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Architect vs Construction Manager

Architect vs Construction Manager: Understanding the Differences

Architect and Construction Manager are two technical figures who work and collaborate in the realization of a project. However, these two figures have some differences; let’s analyze them in detail.

The development of a design and construction process involves numerous technical professionals who cooperate to ensure the success of a project.

Among the various roles, the architect and the construction manager stand out as fundamental pillars for the successful management of a construction project. They share some responsibilities and often will be collaborating. Their activities are typically supported by a BIM collaborative platform, which can be used for free simply through a web browser after creating an account.

Architects and construction managers differ in several aspects: education, duties, and requirements are just a few of them. Let’s explore them in detail in this article!

Collaboration and video conferences with the usBIM platform

Collaboration and video conferences with the usBIM platform

Who is an architect?

An architect is a highly qualified professional who is responsible for the planning and design of construction projects. These projects can range from designing residential, commercial, and industrial buildings to renovating existing structures.
They work closely with clients to understand their needs and translate abstract ideas into tangible projects. In addition to focusing on a project’s aesthetic aspect, an architect’s work also entails emphasizing its feasibility, as well as other factors such as project functionality, energy efficiency, and safety.

Who is a construction manager?

A construction manager plays a crucial role in the construction industry, especially for complex and large-scale projects. This professional takes on the role of supervisor and coordinator during all phases of the construction process to ensure that the project is executed flawlessly and in compliance with the specific requirements of the client.
This role is responsible for ensuring that the work carried out on the construction site aligns with the designs, technical specifications, and local and national regulations. They must also ensure that the project stays within the agreed-upon budget, efficiently managing financial resources and identifying any potential additional costs before they become problematic.

Architect vs construction manager: which are the differences?

Although  the architect and the construction manager, both appointed by the client, often collaborate and coordinate during project construction, they have a fundamental difference that is evident in their primary roles:

  • An architect is responsible for the design or renovation of buildings, focusing on concepts of aesthetics as well as functionality, and analyzing project’s technical, urban, environmental, and architectural feasibility;
  • A construction manager supervises, manages, and coordinates the entire construction process. They are responsible for technical, accounting, and administrative control of the project’s execution to ensure that the work is carried out to industry standards and in accordance with the project.

To better understand the key differences between these two important roles, it can be helpful to characterize them based on four specific elements:

  1. Job duties;
  2. Work requirements;
  3. Skills;
  4. Software usage.
Aspects that differentiate an architect and a construction manager

Aspects that differentiate an architect and a construction manager

1. Job Duties

The job duties of an architect can vary significantly, as they can choose to specialize in various areas, including residential or commercial design/renovation, interior design, landscape architecture, urban planning, or historical and artistic heritage restoration. However, in general, regardless of the project’s size and type, their duties typically include:

  • Working closely with clients to clarify their preferences and budget;
  • Developing a design concept in line with the client’s specific requirements, proposing key alternatives;
  • Consulting structural plans, land use plans, and historical, landscape, and environmental constraints within the construction area to understand the urban and regulatory conditions in detail and create a project that complies with existing constraints and regulations;
  • Assessing the environmental impact of the structure, project feasibility, and all pre-construction evaluations;
  • Developing comprehensive informational models that include structural, architectural, systems, and energy information, collaborating with other professionals when necessary to ensure the seamless integration of all project aspects;
  • Estimating construction costs and expenses;
  • Collaborating with and supervising the construction team to ensure the project’s proper execution.

On the other hand, Construction Managers often have differentiated responsibilities, mainly between the preliminary and execution phases. During the preliminary phase, their tasks include:

  • Assessing the project site’s condition;
  • Handing over the construction to the executing contractor after preparing a proper work delivery report. Following this handover, the contractor is obligated to fulfill contractual obligations and commence the work.

In the execution phase, their responsibilities encompass:

  • Accepting materials on the construction site, which must have been approved by quality control authorities and comply with the special contract specifications, in the case of public contracts;
  • Ensuring compliance with the contractor’s obligations, monitoring that workers’ performances on-site align with the project, contract, and safety regulations;
  • Handling any design variations or concerns, keeping the client and the contractor informed about their development;
  • Compiling progress reports of the construction work.

Construction Managers may also be involved in planning and scheduling construction activities, collaborating with architects, engineers, and laborers to address and promptly manage work delays, construction issues, and emergencies.

2. Work Requirements

When it comes to Education, a professional architectural degree requires a Bachelor of Architecture program takes five years to complete.

To further enhance their knowledge in design, construction technology, and sustainability, architects can benefit from pursuing a master’s degree or advanced design courses such as those related to BIM training, which helps develop detailed skills and advances their professional standing.
On the other hand, the requirements for becoming a Construction Manager involve having a background as a surveyor, architect, or engineer, along with specific training in the regulations related to construction execution, safety, job responsibilities, and duties. Gaining experience through an internship on construction sites is highly valuable, as it provides insights into construction management, cost control, and execution aspects.

3. Skills

Architects require highly creative and design skills to develop a concept in line with the client’s expectations. They need strong attention to detail and a solid understanding of technical and building regulations. Effective verbal and written communication skills are also essential to convey and present design intentions effectively.
Construction Managers need skills that are primarily:

  • Organizational and planning for defining priorities and objectives;
  • Communication to manage costs, timelines, and risks;
  • Management of costs, timelines, and risks.

They must also possess a deep technical understanding of construction and urban planning, as well as expertise in site management and documentation control.

4. Software Usage

Architects and Construction Managers face different challenges, which is why the software they use for their professional activities differs.
Unlike in the past, when architectural design simply involved creating a set of 2D architectural drawings that were often incomprehensible to clients and disconnected, today, architects must have the ability to create an integrated and parametric project. This includes architecture, interior design, outdoor design, and integration with structural and MEP elements. Therefore, they require 3D/BIM architectural design software.

This tool allows architects to model the construction and update it, extract all the necessary drawings for permits, and present the project to clients as if it were already built, using photorealistic renderings and real-time rendering.

Construction Managers, on the other hand, are involved during the execution phase and often have to manage complex issues and coordinate with designers, work supervisors, and contractors. They require construction issue management software to report and manage issues found and construction document management software to have access to and share important documents in real-time, avoiding errors and fines.

Additionally, both professions benefit from a BIM management system that simplifies the management of construction projects by providing a centralized environment for sharing data, models, and information. For architects, this means seamless collaboration and advanced 3D design. For Construction Managers, it offers precise control over projects, reduces risks, and enhances communication. I recommend starting to use a collaborative BIM platform for free, which provides 15 free applications to manage the main tasks that architects and Construction Managers need to perform, with the option to add specific applications tailored to your work.