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Key roles in a construction project.

In a previous article we discussed specifying client needs before we launch into a construction project.  But where does the client fit into the project?  Is this the only time we see them, and who else is involved?  Let’s find out!

Collaboration in a construction project

Collaboration is crucial to deliver value for money and the best outcomes for clients in the construction sector. While sometimes the construction sector is seen as fragmented and made up of separate parts, it is mainly project based.

A construction project brings together a set of complex skills which are adopted by multiple stakeholders, large, widely connected supply chains and large delivery teams of architects, designers, engineers, and contractors who might be working together for the first time.

Stakeholders are anyone with some involvement in the project, from financing, to implementing it or managing the different team.  We’re going to look at some of these stakeholders and what they’re roles are.  We’ll only cover some of the key ones here – if we covered them all this article would be hours long!


The client is the individual or organisation commissioning and/or funding the project, either directly or indirectly. The client ensures the efficient setup of a construction project so it can be carried out from start to finish. They also manage the risks to the health and safety of those who may be affected both pre-and post-construction.

The main duties of the client on all construction projects are to:

  • Make sure that suitable management arrangements are made for the project.
  • Select & appoint a project designer and contractor.
  • Notify any relevant enforcing authority of certain projects, for example to get planning permission.
  • Ensure that enough time and resources are allowed for all stages of the project.
  • Provide the pre-construction information (PCI) to the designers and contractors.
  • Verify that the construction phase plan (CPP) contains everything relevant prior to construction commencement.
  • Verify that suitable welfare facilities are in place prior to construction commencement.
  • Carry out contractor training where relevant.
  • Ensure cooperation and coordination between the client’s employees with the project contractors anywhere the client’s work overlaps construction work.
  • After receiving the health and safety file, keep it up to date and provide access to anyone who needs to see it.

Project Sponsor

A project sponsor is an organisation who plays a vital role in the part-ownership of a project. They provide resources and support for the project. The project sponsor can be responsible for the success of the project and can define clear guidance and recommendations. Jointly with the client and project manager, the project sponsor oversees the management of the project in relation to budgets and schedules and making major decisions.

It’s worth noting that sometimes the client and project sponsor might be the same individual or organisation.


The role of an architect has recently adapted recently to include additional roles and responsibilities in a construction project and is sometimes referred to as the designer. An architect joins a project very early in the project timeline, normally in the inception stage, to undertake the initial design and feasibility concepts of a building/facility from the ideas and requirements specified by the client. The design procedure normally comprises the creative elements and aesthetics of a structure rather than the engineering components which must meet specific guidelines for planning and building warrant applications and laws. Their responsibility is mainly the visual appearance of the facility/building before it undergoes civil/structural design.

The architect’s design usually involves a balance between building aesthetics and functionality. Their contribution can range from the efficient use of space, ventilation, and natural lighting and ensuring the cooling and heating of the building is sustainable. Thus, the architect has wide-ranging responsibilities throughout the construction project timeframe: from inception to in-service.

There are three core stages involved in the architect’s project works:

  • Client Inception and Meeting Discussions
  • Preparation of Drawings
  • Cost Estimation

Structural Engineer

Closely related to the role of a civil engineer and designer, a structural engineer’s role in the design process is instrumental to ensuring project success. Structural engineers are mainly concerned with designing and constructing buildings and structures that are safe and capable of withstanding the elements to which they will be exposed, as well as improving the structural integrity of existing buildings. As we mentioned, collaboration is vital in a construction project and this fits well with the role of a structural engineer as they must collaborate with architects, designers and the client to ensure the correct design of the structure.

Project Manager

A project manager is responsible for the success of a construction project. In most cases, there is a project manager designated by the client or employer to represent the client and is a qualified specialist advisor in the day-to-day management of a construction project. This normally involves activities relating to maintaining project progress, facilitating collaboration between project teams, maximising project benefits and controlling project-related costs. During the construction project lifecycle, the project manager should be appointed at the very early stages to make sure the correct structure and systems are in place from the outset of the project.

Usually, a project manager may be appointed as an individual within the client organisation or as a separate entity which could be a sole trader or an individual from a specialist organisation. However, it is more common a project manager is appointed from the client organisation to ensure that commitments to organisation-specific values and ethics are imposed on the project.

Main Contractor

Main contractors are usually appointed under a traditional tender contract for a design which has already been designed by consultants appointed by the client. An outline of the works is outlined in tender documents where the main contractor offers a fixed price for the services. Those services are carried out following appointment by the client, and the main contractor will take on the role of constructing the works within the set timeframe and budget and to a predefined level of construction quality and health and safety. In many cases, the main contractor will not have all the skills necessary to complete specific types of construction-related activities. Therefore, it is common for main contractors to appoint subcontractors to complete specialised activities.

The main roles and responsibilities of a main contractor includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Determining the level of risk and issues on the project such as materials, health and safety and equipment.
  • Anticipation of any changes to the project scope.
  • Maintaining communication between all parties involved in the planning stages of the construction project, including the client, designers and subcontractors.
  • Find, hire, and manage subcontractors to fulfil specialist construction activities.
  • Management of equipment, materials, and other services throughout the construction period.
  • Manage construction-related waste (this is key for most projects to meet regulations and laws).
  • Complying and applying to building permits.
  • Management of the project’s requirements to comply with all necessary and relevant legal and regulatory issues.
  • Implement and ensure a viable policy for health and safety on the construction site, for all activities is in place – this may include risk management strategies and emergency response procedures.


As we saw, subcontractors are usually involved in a project due to their specialisms in specific construction activities. Main contractors utilise subcontractors for these specialist activities to reduce project risk on the main contractor. Subcontractors have the responsibility for their dedicated construction activities, including the budget, programme/schedule and construction quality. Also, it is common for subcontractors to appoint suppliers and further subcontractors, which brings together complex supply chains. This is common in construction projects.

See a full list of responsibilities for contractors and subcontractors here.

Professional Bodies

Professional bodies are organisations formed of individuals from specific sectors, who are responsible for ensuring industry professionals maintain appropriate training and ethics. They also accredit chartership for industry professionals and commonly in engineering this would be the designation of a Chartered Engineer. Examples of professional bodies include the Royal Institution of British Architects, the Chartered Institute of Building, the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Royal Institution of Chartered.  Within a construction project, these professional bodies are responsible for promoting best practices to individuals and organisations in the construction sector. 

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