REALWorld Law


Parties to a construction or engineering contract

Typically, who are the parties to an engineering or construction contract or package of contracts and who is responsible to whom?



Depending on the type of project, and the project delivery method selected by the owner, the main parties to a construction or engineering contract include the following:


A party who owns or develops a project, engages parties to design and construct the project, and compensates those parties for their services and work.

Architect or engineer

A party engaged by the owner to design the project. An engineer is required to design and engineer specialized projects, such as public works (ie bridges, highways) or plants (ie manufacturing facilities, utilities).

General contractor and subcontractor

A general contractor is a party engaged by the owner to construct the project. The general contractor typically hires subcontractors to perform and complete separate parts of the project. Those subcontractors, in turn, may hire sub-subcontractors to perform a portion of the part of the project for which the subcontractor is responsible.

Construction Manager

Construction management structures are widely used in Canada.  A construction management contract is entered into by the owner and construction manager and can take the form of either a construction management contract for services only, in which case the owner hires all of the trades directly; or a construction management contract for services and construction, in which case the trades are retained by the construction manager, as subcontractors.


A party engaged by the owner to design and construct the project. A design-builder takes responsibility for both the design and construction functions, either with respect to the entire project or a portion of the project.  A design-builder is sometimes a joint venture made up of a contractor and design consultant.


A party typically engaged by the owner to provide design services and/or assistance regarding a particular aspect of the work. For example, an owner might hire an architect to design and administer the project; an architect might hire a specialty engineer; a contractor might hire a remediation consultant; a design-builder might hire an MEP (mechanical-electrical-plumbing) engineer. Several consultants may render professional services on a single project, each engaged by and responsible to a different party.

Project Manager

A project manager is commonly hired by an owner to represent the owner’s interests in overseeing the entire project and managing the owner’s relationship with its general contractor, construction manager or consultants, as the case may be.  This can be a particularly important role for a specialized project, such as a water park, golf course, or manufacturing facility.


An entity from whom materials are obtained that will become part of the project; for example, those who supply the steel, cement, wood, glass, tiles, and electrical and plumbing fixtures.