Whether you're renovating or adding to an existing location, or constructing an entirely new one, properly planning for a construction project is a tremendous undertaking. Even the most experienced project managers struggle with setting proper expectations for construction projects given the unforeseen hiccups that can occur.
There’s no way to be 100 percent prepared for the realities of a construction project. Contractors may encounter changes in site conditions and need to adjust plans, or there might be sudden shortages in important building materials. But that shouldn’t stop you from making your plan as watertight as possible. Ensure you and your contractors are hitting your targets while budgeting by dividing the process into these four key phases.
Phase 1: Analysis and discovery
Start by assembling your team. It takes more than one person to plan a budget. The makeup of your construction team depends on your company’s size and structure. It might include the owner of your business or members of a board-appointed committee.
An understanding of your company’s overall cost structure is critical, so ensure at least one member of the team is trusted by the CFO to adequately represent that point of view. Your funding for the project should be secure and well-established. Construction projects are expensive, so being prepared to withstand overruns without breaking the bank is essential.
Research and analyze the goals and requirements that you have for this project. Know the what and why of your build before you start on the how. Once you have all of that planned out, start on the specifics. Evaluate the site conditions and any existing documentation. Assess your project resources and limitations; know your realistic limits so you can work within them. Lastly, be aware of specific safety and code requirements, and any permits you’ll need to proceed.
Phase 2: Design and development
Determine the potential scope of your project. Meet with your architects and design consultants to draw on their expertise as needed. Analyze your potential work, and ask consultants to come up with creative options and pitch them with drawings or models. All stakeholders and decision-makers must be aligned on the final design before you begin.
Create a list of required materials. Don’t hesitate to seek help from outside consultants for second opinions. Most of us don’t have any idea what goes into the buildings we spend most of our days in, nor how much they could possibly cost. Having an experienced engineer provide an estimate for the overall project will enable you to evaluate bids from multiple contractors when it comes time to choose one.
At the end of this phase, finalize your budget and timeline and start seeking bids from potential contractors. When doing so, ensure that contractors have completed all requirements for the bid. This minimizes time spent waiting for them to produce necessary items such as construction bonds or proof of insurance. The Abstract of Bids template is a useful way to neatly check off these requirements. Also, consider using our templates for Construction Estimator and Bid Tabulation as helpful, powerful tools.
Phase 3: Documentation and pre-construction
It’s time for approval of the final design and budget you landed on at the end of phase two. Whether the final sign-off comes from your boss or the buck stops with you, ensure decision-makers understand the project and are prepared to move forward with it. Before breaking ground, have a meeting with all stakeholders (contractors, architects, utilities, etc.) to discuss the project, assess any potential issues, and work to resolve them. This will reduce risk from the start and help keep your project budget and timeline more firmly on track.
Keep all documentation for permits, regulations, deliverables, and contracts in an organized file. Prepare and submit all necessary paperwork, ensuring you give yourself a healthy head start before you actually need them. Few things are more frustrating than being unable to start work when you’re ready to because your permits haven’t been cleared.
When managing your pre-construction, everything should be properly documented and tracked. Visit the site frequently during demolition and pre-construction to ensure everything is proceeding smoothly and according to your planned schedule. Use tools like our Construction Documentation Tracker, Subcontractor Documentation Tracker, and Daily/Weekly Site Inspection Report to keep track of work being done, so there are no questions or uncertainties when resolving matters with a contractor.
Phase 4: Construction and closeout
The project is at last underway. This will almost certainly be the longest phase of the project. Monitor the build and ensure progress is keeping as close to your projected schedules and costs as possible. Even the best-laid plans will encounter hurdles, though your hard work in the first three phases should minimize them. Keep a detailed change order log to ensure that when changes need to be made, they’re tracked and noted for the future. Identify problem spots ahead of time and develop workarounds.
Keep all stakeholders aligned, from contractors to utilities. Track your deliverables and any materials being used. This will help keep your contractors’ progress payments timely, accurate, and fair to the work that has been completed. Prepare punchlists, closeout checklists, warranties, and any necessary inspections. And finally, enjoy the fruits of your (and others’) hard work!
Undertaking a construction project is a daunting task, especially if it’s not your particular area of expertise. Though it may be intimidating, it is possible to set a construction project up for smooth execution. As you’ll find using our many construction project management templates, a powerful tool for a construction project can be Smartsheet. Try our 30-day free trial and begin putting Smartsheet to work for your next build.