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What is Residential Construction Management?

Helping builders of fine homes get the most bang for their buck

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Construction management is a specialized form of project management. Residential construction management is simply construction project management with a focus on residential buildings—where people live—rather than on community, commercial, industrial or heavy civil building or renovation projects.

What does a residential construction project manager do?

As with other areas of construction project management, residential construction management is described as “a professional service that provides a project’s owner(s) with effective management of the project’s schedule, cost, quality, safety, scope, and function.”

Residential construction managers (CMs) are charged with overseeing everything related to residential building projects, from the planning phases to delivery of the finished private home or complex. They help define objectives, look at feasibility and budget, determine timelines, help establish performance standards, and guide owners in choosing teams, from architects to contractors to insurers.

When building residential properties, the human factor is paramount. Beyond the prerequisite technical and financial parameters, residences should accurately reflect owners’ preferences, priorities and personalities. Good residential construction managers understand that they are creating a legacy and are able to translate these into valid, coherent projects with reasonable parameters and attainable goals. They also anticipate changes and surprises and take them in stride. 

Residential construction statistics show that the number of new, privately owned residences—from single-family to condos and multiple-unit housing—being built has increased steadily from 2009 to the present (though there’s no telling if the trend will last). This has translated into more work for professional construction managers. The more complex the project, the more valuable the support of an experienced construction management team.

Part of the modern residential construction manager’s job is to identify and make use of building technology software. BIM, or Building Information Modeling, is popular with commercial project managers; home builders are slower to join the trend. BIM can be used to help manage a complex, demanding residential project from beginning to end. It can also show owners and investors who aren’t familiar with the nuts and bolts of construction what the building will look like in 3D design. BIM is also useful as part of a “lean building” approach that seeks to cut down on unnecessary costs and reduce the likelihood of change orders.

To be a happy residential construction manager, you need to be:

  • flexible
  • knowledgeable about a broad range of construction-related topics
  • comfortable with an unpredictable schedule between the office and the field
  • naturally analytical and obsessively precise
  • a team player who enjoys working with colleagues, clients, architects, engineers, general contractors, cost estimators, insurers, and the list goes on…
  • a good communicator and people person
  • eager for a challenge, and
  • principled.

Note that “residential construction manager” and “resident manager” are similar terms with very different job descriptions. Unlike the CM, who oversees construction and renovation projects, resident managers look after residential properties once the work has been completed. A resident manager is more of a modern building superintendent, that is, an administrator who oversees staff of upscale residential buildings and makes sure everything is running smoothly. Resident managers are often the middlemen and women facilitating communication between residents, labor and top management—as such, they rarely fix the leaks themselves nowadays. Interesting fact about resident managers: a majority are women, whereas most residential construction project managers are men.

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