What Is Preconstruction and Why Is It the Most Crucial Step in Construction?
The preconstruction phase is the most crucial step in the construction process and sets the stage for successful project completion.
Hands down, if your project’s going sideways, it’s always because of something you didn’t plan well or could not have anticipated. Either way, a well-planned and thoroughly executed preconstruction period can save you time, energy, and stress throughout the project.
This article will discuss preconstruction, its essential components, and the benefits of thoroughly pre-planning your project from concept through completion.
What Does Preconstruction Mean?
The term “preconstruction” refers to the initial planning phase of the construction process.
Preconstruction encompasses everything from the initial project concept through the date you break ground, and actual construction begins. In fact, of all the phases in the construction project lifecycle, preconstruction is the most crucial step in the process.
And when done correctly, the preconstruction phase ensures your project will be completed safely, on time, and within budget.
When does the preconstruction process begin?
Long before purchasing materials or scheduling work, the project owner has a lot of critical decisions to make. The preconstruction process begins in the project’s conceptual phase as the owner defines what to build and why.
The project’s ‘Why’ is the motivation and driving force behind the effort.
What’s the goal and overall vision, and what are we trying to achieve? The owner and key stakeholders must have strong reasoning for pursuing the project to make the investment worthwhile.
Projects without a strong ‘Why’ rarely succeed.
After establishing the project’s goals and vision, the next step is determining how best to fulfill the vision.
By this time, the owner and key project stakeholders are ready to collaborate with design, engineering, and construction teams to create a vision of the finished product.
Now the project is starting to take shape.
Deciding where to build goes hand in hand with what to build.
As they say in real estate, “Location, location, location!” This is where design and engineering collaborate to create value that fulfills the owner’s vision within the context of the existing natural environment.
Now the builders get more involved.
A comprehensive preconstruction plan includes the contractor’s perspective from the start. But establishing timelines and schedules based on the owner’s agenda, project design, and resource requirements are where construction contractors shine.
General contractors begin the procurement process during the preconstruction phase as well. This critical phase involves subcontractor evaluation and securing the resources and materials required to complete the project, among many other details.
How long, and how much?
By the end of preconstruction, total alignment between project stakeholders, the budget, resource requirements, and the project schedule is complete.
This effort results in an efficient construction process that safely meets the owner’s objectives with fewer delays and costly mistakes.
What are preconstruction services?
Most general contractors and construction management firms offer preconstruction services–either as a standalone offering or as a lead-in to manage the project in its entirety.
Typical preconstruction services include
- Existing condition analysis.
- Existing and unforeseen conditions are among the most common causes of cost overruns and scheduling delays.
- Whether building an addition or breaking ground on a new structure, analyzing the existing conditions is critical to determining design and engineering requirements.
- Building information modeling (BIM).
- Design changes and unforeseen conflicts are other common causes of cost overruns and delays.
- BIM technology allows project owners to visualize their projects during the design phase and before construction begins to avoid surprises.
- And BIM also helps engineering and design teams identify conflicts before the final design release.
- Safety and risk management.
- Construction sites are dangerous and full of risks.
- Designing structures and the construction process with safety in mind helps mitigate these risks and prevent tragic accidents.
- Constructability analysis and review.
- Design-Build contracts give owners the benefit of early constructability oversight.
- Identifying design elements that interfere with construction early rather than when production begins on-site is better for all stakeholders involved.
- Cost estimating and budget control.
- As the design comes together, the estimation process can begin.
- Building the project budget early lets project owners control their investments for maximal returns.
- Subcontractor qualification and selection.
- Choosing the right subcontractors isn’t always based on who came out on top in the bidding process.
- Bid leveling can reveal coverage gaps and issues of concern.
- Resource management and procurement.
- Securing necessary resources well in advance has multiple advantages.
- Ensuring the workforce has the required tools, equipment, and materials prevent schedule delays and cost overruns.
- Scheduling, phasing, and logistics.
What is a preconstruction meeting?
The preconstruction meeting gathers the project team members and stakeholders to clarify the project’s objectives, budget, timeline, and responsibilities.
The project team will also discuss the project’s specifics, such as required materials, labor, subcontractors, and any special provisions or concerns. Additionally, the project team will review and discuss the health and safety regulations and how to best mitigate risk.
Who attends the preconstruction meeting?
Preconstruction meetings typically involve all parties involved in the project, such as the owner, architect, engineers, general contractor, and subcontractors.
Meetings like this can often be multi-day affairs because of their detail and how much the team needs to accomplish before work begins.
What happens at a preconstruction meeting?
The following details are all hammered out during the preconstruction meeting.
- Define the project scope: The scope defines the project’s specific objectives and outlines any constraints or limitations.
- Establish the project management methodology: This outlines how the project will be managed throughout its duration, including who is responsible for what tasks and how decisions will be made.
- Create the schedule management plan: This plan will outline the timeline for completing all project tasks.
- Create the Master Schedule: This schedule outlines all tasks and milestones associated with the project, including their dependencies and interdependencies.
- Budget planning: During preconstruction, budgeting should be done to ensure all project costs are considered.
- Establish the rules of communication: Communication protocols should be established so that all parties involved in the project are kept informed of progress and updates.
- Begin the procurement process: Materials and other supplies should be purchased or ordered during preconstruction to ensure they arrive on time.
- Risk management: Potential risks should be identified during preconstruction, and appropriate measures should be taken to mitigate them.
- Create the quality management plan: This plan outlines how quality assurance and control should be handled throughout the project.
These components are essential for any successful construction project, but they are especially important during preconstruction due to their impact on cost savings, quality assurance, and project operations.
What are the benefits of preconstruction planning?
Preconstruction offers many benefits. These include improved accuracy, cost savings, improved scheduling, reduced risk, and increased quality.
Planning out all aspects of a project during preconstruction can identify and address potential issues before construction begins, resulting in improved accuracy.
Proper preconstruction planning can help reduce costs by ensuring that materials are ordered on time, eliminating unnecessary expenses due to mistakes or delays during construction.
By creating a thorough schedule management plan in preconstruction, projects can stay on track and meet deadlines more easily.
Identifying potential risks during preconstruction allows for measures to be taken to reduce these risks before construction begins.
Projects can ensure high-quality results throughout the construction process by creating a quality management plan during preconstruction.
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