The commercial construction process might seem complicated to the outside observer, and depending on the size of the project it might not look the same each time. Construction processes can be slow, and in some cases in need of optimization. This guide goes over the basics of the management process and how you can optimize it.
Table of Contents
These are terms that you will hear in the construction process.
- Pre-Construction – This is a large phase in a construction project since it can encapsulate everything before construction starts. However, it most often means the phase after bidding but before the construction starts.
- Shop Drawings – These are drawings that provide details for different components for a construction project.
- Designs – These can be 2D drawings or 3D models. They are usually the plans for the project.
- Design and Construction – This is what a firm produces when using a design-build project delivery method.
- Construction Phase – These are the different time chunks of a construction project. They break a project down into conception, design/bid, pre-construction, procurement, construction, and post-construction.
- Project Costs – These are the funds needed to complete the work, it should cover direct and indirect costs and are usually estimated at the beginning of the project or during the bidding phase.
- Contractor – Contractors work on a contract to provide something for a job. This will break it into General Contractors who often take the contract for the total project contract and Subcontractors who work on specific elements on contracts under the General Contractor’s contract.
- Contract Administration – This is the management of contracts between various parties from customers, vendors, partners, and/or employees.
- Project Management – This is the practice of planning, managing, and executing a project. Project management in construction will vary by who is managing what. A project manager for a subcontractor will manage a project differently than a general contractor’s project manager.
What is the Construction Process
There is always a certain flow and process that a project will follow. Construction project management doesn’t change at its core even when the project size and dollar amount does. Because these core steps in project management work regardless of project type, size, or other differentiating factors. These are the 5 common steps that all projects go through in the construction process.
The first step in any construction process is the conception of the project. This starts when the person who owns the land or building wants something done. Here they will raise the money, start to gather clearer ideas, and come to a decision about the purpose of the project. Construction isn’t involved yet, but architects, engineers, and construction managers might be involved to guide the ideas with what can actually be accomplished.
The design step is the next step. This is where the architects and engineers take the plans, designs, and drawings and ensure everything fits all regulations. They will talk to the project owner to make sure that the project fits their vision, and afterward they will open the project up to bidding. Using the documents the engineers and architects have created contractors and subcontractors will create their bid documents and submit bids to the construction manager.
The pre-construction phase is one of the larger phases in construction. This is the stage where all contractors, subcontractors, engineers, architects, and project stakeholders get together to discuss the project. This is where the initial schedule, responsibility matrix, estimation, and clarification takes place. Information such as:
- Job site access
- Quality Control procedures
- Material storage
This information is crucial to be able to get the project successfully off the ground.
This is where the groundbreaking actually can begin. This is the section where construction starts. As long as there are no remaining questions, the project management plan should be in effect and everything should work seamlessly. However, this isn’t what usually happens. Instead, there are typically hiccups throughout the project that can cause delays and cause the project to go over budget. Digital construction management solutions, careful monitoring, and corrective action can lessen the blow of delay.
This is the final step in the construction process. This is where the contractors, architects, engineers, and subcontractors gather to closeout the project. The closeout process happens around substantial completion, where the project fits the contract completion and the owner can now use it for the intended purpose. This is also where budgets are reconciled, outstanding change orders and submittals are closed out, and the paperwork is finalized.
With this stage, it’s incredibly important to have all documentation ready to go. This is the only way that subcontractors can prove any submission dates and work done. Documentation is how subcontractors protect their bottom-line, prove the work they did, and prove work ordered.
Who Does What in the Construction Process
The construction process has many different roles and users. Depending on the place of employment and job there, someone will be involved in different areas of the construction process. These are the different jobs that will interact with the construction process.
The construction manager is an integral part of the construction process, they are responsible for overseeing the entire project from conception/design to post-construction. Depending on the size of the project, it could be a team of construction managers working on the project or just one. They are responsible for setting the budget, planning, and overseeing the project progress. They often set schedules and choose the subcontractors, and will do a variety of tasks for one project alone.
Architect and Engineer
The architect and engineer hold different jobs on a project, but sometimes their duties overlap. An architect will take the client’s vision and develop a solution. They create the drawings and plans, are responsible for overseeing questions and communication in regards to those plans, and will oversee their execution to a degree. They often times will do the calculations to determine the materials needed for certain aspects of the project.
Engineers will also work on a project. They might be an outside engineering firm that turns drawings from the architect into 3D or BIM models for the contractors to work off of. They typically will do any and all calculations regarding material usage. Sometimes electrical, mechanical, or other types of construction workers will have their own engineers to design their portions of the project and perform their own calculations.
Estimator and Accounting
The estimator and accounting department hold important roles in the construction process. The estimator will look over the construction plans, schedule, and other detail and determine an estimate of costs for the project. There will be estimates prepared for the owner to determine general costs for the building. With all subcontractors having their own estimator to determine how long a project will take.
The accounting department is responsible for consolidating the books. They keep track of the costs of goods sold, expenses and overhead, and often personnel. They are responsible for consolidating the books at the end of the project and keeping track of the budget during the project.
If there isn’t a construction manager, a project manager might fill that void in the construction process. The project manager often has similar responsibilities to the construction manager, but they often work for a general contractor hired to manage the project. They will help with the planning, resource allocation, staffing, budget and more, just like the construction manager.
The construction superintendent is a crucial component in the construction process, they run the day-to-day operations on a site. They often will manage the immediate schedule, quality control, coordination efforts, and more. The general contractor and the subcontractors are likely to have their own superintendents working on a project, especially if it is a larger project.
The superintendent would manage all of the field crews for the subcontractor. They are also responsible for most of the documentation of what happens when they’re on the job site.
The end of the construction process roles chain is the field worker. They might not have immediate say in the schedule or budget, but they are integral to the completion of the project. The field workers make the project a reality.
Optimizing the Construction Process
The best way to optimize the construction process is through increased visibility. The only way to get increased visibility into the construction process is through documentation. Documentation supports communication which optimizes the construction process.