A general contractor, also referred to as a construction manager or project manager, is a professional who oversees and manages construction projects. As the prime contractor, the general contractor is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a project, including managing budget, schedule, quality, safety, coordination of subcontractors and suppliers, and compliance with building codes and other regulations.
Role and Responsibilities
The general contractor typically takes on the following responsibilities:
- Work with the client or project owner to understand project requirements, specifications, and expectations
- Develop a bid proposal with a detailed cost estimate and project timeline
- Obtain necessary permits and insurance coverage including liability insurance and workers’ compensation
- Create a construction schedule outlining major milestones from start to finish
- Hire qualified subcontractors to carry out specialized trades such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC, drywall, etc.
- Coordinate work of all subcontractors and suppliers
- Manage workflows to ensure efficient operations
- Track and control budgets through careful monitoring of costs
- Implement safety protocols and ensure OSHA compliance
- Conduct quality assurance through inspections and testing
- Manage change orders and modifications to original plans
- Lead project meetings and keep open communication with client and project team
- Maintain thorough record keeping and documentation
- Deliver regular progress reports to client
- Handle dispute resolutions and construction claims as needed
- Oversee project closeout, punch list completion and final inspections
Essentially, the general contractor functions as the leader of the construction team and point person for the client. They assemble the experts, troubleshoot problems, mitigate risks, and orchestrate all the moving parts – enabling projects to be delivered on time, on budget, safely and to the client’s specifications.
Background and Qualifications
To take on the complex role of general contractor, extensive skills and experience are required. Typical qualifications include:
- Formal education in construction management, engineering or related field
- Hands-on construction experience
- Strong knowledge of building codes, zoning regulations, and industry best practices
- Keen understanding of construction drawings and specifications
- Expertise in critical path scheduling and cost control methods
- Leadership and communication abilities to coordinate teams
- Problem-solving skills to overcome project challenges
- Attention to quality standards and safety protocols
- Valid contractor’s license issued by the state
The most successful general contractors continue learning through ongoing safety training, keeping current with the latest technologies and sustainable building trends, and refining their expertise in niche construction sectors.
Key Activities Throughout the Construction Process
As construction leader, the general contractor is deeply involved at every phase – from initial bidding and planning through to the final building inspection. Key activities include:
- Analyze architectural plans, engineering specs, and other bid documents
- Conduct in-depth site evaluations including surveys, soil tests etc.
- Prepare accurate cost estimates for all materials, equipment and labor
- Define project schedule with stages from mobilization to closeout
- Assemble bid proposal for client showing approach, timeline and bid price
- Secure commitments from key subcontractors and suppliers
- Obtain necessary permits and insurance policies prior to kickoff
- Host pre-construction meeting to align teams on project plan
- Break ground and oversee site preparation and excavation
- Coordinate timely delivery of materials to avoid delays
- Schedule trades crews to maximize efficiency
- Conduct safety inspections and oversee use of PPE
- Perform daily walkthroughs and progress inspections
- Log site activities through construction reports and photo/video documentation
- Review and approve subcontractor invoices and pay applications
- Process change orders or modifications as needed
- Run quality testing at critical checkpoints
- Mitigate issues as they arise to avoid impacting budget/schedule
- Update schedule andworkload plans on ongoing basis
Closeout & Turnover Phase
- Verify all contract requirements have been fulfilled
- Punch list walkthrough to address final fixes and touch ups
- Confirm building systems are optimized and operating properly
- Clean worksite and remove all equipment/unused materials
- Coordinate final inspections by building officials
- Assist owner with Certificate of Occupancy
- Review project documentation and submit as-builts
- Celebrate completion and recap lessons learned!
Why Hire a General Contractor?
Taking on a major construction or renovation project is enormously complex with pieces that can quickly spiral out of control. This is why hiring an expert general contractor is so valuable. They make the process smooth from start to finish:
Industry Connections – GCs have long-standing trade relationships enabling access to the top talent in each field and volume discounts on materials/rentals.
Technical Mastery – Construction is their expertise; they understand critical specifications that owners miss and can advise on best practices.
Efficiency – With oversight of all moving parts, they maximize productivity through detailed scheduling while minimizing waste.
Accountability – As prime point person, they tackle issues promptly, track budgets rigorously, and update progress transparently.
Risk Management – Through careful planning and safety measures, GCs mitigate liability concerns and provide insured protection.
Cost Savings – Their construction savvy finds ways to deliver projects faster, better, cheaper.
Peace of Mind – With an expert GC quarterbacking, owners avoid countless headaches and gain confidence in achieving their vision.
In today’s complex construction landscape, working with a professional general contractor makes reaching the finish line much more attainable. Their leadership and construction know-how injects projects with clear direction and cost certainty each step of the way.
Relationships with Other Project Parties
Though the general contractor helms the building process on-site, success depends heavily on collaborating with other integral project partners including:
Owners – As client and project champion, open communication with owners regarding goals, decisions, budgets and changes is critical.
Architects/Engineers – Work closely with to interpret plans/specs, identify discrepancies early, value engineer solutions.
Subcontractors – Vet and build trusted relationships with trades crews; oversee workmanship meets standards.
Suppliers – Nurture positive long term partnerships; leverage buying power for better prices/terms.
Inspectors – Maintain transparent dialogue around code requirements and take prompt corrective actions.
Project Managers – Align with PMs on technical building specifics; lead operational construction execution.
Syncing the roles and contributions of every project stakeholder is imperative to smooth construction operations. The GC is at the center – facilitating clear understanding, rapid responses, proactive decisions and timely solutions when challenges emerge on site.
Juggling the moving parts of a building project while balancing quality, safety and the bottom line takes sharp skills and even sharper focus. A seasoned general contractor has the acumen and field-tested experience to successfully steer a construction venture from concept to completion. By managing intricate construction details so owners don’t have to, they empower projects to unfold productively and minimize growing pains along the journey. With an expert general contractor at the helm backed by networked industry partners, construction dreams can become constructed realities.