The Life Of A Construction Manager
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A construction manager is someone whose job it is to oversee, monitor and co ordinate the process of construction of a building from design and initial planning stage to finish of the building. This means architects, by the nature of their jobs can to some extent also act in the capacity of a project manager since they are trained in document control and financing projects as well handling resources and overseeing construction. In some instances like in design-build-operate procurement the job description of the construction manager goes as far as overseeing and managing the operation of the building(s).
Construction project managers have many responsibilities that they have to attend to on a day to day basis. According to Ritz (1994) these responsibilities include: setting and achieving project objectives, purchasing of labour, equipment and materials, controlling of planning, design and estimation of costs as well as budgeting and monitoring progress of the project. He goes on to further state that the construction manager has to also handle project planning, costing, resource management such as time allocation, employee management and all communication necessary during a project including dispute resolution.
In order to gain a better understanding of the typical day of a construction project manager I had to go interview one. I was fortunate enough to find a willing participant in Mr. Ngu Yen of Tomtek Malaysia Sdn Bhd which is a consultancy firm based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. What I learnt affirmed some of what I already knew from my studies and thought a construction manager goes through on a daily basis as well as gave me new insight into what it is that he actually does. Similar to other professionals in the construction industry like an architect, the day of a construction project manager usually begins with making phone calls and checking up on emails. He then checks his daily planner to see if there are any outstanding and important meetings scheduled for the day. On the day that I interviewed Mr. Yen, he had a big site meeting with a client as well as other contractors for a commercial project that his company was supposed to oversee. There was also another site visit to a construction site to check on the level of progress scheduled and a manning schedule for another project that needed reviewing.
The work that the construction manager is hectic and stressful and requires a lot of employability skills, such as being organized, attentive to detail and an understanding of how a construction project is supposed to progress. During a construction project, the construction manager becomes the intermediary between the owners of the project (clients) and the workers on site. In this way the project manager acts in the same capacity as an architect. (Rojas 2009) the construction manager also has to be able to multi-task very well, as they often have to take notes while talking to the client and planning how to effect changes that a client, through the architect, will want done on the project. This was the case at the second site meeting where Mr. Yen was already preparing anticipated changes to the handover date of the project due to the fact that the client had relayed through the architect that there was changes that had to be made about the material used during construction. Working out the logistics proved to be a bit of a challenge especially as the contractor for the project was not familiar with knowledge on how to build using the new materials and there was now a need for a sub-contractor to take over erection of the building.
On a daily basis, the construction project manager has to do office work to kep their records up to date and organised. They also have to schedule meetings for ongoing and upcoming projects to finalise issues such as budgeting, manpower requirements and procurement of material. The project manager will often chair the meetings and have to come up with clear goals and objectives for the rest of the members of the design team or the building team and ensure that these goals re achieved at the end of the meeting.
Perhaps the hardest task in the day of the construction project manager is conflict resolution. Building projects require constant supervision to ensure the project will be finished on time, within the estimated cost and according to the quality specified. This usually results in contractors having to be pushed sometimes to get the job done, a move which they normally resent. As the custodian of the site and the project, the construction manager has to make sure that any issues raised by either the contractor or his workers are looked into and speedily resolved to make sure the project is not compromised. Apart from that the construction manager has to ensure the safety of the site for workers, pedestrians and other professionals who come to the site. It is the responsibility of the construction project manager under law to ensure site safety and check that safety measures are being put into practice as intended. This will involve talking to the site foreman and at extreme times or in the case of serious emergencies halting the construction for an investigation into the accident to be carried out as well as safety recommendations to be implemented. The construction manager needs to be knowledgeable about the project as well in order to answer any questions the crew on site might have.
On a busy day such as when the company is handling a lot of projects at once the project manager will be on his feet for most of the day. This results in a lot of stress and fatigue, hazards which they have to look out for and also deal with. Planning and organising people takes a lot of patience and the skill of foresight. (Walter A2007, pp 44)
The major difference between what I thought I knew about the day of a project manager and what I actually saw and learn is that no two days are the same for the project manager. Each project has problems as well as solutions that are unique to it, and the project manager needs to have a lot of hands on experience sometimes to solve these problems and perform to the best of their ability.
At the end of the day the project manager has to do whatever it takes to get the job done. On a typical day they will rely on software to keep their schedule up to date, other professionals in the building industry to ensure the smooth continuation of the project as well as provide clients with input as well as feedback on the progress of their buildings. The project manager goes through a lot of meetings on any day and has to give precise instructions always to ensure the viability of the project. Communication plays a very important role in the day of the construction project management, coupled with a strong work ethic for excellence.
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