Commercial Construction Management: A Quick Guide


Construction project management covers a massive number of projects and there are all sorts of builds associated with it. Most people think of the housing market when they think of construction, especially single-occupancy homes, but that’s only a small fraction of the industry. Commercial construction management, for example, is huge.

Consider that commercial construction management entails everything from offices to retail shopping malls and medical centers. There are big, complicated projects that require project management software to organize all of the moving parts. Let’s look at what commercial construction management is, what processes it uses and the responsibility of the commercial construction project manager.

What Is Commercial Construction Management?

Commercial construction management is the process of designing, renovating and building commercial structures. These are usually large projects that include the use of heavy machinery and are funded by developers who also receive funding from local and even national governmental offices.

Commercial construction projects are awarded by contracts that are won through a competition involving developers and contractors who submit proposal bids. Contracts are awarded to those who not only offer competitively priced bids but also include detailed plans that accurately forecast costs and scheduling.

Pricing for the commercial construction project is based on the size of the build, the budget and the scope of the project from design to breaking ground and completing the build. Value engineering is a process that looks at how to improve functionality and keep costs down and is often used to determine a more accurate, cost-effective plan.

Commercial construction management is a huge industry, accounting for nearly $100 million a year in the United States alone. As the need for commercial spaces increases, so does the demand for construction project management software that can execute work more efficiently. ProjectManager is work and project management software that offers multiple project views so managers and crew can use the tools they need to plan and execute their tasks. Our interactive Gantt chart links dependencies and sets a baseline to monitor progress in real time. It even filters for the critical path. Get started with ProjectManager for free today.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart
ProjectManager helps you plan commercial construction projects with online Gantt charts. Learn more

Residential vs. Commercial Construction Management

As noted above, residential and commercial construction management aren’t the same, though they do share many similarities. For one, the materials used are often different. Residential homes are usually framed in timber, which is more cost-effective and suitable for smaller buildings. Larger, more complex commercial construction projects require steel frames because they can support the weight of bigger buildings and have a longer life span.

The rules also differ between the two. There are strict regulations in commercial construction regarding materials, techniques, electrical systems, plumbing and design. Construction project teams need to know and conform to all these rules. Residential construction is not without regulations; while there are codes and standards it must meet, the compliance standards tend to be simpler.

Construction budgets and costs are other variables. Commercial projects are larger and more expensive than smaller residential builds. The commercial material selection, maintaining compliance and paying for a more skilled crew are all more expensive in commercial projects. There are also general labor costs that can be more expensive than residential costs due to tight schedules. Meeting those project deliverables can increase labor costs.

The way that commercial and residential construction teams interact with their clients is also different. Residential construction projects usually require working directly with an individual who will reside in the house when it’s complete. As you can imagine, this party might try to micromanage the process. Commercial projects are not without their difficulties, but they involve stakeholders who work on commercial construction projects for a living.

While they too must be managed, they understand metrics and milestones, especially if you’re communicating regularly with them.

The Scale of Commercial Construction Projects

Not all commercial construction projects are the same. Commercial construction projects encompass many types of buildings including small, medium and large projects. Small-scale projects are often rebranded, such as updating the interiors of buildings. These projects can be as simple as a new paint job, new flooring or technological upgrades.

A medium-scale commercial construction project is usually an owner expanding or remodeling a building. This could stem from a company growing or a restaurant redesigning its interior. A larger-scale project is one built from scratch. There’s no foundation, no structure to build from which requires a more professional team with considerable building experience.

Other examples of commercial construction projects include restaurants, which require local permits and must follow specific regulations due to working with food. There’s also retail construction, which can be a grocery store or shopping mall. Medical facilities have their requirements and need to have intensive plans for plumbing and electrical systems as well as critical equipment related to healthcare.

There are also office buildings of various sizes and configurations, hotels and other lodging facilities. Institutional buildings run the gamut from high schools and colleges to universities, libraries and other learning centers. Industrial structures include factories and warehouses while sports facilities are large arenas. stadiums, smaller fitness centers or even school gymnasiums and play areas.

The Commercial Construction Management Process

Now that we have a better picture of what commercial construction is and the types and sizes of structures it builds, let’s look at the process that controls commercial construction management.

Development and Planning

The first thing is to find a location, whether that’s an existing one that needs renovation or a new site to erect a structure from scratch. Both costs and zoning requirements vary depending on the type of building that’s being built. Make sure some utilities will meet the building’s needs. When you decide on a site, there are studies of the soil that will determine if the ground will require additional reinforcement to support the building. There’s also a boundary survey to certify the site’s elevation.

With the site determined, you next need to set a budget that outlines your hard and soft costs. This requires researching prices for similar buildings and the cost per square foot will vary widely depending on where you’re building. Using historical data and other research helps to provide a more accurate forecast of the project cost. This work is done by the commercial construction manager who handles the planning phase of the project. They oversee all the various crews, subcontractors and vendors to keep the project on schedule and within the budget.


The pre-design phase overlaps with some elements of the development and planning phase. They both deal with outlining objectives for the project and a lot of what’s called pre-design could fall under planning. How this is broken up depends on the project, manager and organization. This is when the timeline, building size, orientation with roads and utilities, materials and equipment costs for the project are determined.


