Based on our extensive experience in consulting numerous clients on office build-out projects, we have identified a common source of confusion: understanding the distinction between a project manager and a construction project manager, as well as the necessity of hiring both.

In this article, we aim to clarify the unique roles and significance of each position.


What is the difference between a project manager and a construction project manager?

Despite their common interchangeable usage, it is essential to recognize the distinction between these terms.

A project manager primarily acts as the tenant’s representative throughout the entire build-out journey, spanning site selection, budgeting, move-in, and ongoing support. They oversee various stakeholders, including the construction manager, architect, engineers, and other vendors involved in the office build-out.

On the other hand, the construction manager’s involvement begins during the pre-construction phase and extends solely until the completion of construction.

Project Manager vs. Construction Manager Timeline


What does a project manager do?

The project manager serves as the tenant’s representative, assuming responsibility for comprehensive project management. Their role encompasses handling day-to-day tasks, such as vendor management, budgeting, and scheduling, to alleviate your workload. Their objective is to ensure timely project completion within or below the designated budget.

The project manager’s involvement spans from site selection to move-in and occupancy, assuming primary responsibilities throughout the project. Key areas of focus include:

  • Site Selection Process: While your broker handles primary communication during site selection, involving a project manager is crucial. They assist with test fits for potential spaces, provide project budgets and schedules, enabling you to compare options and negotiate lease terms effectively.
  • Design Process: The project manager takes the lead in this phase, coordinating all vendors and steps involved in designing your ideal office space. They oversee design discovery, bidding, and design approval.
  • Bids & Permitting: Guiding you through vendor selection and the complex permitting process, the project manager ensures all necessary components come together smoothly. This pre-construction period involves finalizing construction drawings, selecting a general contractor and construction manager, obtaining permits, and more.
  • Construction: Acting as your primary point of contact, the project manager manages contractors and vendors directly. They conduct regular job site inspections, provide scheduled progress updates, and coordinate FF&E installations and punch list items, ensuring timely and cost-effective project delivery.
  • Delivery: While other vendors’ involvement typically ends after construction, the project manager remains by your side. They coordinate your move-in and address any post-occupancy issues that may arise, ensuring a seamless transition into the new space.

By engaging a project manager from the site selection stage through move-in, you can streamline the entire process and ensure successful project completion within the defined timelines and budgets.

Read Now: The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Project Manager for Your Office Build-Out


What does a construction project manager do?

The construction manager is involved from the bidding and permitting phase until the completion of the construction project. They serve as the site leader and directly report to the project manager. The key responsibilities of the construction manager include:

  • Contractor and Subcontractor Management: The construction manager assembles and oversees a team of contractors and subcontractors.
  • Construction Budget Administration: Once the budget is finalized and approved by the tenant and project manager, the construction manager is responsible for its implementation.
  • Work Order Submission: In the event of issues or necessary changes, the construction manager proposes solutions and submits work orders for approval by the project manager and tenant.
  • Ensuring Code Compliance: The construction manager ensures that all aspects of the build-out adhere to building codes.

While distinct, these roles closely collaborate and play vital roles in project success. For further insights on hiring a project manager, you may find the following articles helpful.


Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Project Manager for Your Office Build-Out

Or, if you’re ready to get started on your own project, contact one of AQUILA’s expert project managers today by scheduling a consultation.


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Miles Whitten | AQUILA Project Management

Miles T Whitten

Miles works with an array of clients on interior build-outs, renovations and ground-up developments. As a project manager, he is responsible for managing all aspects of the design and construction process for his clients.

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