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Owner’s Project Manager vs. Construction Manager: What’s the Difference?

Whether it is new construction or renovation of an existing building, the most important factor in the success of any building project is the leadership behind it.

Owner’s Project Manager vs. Construction Manager: What’s the Difference?

A building construction project is a big undertaking. Whether it is new construction or renovation of an existing building, the most important factor in the success of any building project is the leadership behind it.

While you may be an expert at your job, chances are you’re not a building design and construction expert. That’s why hiring someone who is can make a huge difference in the outcome of your project. But how do you know who to hire?

You might have heard of a construction manager, but in the last 25 years another option has emerged, an owner’s project manager. While both are “managers” there are some important differences between the two services in terms of what, and who, they are managing. And we’re here to tell you what those are.


Before we can talk about the differences, you need to understand what an owner’s project manager (OPM) and a construction manager (CM) do. They are both consultants hired by the building owner, but for two distinct purposes.

An OPM is hired by the owner to oversee the entire project from planning and design to construction and closeout. The number one goal of an OPM is to make sure the best interests of the owner are protected throughout the entire process. A construction manager (CM) is typically hired to oversee the construction phases of the project only. Their number one goal is to build the building.

At times, a CM will be hired during the design phase of a project. During this phase their primary responsibility is to provide estimating services. Facilitating the hiring, and managing, of the various consultants retained by the Owner, remains the responsibility of the Owner or OPM. A CM is paid a fee based on the value of the construction. The higher the value, the higher the fee they receive. An OPM is paid a flat rate based on the length of the project, regardless of the value of the project.

How are they different?

It’s not unusual to have both an OPM and a CM on the same project. That’s because, while they are both building project managers, they have different goals and focuses. Below are four ways an OPM and CM are different.

1. Conflict Resolution

OPMs mediate and negotiate between all consultants involved in a building project when issues arise. For example, if an issue arises with the building design, the architect is going to be primarily focused on protecting the design, whereas the CM is going to be primarily focused on the way they want to build the building. The OPM, on the other hand, is not directly responsible for either role yet understands the technicalities of each, so they can provide impartial, unbiased oversight to resolve the conflict in a way that protects the best interests of the owner.

2. Schedule Management

Because the CM is primarily involved in the construction phase of the project, their primary concern is focused on getting the building constructed on time and not on other aspects of the overall project schedule such as design, permitting, building furniture, equipment, and occupancy. The OPM, on the other hand, is involved in all phases of the process and schedule. They don’t just want the building built on time, they also want to see the construction start on time, furniture installed, and the tenants moved in according to the overall project schedule. They have overview and perspective on the entire project and can push all involved parties as needed to ensure the overall project schedule is maintained and met throughout all phases.

3. Budget Management

Like schedule management, the primary difference between the OPM and CM is where their concern and focus are. The CM is paid to build the building. Because an OPM is an impartial, third-party representing the owner, their focus is on maintaining the project budget from the very start of the planning and design phase through construction and closeout, so that there are no financial surprises for the owner. An OPM regularly reviews and approves all project invoices and submits to the Owner detailed financial reports to ensure consistent and accurate tracking of all project costs throughout all phases of the project to protect the overall project budget.

4. Level of Service

Basically, what it all comes down to is the level of service provided. Construction projects have grown and become increasingly complex over the years and the need for an OPM has evolved. An OPM acts as a trusted extension of the owner. They are hands on and able to provide expert oversight throughout all project phases, as well as impartial advice to the owner.

Looking for that level of service and commitment for your next building construction project? Contact us to learn how our OPM team can help your next project run as smoothly as possible.