM’s also work on a set fee rather than GC’s who complete with bid amounts. Companies acting as CM are also typically large companies as they have many departments represented in one company, such as architects, trades, and various field and administrative staff.

Graphic Credit: SmartSheet. Photo linked.

Regarding the job titles of GC and CM, a GM is usually an individual that has grown throughout the field and trades, acquiring many certifications and understanding of everything going into a project. They can communicate about everything regarding the project plans and are also able to clearly communicate this with other team members. This not only builds their expertise, but also their network of subcontractors. After working with many different companies, GC’s can build reliable bonds with other companies and can expand their business much further, much faster. CM’s can also have this same experience but are typically backed with a bachelor’s degree. Due to their job being much more official and having advisory responsibilities, it’s required for them to not only understand the entirety of a project, but also the financial aspects. Since their background is more educational networking, they may not have the large range of contacts compared to a GC, but they can bring their knowledge to a company that does General Contracting services and grow that way!

Subcontractors met onsite for final measurements and observations of Woodcreek Elementary before mobilization the following Monday.

These are just a few of the main differences between the two delivery methods, as there are smaller details that separate them. However, here at Laux Construction, you get the best of both worlds! From growing into a leading General Contractor for Mid-Michigan, our subcontractor list expands across the state! We have excellent team members that can bring your construction dreams into a reality and offer Construction Management services while receiving our general contracting connections! Woodcreek is our most recent CM project, so make sure you’re following our socials to stay up to date on that project, as well as all the other amazing opportunities we have coming up this season! If you liked the blog this week, share with your friends, family, and colleagues by clicking the icons below; or you can leave a comment with topics you’d like us to cover, or your thoughts on this week!

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