Skip to Content

What’s the difference between a construction manager, architect, and owner’s representative?

Many people confuse owner’s representatives with construction project managers, general contractors, architects, or engineers. However, their roles are inherently different.

Construction team at a construction site

The risks of any capital project are costly: failing to meet financial expectations, running behind on schedule, or misaligning quality goals can increase the costs exponentially. Many organizations may not have the resources within their staff to ensure these risks are mitigated.

That’s where owner’s representatives come in.

What is an owner’s representative?

Owner’s representatives supplement an organization or public entity’s internal team to help their staff manage the intricate details of significant capital programs.

As experts who manage projects regularly, owner’s reps are in tune with the challenges being faced in the construction industry today. Whether it’s a supply chain issue, cost escalation, or design choices, they offer your team process and technical expertise to help you make the thousands of decisions required in a timely manner.

Many people confuse owner’s representatives with construction project managers, general contractors, architects, or engineers. However, their roles are inherently different.

Owner’s representatives help organizations plan and execute successful capital improvement programs, from concept through completion.

What’s the difference between constructors, designers, and owner’s representatives?

Owner’s representatives are not builders like construction project managers, general contractors, or design-builders. They are not designers, like architects or engineers. Owner’s representatives help organizations plan and execute successful capital improvement programs, from concept through completion.

Three key differences highlight the value of an owner’s representative:

  1. Comprehensive understanding
    Designers design buildings. Constructors manage the building process. Owner’s representatives, in understanding the entire project from conception to occupancy, serve a broader role on the project. They can help with the feasibility, cost, schedule, and quality — all of which is needed to define the budget before engaging a design or construction team. They then help with engaging designers and contractors, helping you communicate clear expectations around scope, schedule, and budget. Owner’s reps act as the binding agent between designers, constructors, and your organization to help you successfully manage each renovation project or new building construction.
  2. Insightful guidance
    Designers and constructors look to you when issues or conflicts arise. Owner’s representatives, as your trusted advisor with extensive project management experience, present all your options and help you make an informed decision through all the stages of a construction designated project. Their processes, procedures, resources, and technical expertise are yours to call on to help guide you to the decision you think is right for your organization and project.
  3. Unbiased advocacy
    Designers and constructors promise to get you the most building for your construction dollar. Owner’s representatives, as your independent fiduciary, help your designers and constructors keep the budget and schedule on track. An owner’s representative’s goal is to protect the owner’s investment throughout every stage of each construction project within the program and keep the owner informed on the project status.

The benefits of an owner’s representative

The common thread in this explanation is that owner’s representatives act as an extension of your in-house staff to help in ways outside of the defined roles of your designer and constructor. Before you hire an architect or construction manager, you should consider having an owner’s representative assist your internal team in planning your capital program to ensure its success.

Owner’s representatives offer other benefits to organizations as well — they understand what questions to ask, what information needs to be gathered, and how to keep projects on time and on budget. Check out a related blog post to learn more about owner’s representatives and their role in protecting you during a capital program.

Plante Moran Realpoint (PMR), formerly Plante Moran Cresa has helped owners undertake more than $5 billion in capital projects. We have a strong record of setting programs up for success — or back on track after a rocky start. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you make informed, strategic decisions during your capital programs.

In the meantime, if you liked this article, sign up for to receive more like it in our quarterly emails.

Related Thinking

View of Pious Society of St. Paul school building through tree branches.
February 28, 2024

Plante Moran Realpoint assists religious institute with building sale & residential transition

Case Study 1 min read
Interview between a senior living owner and potential senior living management company in a modern office
February 27, 2024

How to choose a senior living property management structure

Article 4 min read
Video thumbnail
February 27, 2024

The basics of cost segregation

Video 3 min watch