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April 10, 2021

Most people have a superficial understanding of general contractors yet do not understand exactly what these individuals do.  General contractors, sometimes referred to as GCs, are fundamental to the success of construction projects.  Below, we answer the question of “What is a commercial general contractor?”, providing an insightful look at how these professionals shape construction projects from start to finish.

What Does a General Contractor Do?

General contractors are responsible for overseeing the progress of a construction project.  These individuals are also responsible for scheduling the construction project and ensuring it remains on track for completion by the target date and on budget.  General contractors manage the entirety of the project from the point at which ground is broken all the way up until the point of completion.  The general contractor provides and manages laborers, materials, equipment and more.

The construction company manager or the owner of the construction company is responsible for hiring a general contractor.  In turn, the general contractor hires laborers, specialty tradesmen and subcontractors to complete the nuanced challenges of the project ranging from concrete pouring to plumbing, electrical work, etc.

If the project is particularly expansive in scope, the general contractor might actually be a developer or a construction company that manages the projects on behalf of several clients.  However, if the project is more narrow in scope, the general contractor will be a single individual.   Anyone who is considering a construction project should know the work will likely require specialized subcontractors, meaning it will be difficult to manage these individuals as well as the progress of the project on your own.  This is precisely why the guidance and oversight of general contractors is so valuable.  The general contractor manages the laborers, the worksite, the budget and the deadlines so you, the client, do not have to worry about those challenges.

The Role of the General Contractor is Dynamic

Those who are unfamiliar with construction projects sometimes assume general contractors do the same work on every single project.  However, the role of the general contractor has the potential to be quite dynamic, meaning it can change based on the nuanced requirements of each project.  The complexity as well as the size of the construction project in question ultimately determine the extent of the general contractor’s role.  The bottom line is no two construction projects are exactly the same, meaning general contractors who are flexible are that much more coveted and also that much more successful.

While a couple building permits might be necessary for one project, a considerable amount might be necessary for the next.  Even the subtleties of securing the property in question differ from one construction site to the next.  Add in complexities with managing different workforce sizes, the use of highly specific temporary materials, site surveying considerations and the challenges of disposing of different types of waste at each site and it becomes increasingly clear no two general contractors do exactly the same work day-in, day-out.

Steering the Construction Project to Success

Ask anyone who has worked in the field of construction about the potential for problems to arise and you will be inundated with details about unexpected issues plaguing construction projects of all types.  However, most, if not all of these projects lacked a competent or experienced general contractor.  The bottom line is most construction projects of a considerable magnitude require ongoing project management.

The general contractor is tasked with submitting the project proposal or bid that outlines all of the details of the project pertaining to labor, cost, scheduling, materials, etc.  Such proposal demands require a considerable amount of time and effort from the general contractor.  Cost estimates are to be created based on the cost of labor, materials, equipment rental, workers’ compensation insurance and the most valuable asset of them all: time.

The General Contractor’s Role in Work Activities

Once the planning is complete, the general contractor’s work is not done.  Rather, this individual plays an active and important role in managing the project, monitoring its progress, ensuring legal compliance and also ensuring safety at the construction site.  If necessary, the general contractor will appoint subcontractors with specialized skills and expertise to complete specific aspects of the project that would prove egregiously difficult or even impossible for the general contractor and his team to complete on their own.  The general contractor’s primary role is to manage the daily operations of the construction site, guiding it along day-by-day with the overarching goal of bringing the client’s vision to life and meeting the timetable for completion.

Ongoing Project Tracking

Project tracking is essential to completing the job in full by the deadline.  The general contractor is responsible for tracking the project’s progress from the beginning to the end.  Though the calgary general contractor is not doing heavy lifting or an abundance of physical labor, his or her role is even more important than that of a laborer as ongoing project monitoring prevents potentially time-consuming and costly disruptions.

Disruption prevention is centered on the general contractor monitoring the construction site to ensure it is completely safe, performing quality control, providing a steady supply of materials and implementing construction methods that are cost-effective.  The general contractor also schedules purchases well ahead of the point at which materials will be used, ensuring the project remains on track without any unnecessary delays.

Maintaining an Open Dialogue With the Client

The general contractor’s role extends to discussing the project’s progress and challenges with the client.  In fact, the general contractor is the client’s primary point of contact, providing updates in regard to each stage of the construction project and delving into exactly what is occurring at the jobsite.

The general contractor remains in contact with the client from the initial consultation all the way toward the end of the project.  The best general contractors are willing to engage in a productive dialogue with the client as opposed to a top-down monologue.  This means general contractors worth their keep are willing to field questions and answer them in plain English, address all client concerns and even ask some questions of their own to ensure the project meets the client’s expectations.