Once decisions on the build are made, the drawings and schematics have to be created. This involves engineers staying in compliance with codes and making sure the structure has integrity. There’s also the employ of a mechanical engineer to verify the plans in terms of their internal structures. Structural engineers, electrical engineers and civil engineers are also critical to this stage of the project.


This is when you’ll pull permits for the job and get insurance for your on-site crew. The vendor bidding process also takes place during this phase to make sure your procurement meets your budget expectations. The field team for the project site will also be assembled.


Now you’ll secure the materials necessary for construction, a critical stage in maintaining your budget. You need to keep within the costs that you estimated in the planning phase, but that doesn’t mean cutting corners. You need to have professionals working for you with quality materials to ensure the successful completion of the construction project, including your subcontractors. You’ll also want to make sure you have clear communications with the various parties involved to achieve the quality necessary for success.


This is the stage that most people think of when imagining what a commercial construction project is like. Everything you’ve done before this stage is essential to the successful build of your structure. The better your plan and risk management, the less likely you’ll experience delays and run overschedule. Part of this phase is site preparation where you turn the lot into a workspace. This means establishing guidelines for workers, storage for equipment and maintaining quality.

Next comes a groundbreaking, erecting temporary work buildings and storage facilities. Any vegetation must be removed and proper drainage established. You need to lay out utilities and prepare for water, waste and power connections, all of which must pass inspection to move forward with the project.

After this, construction can begin in earnest. That means pouring concrete to lay the foundation, building the frame of the structure and adding the roof and siding. Before the internal walls are built, the electrical and HVAC ductwork needs to be installed. Then the walls can be completed and the floors, windows and doors added. Lighting fixtures and paint are also part of this stage. The last part of the construction phase is landscaping.


The commercial construction project isn’t complete until the general contractor walks the client or developer through the building to evaluate the quality of the project. A punch list is created to collect any problems that require fixing before the site is open to the public. After this, a final inspection must be passed and the site is finally complete.

construction management ebook ad

Responsibilities of a Commercial Construction Project Manager

The commercial construction management process is supervised by a commercial construction project manager. They’re responsible for planning and overseeing the entire project. Some of the work they do involves negotiating contracts, securing building permits and working off and on-site to make sure the team is working according to the schedule and has the resources they need to do their jobs.

Other responsibilities include hiring staff and contractors, offering guidance as needed, monitoring progress and performance and making analyses and reports for stakeholders. They must also ensure that the project is compliant with all building, safety and governmental regulations.

When looking for a commercial construction project manager, you’ll want someone who has at least a BA in construction management, architecture or engineering. It’s often helpful if they have some professional certification and an advanced understanding of the construction process, principles, materials and tools. Naturally, you want a good communicator with leadership qualities.

Construction Project Management Templates

The commercial construction project manager needs to have a good crew working on the build, but also the right tools for themselves and their teams. Almost all commercial construction management projects use project management software, but if you’re not ready for that upgrade, ProjectManager has dozens of free construction project templates that can help you through the commercial construction project’s life cycle. Here are just a few.

Construction Estimate Template

The ability to accurately forecast your project costs is one of the most important factors in delivering your project within its budget. Our free construction estimate template for Excel is broken down into phases with details for labor and material costs to help you get a clear picture of your project costs.

Construction Schedule Template

Your commercial construction schedule acts as the framework of your structure, holding everything together. Our free construction schedule template for Excel helps you manage your deliverables, resources, allocations, milestones, tasks and more.

Punch List Template

As discussed above, the punch list is one of the final tasks of a commercial construction project. Our free punch list template for excel has everything you need to identify and correct issues in your final walk-through, from assigning tasks to tracking their status.

ProjectManager Helps Manage Commercial Construction Projects

Templates are suitable, but they’re static documents that require a lot of manual labor to update. ProjectManager is commercial construction project management software that delivers real-time data automatically, streamlines work processes and helps you make more insightful decisions.

Monitor Progress and Performance in Real Time

Our Gantt chart helps you plan and estimate the project, but without tools to monitor your progress, you’re managing blindly. Our real-time dashboard offers a high-level view of six project metrics from costs to time, and health to workload, all generated automatically from live data. You can track progress and performance and adjust your scope as necessary. There’s no setup as with inferior products, simply use it when you need it. Then, use one-click reports for a deeper look into the data, allowing you to filter and share with stakeholders to keep them updated.

ProjectManager's dashboard
Manage Team Schedules and Resources

Use our resource management features to keep your crew working at capacity. We give you tools to chart their availability, skill set, cost and allocation. In addition to tracking your human resources, ProjectManager also allows you to track your construction materials in real time. For example, our workload chart allows you to monitor who is working on what, and it’s easy to balance your workload by reallocating resources from that chart. You can also manage construction equipment rental costs to help you stay on budget.

ProjectManager's workload chart

ProjectManager is your one-stop shop for all commercial construction management needs. We have secure timesheets, multiple project views and a collaborative platform to share files and comment at the task level. We connect your crew, whether on-site on in the office to foster greater productivity.

ProjectManager is award-winning work and project management software designed to connect hybrid teams and streamline processes with automation to help you work better. Get organized, see your work in real time and gain the efficiencies you need to succeed. Join the teams at NASA, Siemens and Nestle, to name only a few, using our software to deliver successful projects. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.