Construction manager here with over a decade of building experience. First, have you heard of my profession? I’m the guy who coordinates between the architect and engineer’s design with the subcontractors, to make the pieces fit together. It’s a ton of work and a lot of coordination involved.
We start by coordinating the layout of the building, columns, beams, piers, slab elevations, etc. Everything gets taken into account in order to build the building correctly. Then move on to laying out sheetrock walls and coordinating the MEP system. We make sure everything is approved and ordered ahead of time, because something like a Fire Pump can take 16 weeks to get.
As you can also imagine, people make mistakes. For a building there are a ton of mistakes. So often times we will have to redo work because someone forgot to insulate a pipe, or the material installed was the wrong one specified. There are also lots of design issues that may not work or incorrectly drawn. It’s up to the construction manager to find these mistakes and resolve them in order to move on.
It’s certainly not an easy process and I don’t think GCs get nearly enough credit for the work GCs do. Newspaper articles always mention the developer and architect who completed a new building, never the Construction Managers/GCs who coordinated the whole thing.
EDIT: Wow thanks for the gold!! I did not think so many people would be interested in construction. I will try to answer as many questions as I can. Also, I forgot to mention the surveyors, they deserve a lot of credit because they have no room for error. They supply the information for every trade to work off, so it’s important to find a qualified surveyor. Lastly, when I say Construction Manager, I am referring to a team of people. This includes the PM, Superintendent, APMs, Estimators, Assistant Supers, etc.
Thanks. It’s just amazing that such complex things are broken down into the simple stuff the build crew can handle.
Ive worked in the legal industry and am aware of transaction management – but making that physical as well as mental is to me what makes the process you describe so fascinating.
I’m a structural engineer gone contractor and it really is amazing to watch come together. Add to the fact that the crews from subcontractors that come to do the work usually haven’t so much as looked at the plans before arriving on site. Communication and coordination is the name of the game!
As a former home builder, the process usually went like this: Customer looks at various plans (usually a model home if you’re a bigger builder). Customer selects plan, selects lot in specific neighborhood (have to meet HOA code). Customer wants to make changes. Plans submitted for approval, loan app taken to bank for 70% of the value. Call OneCall to lay out where utilities may lie underground on site. Get availability of the guy who digs the basement. Utility companies are notified that a new home hook up is required at site. Paperwork submitted to them so they complete on time. Call the electrician and have a temporary pole for electricity installed. Framing crew and concrete guys notified for availability (had 2 framing crews and concrete guys that worked exclusively for me). Be on site for basement guy so you can go over the elevation so the house doesn’t sit too high or too low, if it’s a walkout, daylight, etc. Maybe turn a daylight into a walkout without disrupting neighboring lots. He does this with a transom (a surveying tool that gives elevation. Elevation is always figured so many feet above the street curb. Call plumber and notify for ground work. Layout the footings and sump pit. Layout and digging the footings is done by the foundation guy. The local inspector inspects the footings (what the walls sit on) for proper depth, width, and location. Footings are poured. Then the foundation guy comes in and sets up the forms for the walls. The forms are inspected, then the walls are poured. After about 3 days the forms come off, and the walls sit untouched for 2-3 weeks so the concrete cures. The basement guy comes back and backfills around the foundation so you have access, and no pitfalls. The plumber installs the drain tile and ground work, and the same day the concrete guys pour the floor to prevent the theft of the copper in the ground work. Next is the framers. They frame according to the plans, after you insure they have the most current version, and go over any changes or special items. The roof trusses and materials were ordered weeks ago, and delivered anywhere from a few days to weeks before the job starts. This depends on whether you have room to put things wherever you want. The framers frame the house, install the roof felt, windows, and exterior doors. The garage floor is poured so you can drywall the garage. My handyman comes in and installs temporary stairs from the garage into the house for safe and easy access. The framing is inspected, then the insulation is installed and inspected. Then the plumbing rough-ins, HVAC, and electrical rough-in. All must pass inspection before you can start drywalling. After drywall, the trim carpenter comes in and installs all the interior doors, baseboards, window casing, cabinets, towel bars and toilet paper holders, door knobs and cabinet knobs and handrails. Some handrails may be temps as the permanent ones may be installed after the flooring, depending on design. Then the painter comes in, paints everything, stains and varnishes the woodwork, and paints the foundation wall to match the color of the siding, and all exterior doors. While all of this is going on inside, the exterior is being done. The siding, brickwork, roofing, decking, pouring the driveway and sidewalks, installing the sprinkler system and laying sod (usually last after the final grading). Any tile work is now done. After the tile work the electricians come and hang lights and install outlet covers, hook up to the toilet fans, and connect the furnace and fireplace if there is one. The plumbers install sinks, shower and bath hardware, toilets, and install the permanent water meter. Then the flooring is installed. After a walk through with the buyers to ensure everything looks correct, all the final cleaning and touchups are done, fix everything that may be incorrect. Then the appliances are delivered and installed. You have to be there in case they damage the flooring, so you don’t eat that. Then all of the utilities are inspected again, and you get your final occupancy, hopefully comfortably ahead of closing on the property. During all of this you have the site cleaned several times so no one has to work in a cluttered environment. I’ve left out a lot, but this give you an idea of the complexity of just building a house. You have to really have your act together even more to do this with commercial building. So, no drinking, smoking weed, anything that will distract you from doing this with 15 projects going at once, while planning another 15-25. Sleep does not come easily in this profession. You lay awake every night trying to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
TL:DR A lot of details go into building a house, several of which have been left out.