Focus on the preconstruction phase to save money throughout the life of your project.

Every construction project has a life of its own and starts with an idea, a need, a goal and a dream. The hardest part of any project is making it a reality. Without proper planning, nothing happens the way you envisioned it. This is one of the most important aspects of any successful project, so it stands to reason that planning should be conducted both efficiently and effectively.

Construction Job SiteCentral to the goal of proper planning is a well-executed preconstruction process, which grows out of the need to manage a project to meet the owner’s objectives and expectations and to deliver a high-quality project on time and on budget. The preconstruction manager should perform the role of project manager during the design phase. His or her prime responsibilities should range well beyond accurate project estimation. They should also include leadership and management of the preconstruction process to ensure a design which meets the client’s requirements of functionality, quality, cost and schedule.

The preconstruction manager should ensure that all necessary resources are efficiently engaged for activities such as scope definition, estimating, value engineering, constructability and coordination reviews, scheduling, site logistics planning and procurement strategies. This oversight helps to ensure a seamless transition into the procurement and construction phases of a project. 

Team-partnering sessions
During the preconstruction phase, the preconstruction manager should assist the client in making sure that drawings and documentation meet the project goals and that the client is ready to bid at the completion of the design phase. Managers should also provide cost-management services, including budgeting, construction-cost estimating, life-cycle analysis and risk management.

Project Management Plan
It is beneficial for the preconstruction manager to develop a project execution plan to meet the demands of the project and the site. Project management plans should be developed to define expectations and measurement of the project quality. If managers are able to assist the owners and design team with permitting, as well as anticipating and mitigating potential risks and problems before they arise, the project and client teams stand a much better chance to successfully complete the project with few or no problems.

Successful projects start with the implementation of a project management plan, which outlines goals, expectations, strategies and procedures. Typically, these plans also include the following elements:

  • Procedures manual, which establishes concise, clear and detailed procedure for the whole team to ensure smooth transition from planning through construction to closeout
  • Communications plan, to establish attendance and distribution of various reports and meeting attendance
  • Quality assurance, designed to ensure quality construction, services and performance from preconstruction through project completion
  • Document control management, structured to capture the written and electronic information required by the project

Cost Estimating and Cost Management
Naturally, cost is one of the primary measures of a project’s success. From the outset, project and construction cost estimating is critical to ensure that the anticipated project and construction costs meet budget expectations. Cost management throughout the design phase helps to avoid cost overruns and maximize potential returns on investment. The cost estimate should provide the construction team with the information necessary to accomplish the following:

  • Ensure budgets match scope and quality expectations
  • Provide accurate and timely reporting
  • Monitor and analyze cost throughout the development of the design
  • Avoid unnecessary redesign or cost overruns
  • Anticipate changing market conditions and escalation
  • Provide risk analysis
  • Optimize return on investments

Estimators must use both analytics and logic to determine the best method for estimating a project. During the estimating phase, project teams should determine which tools and techniques they can employ to make the estimate more accurate and to properly forecast budget and materials needed through completion.

Life-Cycle Cost Analysis
Life-cycle cost analysis considers the long-term cost impact of the elements that should be performed during the preconstruction phase. This is different from the cost estimate, which typically outlines only the initial cost of the project. During the life-cycle cost analysis, all components of the building, including envelope, exterior façade, interiors and mechanical and electrical systems, should be reviewed to address initial costs versus maintenance costs, life expectancy, energy consumption and total ownership costs over the designated period.

Energy-modeling experts can provide value from design through post-occupancy. The intent is to provide the owner and maintenance operator with a clear picture of long-term costs. It’s an important element of the decision-making process for evaluating different project options.

Value Engineering and Management
Value engineering and management is a methodology to ensure that optimum value is achieved with an investment. Sound value management identifies the most cost-effective solutions to realize project goals while enhancing quality and performance. Emphasis should be placed on a team-based approach, working closely with clients, designers and all other relevant parties. The following six phases should be used to achieve these goals:

  • Information phase, to obtain a detailed understanding of project objectives, issues, risks and life cycle costs
  • Functional analysis phase, where the facility functions are identified and analyzed to understand their relationships and priorities
  • Creative phase, which is the “brainstorming” phase to develop options
  • Evaluation phase, during which the alternatives are analyzed and ranked to identify the best options
  • Development phase, in which the best options are precisely defined, advantages and disadvantages are itemized, cost estimates are prepared and life-cycle costs are calculated
  • Presentation phase, during which a detailed written report is prepared and the recommendations presented

Risk Management
Cost and schedule risk management is integral to project planning and is an important part of a successful preconstruction phase. It also provides an effective means of assessing the financial and practical risks associated with a project. The process should involve identifying, scoring and prioritizing risks. Doing so allows steps to be taken to minimize risk and ensure that project completion is in line with operational and financial goals.

Schedule Control and Management
Scheduling is perhaps the most important control mechanism. Schedule management is quickly becoming a responsibility of the construction managers so that they’re able to manage and oversee all design approval and purchasing activities. If orders from the design team contradict estimations, owners will see an increased cost due to change orders as the result of miscommunication.

Labor costs, which usually represent the largest project expenditure and differing construction time frames, dramatically affect scheduling. The need for good planning that includes provisions for flexibility is paramount. The schedule should include activities by the owner, design team, prime contractor and subcontractors. Meeting dates should be set to review accomplishments and upcoming action items with the entire project team. The baseline project schedule should also take into account the requirements of clients and their calendars.

Looking Ahead
The construction industry is constantly changing. Project managers have a variety of communication methods available to them, and many are choosing digital platforms to increase accessibility for all parties involved. Building information modeling, lean construction and design-building are some of the latest trends that provide the preconstruction manager with additional tools to provide better service and a better product.