What Does Preconstruction Mean? The Secret Behind A Successful Construction Project

Written by Bridget Cooper

DateMar 4, 2024
Reading time10 min read

Before every construction project commences, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes unseen. There’s a lot of planning and many teams working on details to ensure the construction project meets its expectations and specifications. This phase of construction is known as pre-construction. 

The activities involved in the pre-construction phase are a bit confusing, even to seasoned general contractors. From the planning stages to the different people involved, it’s easy to get overwhelmed as a general contractor during this phase. This guide examines the pre-construction phase, the key components, and the potential challenges stakeholders will likely experience. 

But first, let’s define pre-construction. 

What Is Pre-Construction?

Pre-construction refers to activities and tasks involved before the construction begins. Think of it as behind the scenes, where engineers, architects, consultants, and other stakeholders gather information, create designs and plans, and estimate project costs. 

The pre-construction process is the most sensitive of the construction project, as it’s where important details are discussed and decisions are made. 

For instance, the designs and drawings made in the pre-construction process determine the project outcome. The project budget estimates determine the winning bid, and the scope determines the building materials, work units, milestones, and deadline for successful project completion. 

Now that we know what pre-construction means in a construction project, let’s look at what it’s made of. 

Components of a Pre-Construction Phase

A pre-construction process involves a lot of work and teams working around the clock to collect and compile project data. Project managers divide the pre-construction phase into smaller units for effective results and assign teams to lead these units. They include the following:

Pre-Bid Activities

Pre-bid activities are crucial, foundational steps. Running a preconstruction meeting allows project managers and stakeholders directly engage in discussions, perform market research, and evaluate the capabilities of potential contractors and suppliers. This stage is important for clearly defining project goals, refining specifications, and ensuring potential bidders fully understand the project's requirements and expectations.

During this phase, stakeholders often conduct pre-bid meetings or conferences to directly address questions from prospective bidders, outline the bidding process, and explain evaluation criteria and project timelines. Such activities create a transparent and competitive bidding environment and play a key role in identifying and mitigating risks early. Investing time in pre-bid activities enables project owners to build collaboration and alignment among all parties, paving the way for a streamlined procurement process.

Project Planning and Development

Every construction project requires proper planning to come up with accurate information. The project team starts by identifying and defining project objectives. The objectives are measurable outcomes that project owners want to achieve with the project. 

The objectives should be specific and clear to avoid ambiguity. Any slight misunderstanding could lead to undesired outcomes. They should also be realistic and achievable using the resources and timeline provided. And finally, they should fall within the project budget to avoid unnecessary delay, quality compromise, and running out of funds. 

The planning stage is crucial to any construction project, and every stakeholder must be consulted to ensure everyone is on the same page. Make sure you ask all the right preconstruction meeting questions so every one is on the same page.

Design and Engineering

Now comes the technical part of the construction projects. Design and engineering involve architects and engineers who come up with project designs. 

Project designing is an intricate process that requires experienced people and time to pull it off. For instance, coming up with floor plans requires proper analysis and accurate measurements to avoid misalignments. 

Project elevation offers construction guidance to the general contractor by providing accurate information regarding the dimensions and building materials required to deliver the project. 

The architects and engineers also aid in incorporating building code requirements to ensure the project remains safe during construction, completion, and occupation. 

Besides guaranteeing structural integrity, these requirements also ensure a safer working environment with zero risks of accidents or injuries. They also include fire safety measures by escape routes, fire-resistant materials, and installing sprinklers. 

Engineers also conduct value engineering analyses to identify alternative construction materials and methodologies while still maintaining the same quality. Doing so helps to reduce the cost while still delivering the project per requirements. For instance, engineers might opt for cheaper but still effective project materials to reduce project costs. 

Finally, engineers and architects create detailed drawings and plans, explaining the project specifications for regulatory approval. Local authorized inspectors review the plans to determine if they conceptualize the project, align with safety and health standards, and ensure the structure is accessible to people with disabilities. 

Cost Estimation and Budgeting

Every construction project has a pre-determined budget to keep it going to completion. The estimators review the project scope and design specifications to come up with accurate estimates. 

