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What is the difference between a Project Manager and an Owner’s Representative?

Throughout the many years in the construction and the engineering business, I have heard of many nomenclatures and meanings that often get confused and misused.  After all, the construction and engineering businesses are extremely complicated.  Products and materials may come and go and may be referred to by many different names; and after many years, get replaced by other products.  The many services and professionals that are used in the construction and engineering businesses are varied and at times also get confused. Such is the case of the Project Managers being called Owners Representatives and vice-versa.  This blog will explain the difference.

I will begin by defining what a Project Manager is.  A Project Manager is a person that manages any type of project. You have Project Managers that head a team of designers that are building a website, are researching a theory, or any other item that requires a team approach to accomplish. Of course, a project may also include the construction of a building or managing construction of any type.  It would not be a mistake to say “I am looking to hire a Project Manager to manage the installation of the drywall installation of my drywall company”.  It would also not be wrong to say “I am looking to hire a Project Manager to oversee the implementation of a quality control process for the manufacturing of a new electrical automobile”.  It will also not be incorrect to say “I want to hire a Project Manager to oversee the General Contractor for my construction remodeling project”.  So, as you can see, a Project Manager is basically a person who manages a team that is trying to accomplish something; whether it’s a construction project or not.

An Owners Representative, on the other hand, is a type of Project Manager that specifically deals with representing the owner of a construction project (i.e. the person that is paying for the construction). Since the Owner’s Representative represents the owner on a construction project, the specific scope of work and responsibilities that an Owners Representative may undertake may vary widely from job to job. As such, it is important that a good contract between the Owner and the Owners Representative be made where all of the duties of the Owners Representative are laid out in detail.  At times the Owners Representative may be in charge of making sure the safety of the project is overseen, and at other times it will not be.  At times, the duties of the Owners Representative may become so burdensome that the Owners Representative will be required to be present at the job site every day at all times if he is to fulfill the duties as laid out in his contract.

Simply put, an Owner Representative is a type of project manager.  It will not be wrong to use one or the other when you are referring to a person overseeing a job and representing the owner.  However, bear in mind that you are being more specific and that more people will understand exactly what you are referring to when you have an Owners Representative on your project and they are called out as such. It is sort of like saying “I’m going to the cardiologist today” as opposed to “I’m going to the doctor today”. Neither is wrong.  People will just understand the specifics of what the doctor’s scope of work is.

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