5 Phases of Construction: Understanding the Importance of Each Step
Beginning with the initial idea, every commercial construction project follows a logical progression.
The timeline can be relatively short in some cases, or it may stretch over many months or even years. Many large projects face multiple revisions as the real estate broker, architect, engineer, general contractor, and subcontractors and vendors work together to move from planning stages through project launch, actual building phases, and final inspections.
Owners and clients who don’t fully understand the process can be frustrated by what seems like redundancy and unnecessary delay. But a project manager who pays attention to details along the way and follows a well-defined schedule is more likely to lead a project to a timely and successful completion, and that is the overriding goal. There are, essentially, five phases of construction:
Project conception and initiation
Every project begins with an idea. Translating that initial idea into concrete plans typically requires input from a variety of sources, including owners, financial advisers, lenders, city planners and zoning officials and a host of other experts.
It is imprudent to try to save time at this point. It is important to remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Take the time to fully assess the concept by weighing the benefits and considering any shortcomings or downsides. Once all the decision-makers agree on a direction, and only then, should the project be turned over to the team that will move the project forward. Ideally, that team includes construction professionals, designers and engineers, as well as financial experts and client representatives who act as partners to move the project from idea to reality.
Project definition and planning
In the beginning, the concept may be a bit amorphous. This is the time when some brainstorming can be advantageous to assure that all involved parties buy into a singular idea. Whether designing office or retail space, a warehouse facility or a shopping mall, defining the overall look and character of the project is vital.
This is also the stage during which budget planning is of prime importance, when final designs are approved and when initial bidding usually takes place. It can also be the most time-consuming phase in the overall timeline. It helps to remember, however, that changes made during the planning stage are much easier and infinitely more cost-effective than changes that are executed in the midst of ongoing construction.
Working with a design-build firm is an efficient way to shorten the timeline. It is also an effective way to assure that a cohesive team is in place during each succeeding phase of the project. Many clients prefer dealing with a single construction manager or “lead man” throughout the process, and the design-build model also frequently results in dollar savings over traditional design-bid-contract projects.
Project launch or execution
The most exciting time at any building site is the first day of actual construction, whether it’s the construction of a totally new building or an addition. Sometimes a ceremonial groundbreaking precedes the start of actual work at a building site, but the work truly begins when the first dirt is moved.
It’s much the same for an interior finish out, a minor renovation or a simple restaurant tenant improvement project. Following any necessary demolition, the project effectively commences when materials are delivered and a crew arrives on site.
Project performance and control
This is the phase that requires daily supervision and the expertise of a project supervisor or construction manager who will track progress, assure that all work conforms to approved plans and specifications and that construction is completed on schedule and within budget.
Scheduling is vital to assure that subcontractors are on site when needed, that materials are ordered and delivered on a timely basis, and that inspections are called for and carried out as necessary.
Ongoing adjustments to the schedule are sometimes needed, and clients should expect to be kept informed on a regular basis.
Depending on the scope of the construction project and the specific timeline, the project close may be months or even years after the project launch. But no matter what the duration, the construction manager will have orchestrated the many “players” on the scene to assure a successful outcome.
Once final inspections are made and approvals are in hand, the project must be approved by the client. A construction project is deemed to be complete at that point; payment of any contract balance is made and the final conveyance of the space or property is made to the client.
An Orderly Progression
The “life cycle” of a construction project should not be a mystery to anyone. When all parties are aware of the multiple steps and the different professionals and trades who must work together, there is an orderly progression from one phase to the next. Running a construction project can be compared in some ways to staging a play, with writers, producers, backers, directors, cast members, stage managers and the audience all having varied concerns and playing different roles.
The goal, of course, is that every play will be a hit; similarly, the goal of every commercial construction project is that the product will be built correctly and well, completed on time and for the agreed-upon contract price and that the intended user(s) and owners will be completely satisfied with the final product.
Whether the building is an industrial space or a medical facility, an office building or a retail strip, a restaurant or a fitness center matters little. It is also not important whether the budget is minimal or runs to six or more figures. The experience and dedication of the construction manager, and the coordination and tracking procedures employed by the general contractor and other professionals on the project are what contribute to an outstanding result.
For additional information or advice about the best ways to assure a successful commercial construction project, contact us to discuss your options.
Marketing ManagerAt M.A. Nourse, we leverage decades of knowledge and experience to provide more detailed and accurate estimates, so that our clients can feel confident that their projects will be completed on time and on budget.