the lca journal: news & views from the LCA team

  • Louis Chiodo Architects

Project Management, Design Management & Construction Management: What's the difference?

Undertaking a design and construction project involves effective management of many aspects including the coordination of consultants, subcontractors and trades whilst simultaneously liaising with clients and other significant stakeholders. It is vital that this coordination is conducted in a calculated and organised way in order to deliver a successful project from its initial development phases to final completion. Effective project management, design management and construction management are three vital practices of a project’s lifespan that are imperative to its success. Whilst these three practices are similar in their nature to manage various aspects of a project, they differ in their core activities and outcomes.

Project management is the planning, control and supervision of a project in order to achieve agreed time, cost and performance objectives. Within the design and construction industry, the project manager is responsible for coordinating all aspects of a design and build project including and communicating a strategy for the timely completion of the project to all stakeholders involved. It is important for the project manager to communicate all the responsibilities and skills required by all stakeholders involved in the project.

Similarly, design management is the practice of coordinating and overseeing the design process of a project. Within the design and construction industry, the design manager is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the project design, usually within the context of an architectural office. The purpose of their role can be to liaise with consultants (such as engineers, acoustic designers and energy raters), clients and architectural technicians, as well as to make key decisions about the way a project is designed both aesthetically and functionally.

Parallel to the practices of project management and design management, construction management is the process of organising all aspects of the physical construction of a project in order for it to be realised. Within the design and construction industry, the role of the construction manager is to coordinate the necessary labour, materials and equipment required to deliver the design specifications of the project. It is the responsibility of the construction manager to develop a plan as part of the initial phases of the construction process to ensure all time, cost and design expectations as well as construction standards are met.

In summary, it can be said that project, design and construction managers share a key responsibility to be leaders in their practice. Each of these roles requires the manager to exemplify exceptional planning and communication skills and be able to demonstrate a strong ability to collaborate effectively with others involved in the project. Given the collaborative nature of projects in the design and construction context, the practices of project management, design management and construction management are imperative in delivering a successful project that meets all relevant expectations (including time schedule, cost, design and construction standards) of all stakeholders involved.