What’s Commercial Construction Management?

The construction industry has diversified into different types (and sub-types) over the years to meet demands put forth by population growth and business cycles. It would be wrong to suggest that construction is only about building new spaces. The intent defines the type of construction and in that regard, the intent to generate profit and accommodate the business community is why commercial projects have always had an enormous impact on day-to-day life.

However, commercial construction is not similar to other common types such as residential. They are fairly more complex with the level of complexity growing with scale and scope. With its popularity surging in the private sector, the demand for experienced commercial project managers is higher than ever. They are responsible for cost and time management, quality administration, and providing solutions and techniques to the smooth delivery of each project. 

15 Qualities of a Good Project Manager

Commercial Construction Management Explained

Any construction project that aims to generate profit falls under commercial construction management. This covers the planning, designing, and executing of various commercial project types such as office buildings, shopping malls, retail stores, restaurants, factories, etc. Each project varies in terms of scope, leaving it up to the construction project manager to follow building codes, safety regulations, budget planning, risk management, and more.

Difference Between Commercial and Residential Construction Management

Both commercial and residential construction management are fairly different from each other in terms of scope and requirements. While they can overlap each other in some specific ways, project managers must be able to differentiate their construction activities.

In general, residential construction refers to housing projects such as houses, apartments, and condominiums for families or individual people to live. On the other hand, commercial construction is all about generating income.

It can sometimes be a bit confusing to identify the project type since a condominium with multiple housing spaces can be considered both residential and commercial. The difference lies in their purpose. A condominium built as a commercial project must adhere to strict building regulations. It will be more expensive compared to a residential house with different materials and construction quality. The table below points out some of the major differences between both construction types. 

Commercial Construction Residential Construction
Stakeholders Can have multiple stakeholders or investors. Typically has a single stakeholder such as the owner or an investor.
Scale Are typically larger with multiple floors and spaces. This adds complexity to their design, making it important for them to be delivered on time. Are smaller with easier designs for construction managers to carry out. 
Structures Can have a heavier structure to withstand load based on design. This means a lot more steel since most commercial buildings have basements. Stakeholders can also plan ahead to add additional floors. Zonal regulations may limit the number of floors, meaning a lighter structure.
Regulations Building codes are more strict with little or no room for consideration. A shopping mall, for example, will not be approved without a proper sprinkler system to adhere to fire safety. Building codes are far more relaxed. A single-family house does not need to have a sprinkler system or adhere to strict safety regulations.
Materials Usually require more steel and concrete based on design, requirements, and regulations. Usually opt for timber frames.
Budget Are typically far more expensive Are typically cheaper compared to commercial construction.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Commercial Construction Scale

Scale dictates how commercial construction must be carried out. This can range from a straightforward paint job to constructing a skyscraper from scratch.

Small-scale projects under commercial construction are involved but not limited to rebranding, or the focus of updating the interior of the building. For example, renovating an outlet with a new paint job, or adding a new floor, or incorporating new technological upgrades.

Medium-scale projects are typically the expansion or remodeling of an existing building. Examples include redesigning a building for new owners, adding a new strip of shopping outlets, tearing down and expanding a space, etc.

Larger-scale projects have no previous foundation or structure, so they need to be managed professionally and with experience. Examples are high-rise buildings and warehouses. Expertise with these types of projects is crucial because of the attention to detail with budget, labor, safety, and local business codes. Small mistakes on large-scale projects can potentially become quite costly.

Commercial Construction Management
Photo by Emre Ucarer on Shutterstock

Stages and Phases of a Commercial Construction Management Process

Now that you have a clear understanding of what commercial construction is, its types, and scales, it is time to look into the different phases of commercial construction management.

Development Phase

A majority of commercial construction projects result from a set bidding process. The design-bid-build process is one method that occurs when the project owner hires an architect to design the project but does not choose a contractor until the completion of the design phase. 

Once the architect shows the finalized design, the project owner will take bids from contractors for the work. Additionally, the owner will communicate with project managers to estimate the budget with cost management. 

A more innovative approach is called Integrated Labor Delivery (ILD). Integrated Labor Delivery brings labor (the subcontractor) closer to the management team (architect, owner, GC) with the premise that labor begins at the design phase of a project. 

This new and unified alignment of all stakeholders (owner, architect, GC, and subs) will streamline the entire project delivery process. It will also reduce communication failures, mistakes, rework, and increase efficiencies in an industry plagued with labor shortages and poor productivity.

Design and Pre-Construction Phase

Once an estimated budget has been finalized, the project manager can enter the commercial design phase. This involves architects and engineers to create and go over drawings, schematics, and 3D models. The plans’ structural integrity also needs to be verified. Involving experienced civil engineers ensures safety and the final outlook of the project.

All the documents can then be submitted to obtain proper permits and permissions. During the pre-construction phase, project managers can begin the vendor bidding process for materials and services. The bidding must remain within budget expectations. There are also other expenses to keep in mind such as obtaining insurance for the on-site crew and mitigating other construction challenges.

Construction Phase

Project managers and specialized subcontractors monitor workers’ schedules and budgets in the construction phase. If the owner wants to change the vision of the project during this phase, communication, cost, and time management will be up for review.

Post-Construction Phase

In this phase of the commercial building process, the project manager and the owner should walk through and confirm that the project owner is satisfied with the completed work. 

Along with the final inspection of quality standards and technical specifications, the project manager will display the finalized project. During this phase, the project owner receives all of the necessary documentation and information that operates the building.

