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Center for Accelerating Innovation

FHWA Home / OIPD / Accelerating Innovation / Every Day Counts / EDC-2: Construction Manager General Contractor (CM/GC)

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Construction Manager/General Contractor

A unique method used to accelerate project delivery is the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) process. In the CM/GC process the project owner hires a contractor to provide feedback during the design phase before the start of construction.

The CM/GC process is broken down into two contract phases. The first contract phase, the design phase, allows the contractor to work with the designer and the project owner to identify risks, provide costs projections and refine the project schedule. Once the design phase is complete, the contractor and project owner negotiate on the price for the construction contract. If all parties are in agreement with costs then the second contract phase, the construction phase, is kicked off and construction begins.

There are advantages to using the CM/GC process. The contractor acts as the consultant in the design process and can offer new innovations, best practices and reduced costs and schedule risks as a result of the contractor’s years of proven experience doing the actual work. This process also allows the project owner to employ new innovations, assist in the design process, and make informed decisions regarding cost and schedule.

Additional benefits for using the CM/GC process include:

  • Fostering innovation: The process encourages both contractor and project owner to look at all options including using innovative techniques or approaches that reduce time and cost.

  • Mitigating risk: The project owner is able to understand the risk and explore mitigation options with feedback provided by the contractor.

  • Improving design quality: The contractor is able to review the designs and provide feedback, answer designer questions, and provide changes. By including the contractor review, the designer can produce better designs that reduce issues in construction and prevent change orders that can lead to project overruns.

  • Improving cost control: Value engineering is part of the CM/GC process where budget shapes the design approaches. With the contractor as part of the design team, the contractor is able to provide cost estimates for all designs and alternatives within the design phase. The project owner can use the estimates to make informed decisions around projects costs.

  • Optimizing construction schedules: The CM/GC process allows the contractor to begin planning the construction schedule during the design phase. By planning during the design phase the team can view how construction will impact traffic and adjust the construction schedule accordingly to minimize traffic impacts.

Projects that are best suited for the CM/GC process include when the owner needs contractor feedback during the design phase. These projects include complex components that require innovation, or "thinking out of the box," and are typically located in urban areas. Other projects that are a good fit for the CM/GC process are projects that have public involvement or include right-of-way or utility issues that impact the overall schedule.


David Unkefer
FHWA Resource Center
(404) 764-9498


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Page last modified on July 26, 2019
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