What is Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR)?
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Anyone familiar with construction knows that the mix of planning, design, and the actual physical work on a job site can be hard to manage. When there are so many moving parts, organization and sticking to a plan of attack become crucial. That’s where project delivery methods come in. They help ensure that a given project is successful and provide structure to how planning, execution, and payment will be coordinated. In this post, we will talk about the Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) method.

Learn more about project delivery methods in construction

What is Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR)?

Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) refers to a type of project delivery method in which the Construction Manager acts as an agent of the property owner to deliver the project within a guaranteed maximum price. It’s also commonly called CM@risk.

The construction manager, typically a general contractor, manages the cost and construction of the project to stay below that maximum price. This is where the “at risk” part of the title comes from: If the project exceeds the pre-determined limit, the manager will be financially liable for the excess amount.

Unlike the design-build method of construction, under a CM at risk agreement the designer and builder operate under separate contracts. But because the CM is responsible for cost control measures, they are involved in all phases of design and production.

The CMAR method divides the project into two parts: design and building. In the first phase, the architect and the CM collaborate to create designs that are feasible within the budget. During the building phase, the Construction Manager supervises the building in the same way that a general contractor would.

CMAR benefits for the property owner

Right out of the gate, one of the biggest benefits to property owners is that it provides a higher level of cost control from the very beginning of the project. Throughout the design process of the project, the construction manager provides the property owner with cost estimates with the goal of keeping those estimates in line with the established budget. If things don’t add up, then design changes are made to bring the cost in line with the outlined budget.

Secondly, the construction manager is an agent of the property owner. In other words, the construction manager’s responsibility is to control and manage the project in the best interest of the property owner. This is beneficial because, if successfully done, the property owner has constant eyes and ears on the project, which in turn helps to reduce dreaded delays and cost overruns. This also reduces the burden on the property owner to manage the project.

Finally, the owner’s financial risk is limited. As discussed in the prior section – a maximum guaranteed price is set, and an owner knows that the price is the maximum exposure they face if all goes well.

CMAR benefits for the Construction Manager

For one, using the CMAR method, the construction manager has a ton of control, right from the start of the project. By being heavily involved with the owner’s decision making and with the design phase of the project, a construction manager at risk will be able to bridge together the design and build phases of the project. These two project phases can pretty easily find themselves at odds, so reducing that strain is a big win here.

Further, as long as the construction manager stays under the guaranteed maximum price, risk is reduced. Under the CMAR method, the owner and construction manager have already come to terms on an acceptable number. Fights about payment can be alleviated when the job stays on-budget.

Bottom Line

As with any delivery method, technical and even human error still occur. Unexpected issues pop up, egos can flare, and best-laid plans may go to waste. When working on a large, complex project, though, using the Construction Manager at Risk method can go a long way toward keeping the project in sync from top to bottom and managing risk responsibly.

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Project Delivery Methods: Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR)
The Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) project delivery method can go a long way to connect the design and build phases of a project, reducing both headaches and risk for the property owner.
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