Architects Vs. Construction Management: The Differences You Need to Know About
Architects Vs. Construction Management: The Differences You Need to Know About

Although it’s well known that architectural design and construction management both play an essential role in building apartment houses, office buildings, and residential homes, there are a lot of different things about the two disciplines and industries to know. Licensure, training, salaries, and education are just the tip of the iceberg.

Construction management will schedule and coordinate construction and design processes when building industrial structures, residential homes, and office complexes. They are also involved in constructing hospitals, schools, bridges, and highways and the urbanization of rural neighborhoods.

Construction managers are professionals that find, approve, and hire specialists for tasks like framing, electrical wiring, and plumbing. To ensure effective project management, construction managers utilize essential tools like the Schedule of Values (SOV) as a financial roadmap. This enables them to track progress, manage payments, and coordinate design and construction processes with precision. These professionals most commonly work on every phase of the construction project, from conception to completion.

On the other hand, architects design structures and buildings. They are in charge of the aesthetics of these structures and their functionality, energy efficiency, and safety. Their job is to communicate with clients to set all the construction parameters and requirements, such as building requirements, budget, and construction objectives.

An architect is also in charge of determining the exact environmental impact of the structure, the feasibility of the project, and all pre-construction assessments. Once these assessments are complete, architects are free to move on with developing the final construction plan, including building aesthetics and all other necessary construction details.

While the goals of architects and construction management may be quite similar, their roles in the order of things are quite different.  Architects require a license, a mandatory internship, and more years of education to practice.

With all this in mind, let’s delve deeper into the differences to see just how these two professions differ from each other.


When it comes to education for a construction manager, the norm is a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or construction management, construction engineering, and building science. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction managers must have work experience to get employed on projects. The more years of experience, the better.

A Bachelor of Science in Construction Science and Management degree program allows students to learn how to coordinate the skilled trades required to render projects successful and manage every phase of the construction process.

They also learn about the technical theory of construction, cost control, and sustainable building practice. Other areas include:

  • Plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems
  • Construction estimating
  • Surveying
  • Building information modeling (BIM)
  • Construction law

On the other hand, things look a bit different when it comes to the architect’s education. A professional architectural degree requires a Bachelor of Architecture program that takes five years to complete. The program is designed for future architects with no previous architectural knowledge or training.

If the future architect aspires to get a master’s degree in architecture, they can use their pre-professional architectural bachelor’s degree or a completed bachelor’s degree in another field.  This will help them gain professional standing.

A master’s degree in architecture takes 2-3 years to complete and is an excellent upgrade to a pre-professional bachelor’s degree program. It contains a series of advanced design and other courses, such as:

  • Architectural theory and history
  • Building technology
  • Environmental building design
  • Professional practice

Role in construction projects

Aside from education, architects and construction managers differ in their roles in construction projects. Each CM and architect have their problems to worry about.

Everything starts with the pre-construction phase. This is where a pre-construction meeting occurs between all staff hired to work on the project, including sub-contractors, contractors, inspectors, project and construction managers, architects, and the owner.

A construction manager or the building owner selects the team of architects or the architectural firm in charge of the building design. Both the owner and the construction manager work together to oversee the building process.

The architectural firm takes care of all necessary consultants and engineers to supply the drawings to contractors and design the building. The construction manager oversees the team of suppliers, engineers, and builders. The design process includes three phases:

  • The schematic design – it includes all preliminary drawings of building sections, floor plans, and exterior elevations. Architects will complete it.
  • Design development – this is the phase where the division of work takes place between builders, while architects provide more detailed drawings of lighting options, interior design, mechanical, electrical, and structural requirements.
  • Construction drawings – the final design phase includes final construction drawings where materials and specifications are detailed. This is also where the construction manager starts planning the structure and estimates the cost of the construction process.

Once the design phase is finished, it’s time to move on to the construction phase. This is where the transportation of heavy equipment and mobilization of builders take place.

Builders arrive on the construction site. The construction manager oversees all available contract documentation provided by the contractors to see if they have all the necessary equipment, tools, and permissions and everything else needed.

In the construction phase, a construction manager ensures everything is on budget and schedule while architects monitor the work. In case any changes have to be made, architects work on submitting new drawings to builders.

They are also in charge of the overall project quality assurance implantation. Once the project enters the finishing stage, architects work with equipment installers, furniture deliverers, and interior contractors. This is where they start preparing all necessary documentation so that the facility managers can prepare for occupancy.

