Construction Manager at Risk: Everything You Need to Know

When it comes to planning a construction project, choosing the right delivery method is essential to minimize cost and risk while achieving the best possible results. The Construction Manager at Risk method (or CMAR) is a method characterized by the construction manager’s role as a consultant during the design and planning phase of the project, as well as managing the project’s budget through its completion. The construction manager represents the interests of the client and is contractually obligated to keep the project under the client’s desired budget, making it a great option for cost control. CMAR is one of the newest project delivery methods and has already gained popularity by saving clients time and money.

Here’s what you need to know about utilizing a Construction Manager at Risk.

The contractor must be qualified for CMAR

One of the biggest misconceptions about CMAR is that any contractor with site management experience can effectively perform as a construction manager at risk. However, the job primarily involves preconstruction planning, design support, budgeting, and other professional duties. To properly execute this method, it is important to select a contractor, like J.M. Cope, with specific CMAR expertise and involve them as soon as possible.

The contractor is involved in the design process

In this method, the client selects a construction manager before the design period is completed (and often before choosing an architect). This way, the contractor can act as a design consultant to the client, and can help establish a collaborative relationship between the owner, contractor, and design team. By involving the contractor early on, the client can expedite a project by multitasking on design, pricing, and construction. Often, construction will begin before the design is finalized. This also allows for design flexibility and more collaboration between the contractor and architect, ensuring a higher quality product.

The owner knows the price of the project before construction starts

Before construction begins, the contractor presents the client with a Guaranteed Maximum Price, which they are contractually obligated to keep the project cost under. This is what makes the contractor “at risk”, as any additional costs are transferred to the contractor and not the owner. The collaborative nature of CMAR also allows for open book accounting, providing assurance that the client has access to all pricing details and will not run into any hidden expenses.

The owner and contractor work together to select subcontractors

Although the CMAR method does not require a contractor to competitively bid to subcontractors as with other delivery methods (such as a Design Bid Build), competitive bidding is utilized when selecting subcontractors. The bid options are reviewed by all parties including the client. While this can be time consuming, it is another way for all parties to stay on the same page. In addition, a CMAR will typically utilize a prequalification process to eliminate certain bids early on.

While the CMAR method is not for every project, it does provide a unique level of flexibility and cost control that is increasingly popular in the construction industry. For more information on CMAR and other project delivery methods, visit

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