What Are Preconstruction Services? A Comprehensive Guide

Written by Bridget Cooper

DateMar 20, 2024
Reading time6 min read

Before pouring the foundation or laying the bricks, every construction project goes through the planning stage, called the pre-construction phase. It’s where the project manager commissions the designs, identifies and selects construction materials, and assembles a construction team. A pre-construction phase is more than a planning stage. It embodies the entire project, with every detail and information adopted in this stage reflecting heavily on the end product. It’s, without a doubt, the most important stage of any construction project. 

In this guide, we will define the preconstruction services, distinguish pre-construction from estimating, and look at the top pre-construction services you should expect in construction. 

What are Pre-Construction Services?

Pre-construction services, also known as “pre-cons,” are activities that take place before the actual construction begins. 

Many people often generalize pre-construction as the planning stage, but it’s more than that. It’s where construction managers commission the plans and designs and determine the scope to understand the client’s requirements. Project managers also engage in activities like construction site evaluations, estimating the project cost, assessing its feasibility, and plan reviews to help bring the idea to life.

If a construction project were a film, the pre-construction phase would be the pre-production stage, where a team is assembled, permits are acquired, resources are collected, potential problems are identified, and deadlines are determined. 

However, many people, especially those relatively new to the construction industry, confuse pre-construction and cost estimating. Some even swap the terms to refer to the pre-construction activities and are wrong to do so. 

Let’s differentiate between the two.

Are Pre-Constructions the Same as Estimating?

As we have seen, pre-construction services are activities involved before construction commences, including cost estimates. 

Estimating is breaking down the entire project into individual work units to determine the resources needed to complete these tasks, and the cost for each resource. 

For instance, estimating the costs of laying a construction foundation involves identifying the cost of materials, labor, and equipment needed to complete the tasks. It also involves creating a contingency fund to cover unforeseeable expenses, like overtime, equipment repair and maintenance, and weather changes. 

An excellent example of a pre-construction service is developing schematic designs to help project owners visualize how their completed project will look like. 

Construction cost estimating is part of the pre-construction process but cannot be used to refer to every activity involved in the stage. 

Now that we know what pre-construction is and how it differs from estimating, let’s look at some pre-construction services you should expect in construction. 

Common Pre-Construction Services in Many Projects

The pre-construction stage is a multi-step approach, each varying based on the project’s needs and desired outcomes. 

For instance, commercial construction projects have a different pre-construction process compared to residential projects. Here are a few pre-construction services you’re likely to encounter in almost all construction projects.

Analyzing the Existing Conditions

Construction projects don’t necessarily have to be built from the ground up. Some require adding up to the existing structures or renovating them. 

The team starts by analyzing the pre-existing conditions to determine the best approach. Project managers determine how the proposed changes would impact the existing design and structural integrity. The information you get here helps you account for proper load calculations and material strength. 

Let’s take a commercial building renovation as an example. Here, you’d consider details like plumbing and electrical systems to avoid costly surprises. You’d also consider roof junctures to prevent leakage and compromise the structure. 

The project manager relies heavily on the original drawings and blueprints for decision-making. 

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building Information Modeling, (BIM) is a 3D representation of the project to help stakeholders understand the project’s appearance. It also helps clients visualize a completed project. 

BIM is more than a fancy 3D representation of the structure. It shows how the structure will be constructed and even managed through its lifecycle.

A great building information modeling includes details like construction methods, materials, energy efficiency, and maintenance schedules. Project designers use BIM software for design development and capture as many details as possible.

Imagine a commercial construction project like a shopping mall. The project’s BIM includes details like walls, floors, roofs, plumbing, HVAC, material quantities, and cost estimates. 

Efficiency is the key to successful projects in the construction industry, and BIM provides just that. The BIM software handles details like quantity takeoffs and clash detection, saving the team money and time by doing this manually. 

Cost Estimates and Control 

Construction projects are resource-intensive, and accounting for these preconstruction costs in advance helps project managers develop realistic budgets. Accurate cost estimates also help prevent issues like budget overruns, which could delay the project and result in a substandard project. 

When developing estimates, experts break down the entire project into smaller work units to help them trace every cost. Pre-construction tools like Downtobid can help automate and speed up this process. Our tool turns construction plans into detailed construction documents detailing all potential scopes. You can then analyze the scope to determine the materials, labor, and equipment needed for every work unit. 

When creating construction cost estimates, you must account for contingency funds. These are funds set aside to finance unforeseeable circumstances, like material price hikes and inflation. General contractors also include a cap on these estimates to cover potential overheads and their profits. 

Cash Flow Analysis 

Construction projects can run for months or even years, depending on the project’s complexity and size. Ensuring financial solvency during this period helps to keep the project running and beating deadlines. 

An ironclad cash flow analysis has many benefits, including establishing payment schedules to ensure proper funding to every stakeholder. 

For instance, commercial contractors prefer being paid by milestones. Suppliers also have their preferred payment schedules to keep supplying materials and other resources. Without a proper cash flow, it would be challenging to provide such funding, risking the entire project and reputation and disrupting the supply chains. 

Risk Management

The construction industry has many risks, most of which could be mitigated through the planning and construction process.  

For instance, project scope gaps could be detected and rectified in the pre-construction stage. Loopholes in contracts can be negotiated before the construction begins. Construction workers’ safety guidelines could be formulated before the project starts and implemented during construction. These are some risks experienced in construction sites. 

Project managers identify potential risks and establish proper risk management steps to minimize their impacts on the project. For example, project managers require general contractors to be OSHA-certified to reduce workplace accidents and injuries. 

Final Thoughts

Pre-construction services form the foundation of successful construction project delivery. It’s where project managers identify all the resources needed to complete the project. It’s also a phase where ideas are turned into blueprints and 3D models to help visualize the project before it commences. A detailed and thought-out pre-construction phase ensures proper collaboration and project schedule by sharing enough project data with the construction stakeholders. 

Written by Bridget CooperUpdated on Mar 25, 2024

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