Understanding Roles and Relationships of Construction Project Participants. Who Does What?

On October 17th, John Caravella was invited to speak at the AIA Contract Document Workshop where he was able to share his knowledge about Construction Contract Interpretation and Fundamentals. In this specific article, we share the Roles and Relationships of Construction Project Participants. This way, we can fully understand who really does what on a construction job site.

  1. Owners:
  • The persons of entities conceiving a construction project and hiring other parties to perform various parts of said project; not always a property owner outright (lessees also develop and pursue construction projects).
  • Responsible for making payments for completed work.
  • May or may not be responsible for representing conditions on the project site.


  1. Architects / Engineers:
  • Prepare plans and specifications
  • May participate in construction phase of a project by periodically inspecting quality of work for conformity with plans, reviewing payment requisitions, and occasionally serve as “initial decision maker” to resolve disputes between owners, contractors, and subcontractors (if parties so choose in contract).
  • Architects / Engineers are usually, but not always, agents of the owner working on the owner’s behalf.
  • Responsible to preparing adequate plans and specifications.


  1. Construction Managers:
  • Oversee both pre-construction and during-construction phases of the construction project on behalf of the owner and in consultation with the architect / engineer with the goal of construction project being completely smoothly, on time, and within budget; this includes supervising the operations of contractors and subcontractors.
  1. Contractors:
  • Construction firms hired directly by the owner or construction manager to perform work and furnish materials on a construction project.
  • Responsible to owner for performance of subcontractors and suppliers whom they hire.
  • Responsible to subcontractors and suppliers for owner’s failures to make payment.


  1. Subcontractors:
  • Construction firms hired by higher level contractors to perform work on a construction project, often due to a specialization not possessed by the prime contractor (i.e. hazardous material abatement, electrical, etc.).
  • Do not have privity of contract with owners and usually cannot enforce rights against owners except through mechanic’s liens on the property.
  • Look to contractors for payment and responsible to contractors for properly performing contract.


  1. Suppliers:
  • Persons and entities that sell materials for a construction project, usually to contractors or subcontractors, but do not perform labor on the project.
  • Usually do not have privity of contract with owners and usually cannot enforce rights against owners except through mechanic’s liens.
  • Look to the contractor or subcontractor who purchased the materials for payment, and responsible to the contractor or subcontractor who purchased the materials for suitability of materials.
  • May occasionally be liable to owners or users of property under products liability theories.


John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached online or by email: [email protected] or (631) 608-1346.

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