It’s contract administration not construction management


Is there is a difference between contract administration and construction management? There is, and if you work in the construction industry then you should know that difference and so should everyone else, in particular the architect, the owner and the contractor. However, this is not always the case so let’s dig a little deeper into these often confused terms.

Wikipedia defines construction management as the following:

“Construction management or construction project management (CPM) is the overall planning, coordination, and control of a project from beginning to completion.” – Wikipedia

In other words, it would seem that construction management is the sole realm of the contractor, and includes all the activities that are directly related to the construction of the building with the key word being that the Contractor controls a project from beginning to end. Some examples of activities would include:

  • Employing and scheduling of tradesmen
  • Scheduling shipments of materials
  • Tracking materials and costs
  • Anything to do with building or the physical construction

In contrast, contract administration (CA) is the work of the architect, contract administrator and/ or owners representative to ensure that the final construction is in general conformance with the contract documents. If we refer to a typical contract, (we will refer to the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC) but AIA and other contracts would be similar) to the CCDC 2 Stipulated price contract 2008(CCDC) the role of CA is defined as:

“…provide administration of the Contract as described in the Contract Documents” but most importantly “The consultant ….will not have control, charge of construction means, methods, techniques, sequences, or procedures, or for safety precautions and programs required in connection with the work…” – CCDC

Continuing with the CCDC as a guide to illustrate some points, it provides a list of tasks that are typically required of the Contract Administrator and can be summarized as follows (please note this is not legal advice, not exhaustive and is to serve only as an example, devil is always in the details):

  • Visit the place of work at intervals appropriate to the progress of construction
  • Become familiar with the progress and quality of the work
  • Determine if the work is in general conformity with the contract documents
  • Determine the money owed to the contractor (based on observations above)
  • Interpretation of the contract documents
  • Provide supplemental instructions (SI)
  • Review shop drawings and submittals
  • Prepare change orders
  • Determine substantial performance
  • Receive and review warranties

I recall early in my career not fully understanding my responsibility and role as the contract administrator as described in different contracts, and as a result I was often being dragged into issues that should have been under the control and responsibility of the contractor. Thankfully, the trouble I got into was limited and looking back I wish I would have better read the contracts and better understood everyone‘s role in a construction project.

Do you have any comments or experiences from the field that you can share?  We would love to hear them below.

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