A future view of construction management

Glenn Ebersole//June 7, 2023


A future view of construction management

Glenn Ebersole//June 7, 2023

What is construction management? 

The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) states that: 

“Construction management is a professional service that provides a project’s owner(s) with effective management of the project’s schedule, cost, quality, safety, scope, and function. Construction management works for all project delivery methods. No matter the setting, a Construction Manager’s (CMs) responsibility is to the owner and to a successful project.”   

What are the responsibilities of the Construction Manager? 

It is also important to understand the responsibilities of the Construction Manager. The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) states the most common responsibilities of a Construction Manager fall into the following 7 categories: Project Management Planning, Cost Management, Time Management, Quality Management, Contract Administration, Safety Management, and CM Professional Practice.  

What is the future of construction management? 

The field of construction management is expected to grow at a higher rate than the national average, positioning future construction managers for a successful career. For example, employment of construction managers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. About 41,500 openings for construction managers are projected each year, on average, over this decade. 

There is a growing demand in the construction industry for construction managers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a construction manager’s job chances will grow at a 10% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) up to the year 2028. 

Job opportunities for construction managers are expected to be good. Specifically, job seekers with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering, coupled with construction experience, will have the best job prospects. 

Employment growth creating many new jobs will be contrasted with some construction managers expecting to retire or leave the occupation in substantial numbers over the next decade, resulting in further job openings. 

Construction managers are expected to be needed as overall construction activity expands. Population and business growth over this decade will result in the construction of new residences, office buildings, retail outlets, hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other structures.   

The need also will grow to improve portions of the national infrastructure, which may spur employment growth as roads, bridges, and sewer pipe systems are upgraded or replaced. 

A growing emphasis on retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient should create jobs for general contractors, who are more likely to manage the renovation and upgrading of buildings than oversee new large-scale construction projects. 

Firms will more likely require construction managers to oversee projects to ensure that projects are completed on time and under budget. Furthermore, construction processes and building technology will become more complex, requiring greater oversight and spurring demand for specialized management personnel. 

Employment of construction managers, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. In one scenario, workers in the construction industry may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. And in another scenario, peak periods of building activity may produce abundant job opportunities for construction managers.  

What is the primary purpose of construction management? 

The primary purpose of construction management is to strongly control and monitor the progress of a project in terms of quality, cost and time. It covers a wide spectrum of responsibilities and it spreads to many different fields (construction, engineering, architecture, law, software, technology, etc.).  

Common challenges for CMs 

Some of the common challenges CMs can expect to face in a typical construction project, include: 

  • Poorly defined objectives. Many project managers struggle with a lack of well-defined goals for the projects they run. 
  • Budget constraints. 
  • Time management.  
  • Unrealistic expectations.  
  • Hazard management.

Strategies to overcome these challenges include: 

  • Effective communication with the team. 
  • Evaluating and confronting performance problems. 
  • Hiring the right people. 
  • Managing conflicts within your team. 
  • Retaining star employees.

How will construction management change over the next decade? 

Construction industry professionals, during a Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) Conference & Trade Show in San Diego, CA, shared their thoughts on how construction management will change over the next decade and what Owners can expect.  

Looking 10 years into the future, panelists said they will be expecting several things from the Construction Manager (CM) including: 

  • value engineering 
  • innovative construction methods 
  • stakeholder leadership/management 
  • efficiency 
  • staff augmentation 
  • training 

CMs are encouraged to be involved early on in a project to help assist and advise the Owner through all phases of project delivery, including the planning, design, and construction process of capital projects. CMs can bring great value and insights to the project team during the design and construction phases. 

Key industry trends that will drive project delivery for the next 10 years, beyond earlier engagement by the CM, will be more complexity in both the delivery and construction of a project. Sustainability is expected to be incorporated into the construction process and innovative technology will play a key role. 

Anticipatory leadership is needed in the construction management industry. Closely monitoring hard trends and soft trends is critical in order to anticipate what will happen and be on the leading edge of the industry. Failure to be anticipatory and to innovate will result in the industry and its organizations becoming irrelevant. 

In today’s world, there is importance of the bottom line needs to be viewed in 3 parts: financial, social and environmental considerations and the necessity of balancing all three during the lifecycle of a project. 

Future leadership of the construction management industry must understand that Owners will increasingly expect a certain knowledge base from the CM. This involves acquiring and deploying cutting-edge technology in regards to the digital side of things as well as construction methods. A construction manager must have the resources and effectively utilize project management tools. 

A closing thought 

“Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.” Henry Mintzberg, business and management academic and author.  

Glenn Ebersole is a registered professional engineer and the Director of Business Development at JL Architects, a nationally licensed commercial architecture firm based in West Chester. He can be contacted by [email protected] or 717-575-8572.