Responsibilities of a Commercial Construction Manager

Every commercial construction project is different based on scope and requirements. There are always construction challenges and issues that must be dealt with accordingly. This is where experienced commercial construction managers make a difference. They shoulder several responsibilities while planning and overseeing the entire project from start to finish. Proper planning ensures that timelines are met, resources are managed, risks are mitigated, and the project is delivered on schedule and within budget.

Planning and Resource Management

One of the most important responsibilities of a commercial construction manager is to plan and manage resources. This ranges from creating a workable budget to carrying construction activities within the financial limit. 

There are various materials, resources, and services that are required throughout a project’s lifecycle. It is the responsibility of the construction manager to plan day-to-day as well as down-the-road expenditures such as choosing vendors, awarding contracts, purchasing and allocating materials and equipment, submitting rental fees, and managing other on-site resources.

Cost Management

Each project size has a different budget, and the project manager is responsible for the activities of planning, estimating, financing, and controlling the costs. Every project’s budget is an overview of the total or periodic costs for the duration. Managers must consider the required time, material, equipment, and labor in cost estimation.

Time Management

Commercial construction projects vary in size and design, so depending on the scale of the project, managers have to consider the following:

  • What is the owner’s vision for the project?
  • What is the tentative due date?
  • How to delegate tasks as necessary?
  • Do I have the proper construction project management software?

Since Commercial construction has complex projects, project managers and workers must use their limited time efficiently.

Clear and Effective Communication

In the construction industry, communication between project managers and field workers is essential for success. Commercial subcontractors do 99 percent of the labor and specialize in specific trades and services that work simultaneously on mid-to-large scale projects, so communication ensures that delegated tasks and abilities are communicated on and off the job site.

Some important tips for making clear communication during a project’s lifecycle include asking questions at the right time to clarify even minute details. This ensures that everyone has a clear understanding of the matter. In addition, continual documentation and reporting time and activities keep different members of the planning team (and stakeholders) in the loop.

Quality Management

Quality control plans are created by project managers to ensure that the building is at a specific standard. Before the building is delivered to the owner, quality can be measured by following specific standards and procedures. 

General contractors and subcontractors strive for work excellence because they want to attract more business for future projects. Quality of work also has a direct impact on the profitability of a project as well as the company’s reputation so making quality management part of the delivery process is imperative.

Commercial Construction Safety
Photo by Rawpixel on Pexels

Use of eSUB in Commercial Construction Management

Technology advancements in data-driven project management software enable increased efficiency and productivity for construction. In that light, eSUB is a construction management software that helps commercial construction managers streamline their work process to make insightful decisions. It offers a platform alongside tailored services that makes it easy to collaborate between all stakeholders from the point of inception to the project’s closing. eSUB Cloud is also an option to display important data to contractors in real-time so that issues are quickly tackled before they become too big.

Commercial Construction Project Management FAQ

Q: What are the skills required for commercial construction management?

Since commercial project managers must oversee the building’s construction process from start to finish, they must be well-versed in different skills with expert knowledge to deliver nothing but quality.

Construction Estimating: Being able to accurately forecast how many resources will be needed for a project is a skill that comes with experience. This directly ties in with outlining a financial budget and deadlines during the planning phase.

Building Codes: Every city and area is covered by different construction bylaws. Knowing them is critical before starting any commercial construction. This knowledge also helps project managers procure the right materials and services beforehand to ensure quality and safety.

Communications: Commercial project managers must not only communicate with contractors but also with staff members and owners. They are right in the middle of the management queue, so they must know how to communicate requirements effectively. Miscommunication cannot be afforded in commercial construction where time is of the essence.

Team Management: Within the same communications vein, it is also important for commercial project managers to be able to lead and manage. Simply relaying orders is not enough. They must know how to put the right workers on the right post, the right amount of resources to allocate, the right equipment to bring in, and most importantly, maintain a positive and healthy environment for everyone to work efficiently in.

Market Knowledge: Procuring materials is an important part of construction, especially when it comes to commercial projects. Knowing what new materials are in the market gives project managers an edge over their competition. Sometimes new materials might be available that might be better and cheaper. 

Q: How can someone become a commercial construction manager?
There is no easy way of becoming a commercial construction manager. You must spend time obtaining both formal education and actual construction training.

Education: It all starts with obtaining a bachelor’s degree in construction management or a related field such as architecture, engineering, etc.

Field Experience: Getting hands-on experience on a construction site is an excellent step in pursuing commercial project management. Some colleges and universities offer internships with partnered construction companies to give students a combination of classwork and on-the-job training.

Work Experience: With formal education in the bag, it is time to find a job as an assistant manager or in a related role such as quality assurance, cost estimating, documentation management, etc. The experience obtained from here is one big step in becoming a commercial construction manager.

License: Not to forget that you still need a license before starting work. This, however, depends on the location. The requirements, however, vary from state to state. California, for example, allows you to obtain either an architect, engineer, or contractor license before being eligible to work on state projects.

Q: Are there any certifications for commercial construction management?
There are several certifications that commercial construction managers can pursue. Each one comes with a different set of prerequisites, requirements, and costs. The most popular of them, CCM, requires you to have experience of at least 48 months of construction before being eligible to take the exam.

  • Certified Construction Manager (CCM)
  • Associate Constructor (AC Level One)
  • Certified Professional Contractor (CPC)
  • Associate Design-Build Professional (Associate DBIA Certification)
  • Design-Build Professional (DBIA Certification)
  • Certified Safety Manager Construction (CSMC)