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Construction Management: Understanding Agency Vs. At-Risk

Construction management, in a general sense, describes a form of professional guidance that helps ensure the success of a building project. As a formal discipline, the term refers to specific management techniques applied throughout the project lifecycle to effectively control costs, schedule and quality.

In a third iteration, construction management (CM) also refers to a set of legal principles that are incorporated into the contractual relationship between a project’s ownership entity and the engineering/design firm providing these services. Before engaging the services of a professional construction manager, it’s important to understand the terms used to describe CM services.


Construction Managment

Construction Management At-Risk

This term, commonly abbreviated as CM At-Risk or CMAR, refers to a specific type of project delivery method as well as a contractual relationship between CM and client.

If you engage a construction manager at-risk (CMR), the CMR agrees to coordinate, oversee and deliver your facility for a guaranteed maximum price. In this legal relationship, the CMR advises the client from the time of project inception, and acts as the general contractor.

Construction Management Agency

This term, although similar to CMAR, describes a type of relationship rather than a project delivery method. In a construction management agency (CMA) relationship, the CM represents the client as their dedicated representative. The CM can legally act on behalf of the client to sign documents and make project-specific decisions.

A CMA agreement can be structured to span the entire lifecycle of a project, from design through turnover, or for a specific segment of the design or building process.


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Alternative Project Delivery Methods

In addition to the CMAR method of project delivery, you can also choose the Design-Build (DB) or Design-Bid-Build (DBB) approach.

Traditionally, most building projects have used the DBB method. In this approach, the client contracts with one company to complete the architecture and engineering phase of the project and another firm to oversee the construction phase. The DBB method has become less popular in recent years, as it exposes the client to the highest levels of risk.

In the Cleanroom Design Build (DB) method, one firm is engaged to handle both the cleanroom design / clean room engineering and the physical construction of the project. This may sound like the CMAR approach; however, they have two key differences.

In a CMAR relationship, the CMR holds the risk if the project exceeds the contractual price or schedule. The second difference is that, in a CMAR arrangement, the client may engage the services of a separate design or engineering firm to handle the preliminary phases of project design, although that is not a requirement.

If the technical and legal aspects of these project delivery methods are confusing, you can learn more from the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). Or you can contact DesignTek Consulting Group as your clean room consultant or cleanroom contractor as we provide both services. We assist clients with the clean room design, engineering and construction of cleanrooms and other industrial facilities.

We would be happy to consult with you on your upcoming project and explain the many potential benefits of the construction management approach to project delivery.


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