Does a GC's Size Determine Who Performs the Labor?
Editor’s Note: The following article is part of SBCA’s Construction Industry Workflow Initiative, which is exploring how the construction industry currently functions and the role component manufacturers play within that structure. Your feedback is encouraged to help us complete this project, email email@example.com to provide your input.
A general contractor (GC) in the construction industry, sometimes referred to as a builder, is the entity responsible for the means and methods of construction. Typically, a GC is contracted by the owner to build a specified structure per plans developed by an architect with structural elements designed by an engineer. The GC is responsible for coordinating various sub-contracted labor (subs), procuring materials from a variety of suppliers, and communicating progress to the owner and/or design team.
GCs come in all shapes and sizes depending on the types of projects they work on. Some are quite small in size and work on projects such as home remodels or individual home construction projects. With smaller GCs, the proprietor or owner is a significant portion of the firm’s work force, performing much of the work themselves, whether it’s the takeoff/estimating function or actually performing the construction work in the field. Smaller firms are also more likely to perform a greater percentage of the project with the labor they employ, rather than use subcontracted labor to complete various stages of construction.
Mid-sized GCs will typically manage multiple projects at any one time. Project types can vary between residential and commercial construction depending on the firm’s competencies and market strategy. Often times the GC’s leadership will focus on management of labor in the field, monitoring construction progress and engaging in the estimating functions. Rather than employ a majority of the construction labor, mid-sized GCs use an increasing amount of subcontracted labor to complete projects. As a result, GCs will employ superintendents who are responsible for monitoring progress, quality control, inspecting work performed by subs, project schedules and jobsite safety practices.
Large GCs are a different entity altogether and often are publicly traded with hundreds if not thousands of concurrent projects. These firms operate in many geographies throughout the country, broken down by regions with multiple layers of corporate management. Large GCs will look to subcontract as much of the labor for a construction project as possible, deferring to local and regional expertise for prevailing construction techniques and tendencies. Similar to mid-sized GCs, large GCs will employ superintendents to monitor and oversee construction projects and work through the local building department’s inspection process. Due to their size and access to capital, many large GCs have begun to view themselves as real estate developers as much as they view themselves as a building company. Many of the core competencies of large GCs focus on developing raw land, adding utilities and accessibility services, and building out entire subdivisions to sell individual homes and buildings for rent or ownership.
Regardless of a GC’s size or utilization of subcontracted labor, they still have a variety of requirements and responsibilities in the construction process. These responsibilities include circulating information amongst the various design professionals, suppliers, trades and subcontractors. This information can take the form of the building design drawings, submittals, requests for information, schedules and a variety of written and verbal updates. GCs also have a responsibility in the means, methods and techniques used in construction regardless if their direct employees or subcontracted labor perform the work. For a more extensive explanation of GC requirements directly related to the truss industry see Appendix A or read ANSI TPI 1, the National Design Standard for Metal Plate Connected Wood Truss Construction
For additional information and commentary on Construction Industry Workflow Initiative, please review the following articles and website links:
- How the IRC and IBC Codes Impact Construction Projects
- Do IRC Limitations Provide Sales Advantages for CMs?
- The Development Life Cycle for a Building
- The Structural Design Process of a Building
- Local Building Designers Help Truss Sales
- Streamlining Construction Through Design Build
- Does an IRC Design Work for Most Residences?