Over the course of meeting with hundreds of clients about their office build-out needs, we’ve found that when getting started, there’s one big piece that is confusing: What’s the difference between a project manager and a construction project manager? And why do I need to hire both?

In this article, we will outline the different roles played by each position and the importance of each.


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

While these phrases are sometimes used interchangeably in everyday conversation, this is actually a misnomer.

A project manager’s role is to represent the tenant throughout the entire build-out process, from assisting in the site selection process and budgeting, to move-in and ongoing support.

The project manager is responsible for managing the construction manager, as well as the architect, engineers, and any other vendors involved in your office build-out.

The construction manager only enters the picture once the project enters the pre-construction phase and is involved only through the end of construction.

Project Manager vs. Construction Manager Timeline


What does a project manager do?

The project manager’s job is to act as the tenant’s representative throughout the entire project. Essentially, it is their job to take the day-to-day management of all aspects of your build-out, including vendor management and budgeting and scheduling, off of your shoulders and ensure that your project comes in on time and on (or under) budget.

The project manager should be involved beginning with the site selection process and work on your project through move-in and occupancy. A project manager’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Site Selection Process: While your broker will be your primary point of contact during the site selection process, it is important to bring in a project manager at this stage as well. Your project manager will assist with test fits for potential spaces, as well as provide project budgets and schedules for you to compare multiple spaces and know how much TI you may need to negotiate into your lease.
  • Design Process: This is where the project manager really takes the lead. From design discovery, through bidding and design approval, the project manager will coordinate all of the vendors and steps involved in designing the perfect office space for your company.
  • Bids & Permitting: The project manager will guide you through the vendor selection process, as well as the tedious permitting procedure. This period, also known as the “pre-construction” period, is when all of the pieces come together in order for your project to come to life, including the construction drawings, general contractor and construction manager, permits and more.
  • Construction: During the construction process, the project manager will act as your direct point of contact and manage all of the contractors and vendors directly. In order to ensure that your project is delivered on time and on budget, the project manager will perform regular job site inspections, as well as give you scheduled progress updates. In addition, the project manager will coordinate all FF&E installations and punch list items.
  • Delivery: Once construction comes to an end, most other vendors’ jobs do too. However, the project manager stays with you to coordinate your move in and will be available to help you with any issues that may arise once you have occupied the space.

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 enters the picture during the bids and permitting phase and is active throughout the construction process.

The construction manager is the leader of the construction site and reports directly to the project manager. The construction manager is in charge of:

  • Contractors and Subcontractors: The construction manager will compile a team of contractors and subcontractors.
  • Construction Budget: Once a budget has been finalized and approved by the tenant and their project manager, the construction manager is charged with administering it.
  • Work Orders: If an issue arises or a change is needed, the construction manager is tasked with suggesting a solution and submitting a work order to the project manager and tenant for approval.
  • Code Compliance: It is the construction manager’s responsibility to ensure that all aspects of the build-out are compliant with the building codes.


While very different roles, the two positions work closely together, and both are crucial to the success of a project.

Now that you know the difference between the two, you may want to check out the following articles to learn more about hiring a project manager.


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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