While the construction manager prepares final acceptance documents for quality reviewing, architects provide all necessary files for facility managers on behalf of the owner. So, as you can see, their roles are very similar but very different at the same time. Both are necessary to complete the construction process successfully.

Potential disconnect between the two

Despite their obvious similarities, it’s quite common that architects and construction managers come across potential disconnect, especially during the planning stages and on job sites. If anything goes wrong directly on the site, people tend to blame architects the most, simply because they design structures by which constructors build structures.

However, things are never that simple. Construction managers are often too worried about the cost, so much that they often fail to understand the reality of larger projects, requirements, demands, and so on.

Both are necessary to make things happen. So, to make sure everybody gets along and is on board, both construction managers and architects need to step back and recognize their weaknesses by taking a look inward and from an unbiased perspective.

Every professional has their own weaknesses and strengths, things they’re good at, and things that need more work.  While architects and construction managers have many strengths, their weaknesses prevent them from working together effectively.

The best example is the overprotectiveness of architects when it comes to their vision. Passion is always a good thing, it is needed to come up with unique and competitive ideas, but if it’s taken too far, it can become a problem.

Since both construction and architecture are art, these professionals can’t allow their artistic vision to interfere and get in the way of the practical side. The biggest problem comes from the situation where architects think that the construction manager isn’t able to appreciate their artistic vision.

On the other hand, construction managers are more worried about the practical aspects of the project, failing to realize the artistic side. Their primary focus is efficiency and cost, which can get in the way of better understanding what architects have in mind.

Establishing the right communication

Establishing the right communication is the only way to set aside the differences and start joining forces to develop the most magnificent and practical structures. One of the best ways for architects and construction managers to get on the same page is to start by recognizing their weaknesses.

Every aspect is essential, whether it’s the artistic side or cost and efficiency. So, planning as a team is paramount. After all, construction managers and architects will need to work together to get from the design phase to the construction phase.

Collaboration is crucial at this point, and the only way to establish the cooperation is to start on the right foot. Instead of focusing on their weaknesses, both professionals should focus on what they’re good at.

Construction managers know job sites better than architects. They know how unpredictable things can be. If architects pay attention to their suggestions, they can gather valuable information to get through the pre-planning stage almost effortlessly and promptly. For this to happen, communication needs to be established as early as possible. If there’s no open communication, collaboration won’t be possible.

Effective communication is also the best way to act when problems arise, and they will emerge as that’s just the nature of things. Without communication, disagreements will lead to mistakes, and mistakes can lead to tragedies.

Therefore, good communication is the key to effective collaboration.

What proper synergy brings to the table

The key to getting the best results possible in any scenario is construction managers, project stakeholders, and architects all working together, interacting in a harmonious synergy of expertise, knowledge, and skills.

A common saying says that great minds think alike. If we consider this, there are quite a few benefits from CM/architect collaboration:

  • Faster, cost-effective, and timely delivery
  • No human error and mistakes
  • Less waste
  • Less potential for litigation

When it comes to the building of structures, every owner has two primary concerns:

  • The cost of it all
  • The deadline

Suppose architects and construction managers are on the same page. In that case, they can effectively exchange information on budget, materials, and everything else needed to protect the project’s integrity and make sure they stay on track with the requirements and budget parameters.

There is also one more important thing that needs to be mentioned here. The regulatory environment is continually changing, requiring projects to cope with the changes and evolve accordingly. This is where the expertise and knowledge of construction managers come into play.

They are well familiar with these changes, and they can help architects by keeping them up to date with all the latest requirements and new regulations. So, with all this in mind, it’s safe to say that successful collaboration and communication are keys to completing projects with success.

Only when owners, CMs, and architects work together can things move in the right direction. This is what sparks an adequate level of trust between all parties engaged in a project. Trust breeds confidence, and when everybody is on board, only good things can happen.


Even though there are quite noticeable differences between construction managers and architects, just like there are differences between different industries, they can get along with the right amount of practice, will, and patience.

While these professionals might never look at things the same way, they are needed to make structures possible. In a way, they are two sides of the same coin.

Architects design structures, while construction managers oversee the construction process and ensure the construction suite projects get completed according to the owner’s requirements. However, only by collaborating are they able to get things done in the real world.

By realizing their strengths and weaknesses, and focusing on their expertise, CMs and architects can work together in harmony. The key to making this happen is establishing the proper communication that inspires trust and sets a firm foundation for a long-lasting relationship.