Embarking on a construction project involves many moving parts that must be managed in order to keep the project moving towards a desired outcome. Regardless of whether this is your first build or if you have managed many construction projects, it’s important to know the different phases of construction. Here are the main phases, in order from start to finish, to keep in mind on your new venture:
A major factor in differentiating a high-performing construction project from one that is behind schedule or over budget is how well it was planned. As a construction manager, the first step before starting any construction project should be to understand the project goals, know the unique variables and how they will affect the project’s feasibility, and retain key professionals (such as engineers, consultants, etc.).
Once the team has been identified, it’s important to work together to understand the scope of the build. Whether it’s a new build, relocation, or a remodel, the end goal needs to be identified, followed by what needs to be completed to meet that goal. This can be further broken down into smaller steps:
The architect of record generates plans and the structural/civil engineer reviews them to ensure that the plans comply with local building codes, the project owner’s design intent, and the project budget.
The project manager must be aware of and understand the budget of the project along with the timeline expectations. Without these clearly defined goals, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to properly allocate the project’s resources.
The preconstruction phase begins with the project architect getting the construction documents started. Permits still need to be pulled, a general contractor must be retained, contracts and insurance documents must be reviewed and authenticated, and scheduling and budgets must be approved.
Once the design, budget and timeline are set, the construction manager will define the required processes for the successful execution of the project. They will usually look to the GC for input on cost estimates, scheduling and planning methods, all factors that go into developing the total construction budget. Throughout the process, the CM will facilitate effective communication between all members of the project team. This can occur via weekly conference calls, emails or cloud-based construction management software programs that can house construction documents and facilitate project-related communications.
You have put in the work to procure the right team, understand the scope and set the budget and timeline. Now, it’s time to start construction and have all the upfront work you did start to pay off. Keep in mind that construction can be unpredictable; no matter how much you plan, there can be deviations in the plan that will require a resolution. As Mike Tyson wisely stated, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” When these moments happen in construction, how you react will determine the success of the project. The construction phase is when the architect, engineers and consultants should be on hand to perform quality control inspections, respond to requests for information (RFIs), review and approve technical submittals and oversee the project to ensure the desired outcomes. Assuming the planning and preconstruction phases have been properly executed, construction should progress as planned.
The biggest risk factor for projects during construction are the impacts to the budget and schedule. Despite the best intentions and meticulous planning, unforeseen circumstances can come up that weren't in the original scope of work. In such cases, there will likely be additional costs, and a change order would need to be issued in order to proceed. The construction manager will review the issues and recommend the best solution. Non-scope-related circumstances, such as weather impacts and material delays, can also happen on the scheduling side of things. This is where effective communication is important to understand where the project is in the process.
This is the final phase of the process, but there is still work to be done. A punch list will need to be checked and reviewed and a final walkthrough by the GC must be done to ensure everything is how it should be. When these are completed, the general contractor will arrange scheduling of all final inspections required to be issued the certificate of occupancy and the construction manager will work on confirming the status of the budget along with closing any open items. When the final punch is scheduled, all of the documents should be present along with all items from the pre-punch completed. Once this is complete, it’s then time to hand over the building to the project owner so that it can be used what it is intended for.
Even though there are four critical phases of a construction phase, you can see how many steps and actions are required within them to have a project be successful. The main thing to ensure is that you always know where you are at in the construction process and how it aligns with the goals you are targeting.
Rob Boucher is the owner of Mission Construction Management, which provides full service project management for construction development needs specializing in retail outfits in the Pittsburgh, PA area.
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