They break down the scope into smaller work units and identify every resource required by each work unit. 

Cost estimators account for the project materials needed to complete the project. They then check local prices for these materials to develop material estimates. Each work unit requires specific construction workers with specific skills. They identify labor requirements, like the number of construction workers and their working timeline, to come up with labor requirements. 

They follow the same process to account for construction equipment, permits, and overheads. 

Cost estimates are crucial in determining the project’s budget and selecting the desired overhead to ensure profitability. It also helps the general contractor decide whether the project is worth bidding on. 

Cost estimators rely on historical data when creating estimates. They check industry benchmarks, market trends, and economic trends to determine the best estimates. 

They also develop contingency plans to account for unforeseeable challenges, like material price changes and paying overtime for workers. Contingency funds are mandatory to keep the project running, even when experiencing material price hikes. 

Procurement and Contracting

The next stage of the pre-construction process is recruiting the right construction partner like subcontractors, vendors, and suppliers through a bidding process. 

The process starts by issuing a bid invite, which could be an ITB, RFP, or RFB document. The bidding document provides all the project details, including the scope, budget, timeline, and milestones that interested parties must fulfill. It also lists all requirements, like financial documents, certificates, and permits. 

The bid package also explains the bidding process, including the bid format and deadline. Doing so helps the bidders submit proposals aligning with bidding requirements. The documents also explain the evaluation criteria, whether it will be price or experience-based. 

After the bids have been submitted, bid evaluation is the next step in the pre-construction phase. The evaluation focuses on bid completion, experience, price, and relevant documents. The evaluation period varies depending on the proposals received and the project’s complexity. 

The evaluating team selects the winning bidder as the construction partner and communicates this with other bidders to promote transparency and trust. They then contact the winning bidder and initiate the contract negotiation phase to bring all parties on the same page. 

During the bidding process, the construction team submits their contract price and construction methodology, where the project owner chooses the one they believe satisfies the project’s requirements. Contract negotiations focus on the project’s price, with the project manager trying to lower the general contractor’s asking bid.

The negotiations could also include payment terms and schedules, milestones, and deadlines. They could also touch on disputes and how to mitigate them to ensure accountability. 

Once the contract negotiations are over, the involved parties formalize the contractual relationships and establish the project commencement day. At this stage, the construction partner is sure they have won the project, and they can start preparing for the post-construction phase. 

Permitting and Regulatory Compliance

The last thing in the pre-construction phase is ensuring the project complies with the regulatory requirements and environmental regulations. 

Under building codes, you must check whether safety standards, structural integrity, and accessibility regulations align with the requirements. Doing so ensures a safer construction site and a project that is safe to use once completed.

For instance, a bridge construction site poses significant challenges, like slips, sharp tools, and waste disposal. The successful project should also support enough weight without structural compromise.

Under environmental protection, you must prove that the project preserves it. Will the construction team observe all the environmental preservation steps? Do they have a track record of doing so?

Your local building codes and regulations are the first place to check for this information. You should also contact an environmental consultant to inspect the project plans to determine if they harm the environment. The process includes checking any harmful chemicals and waste disposal methods during the construction process that could damage the ecosystem. 

If the project will cause any environmental impact, you must address it here. You must also indicate how you plan to mitigate this problem without harming the environment during the construction process. 

Next, you must secure the necessary permits to prove you have complied with the building codes and environmental regulations. You can obtain these documents from regulatory agencies and local authorities. 

The construction begins after completing all the steps. Regular inspection and monitoring during the construction process ensures the general contractor follows the construction schedule, guaranteeing a successful project.

Challenges Experienced in the Pre-Construction Phase

Pre-construction phases require a lot of information and teams working together, which leads to challenges most of the time. Here are a few challenges and how to mitigate them:

Uncertainties in Project Scope

Failure to break down the project scope effectively leaves room for different interpretations from the contractor’s side. A scope gap often leads to undesired outcomes, forcing the project to be redone again. Doing so leads to additional costs, time, and a broken relationship between the general contractor and the client. 

Budgetary constraints also pose significant challenges, where the construction team might be forced to cut corners or use substandard materials. 

Such actions lead to poor quality and compromised structural integrity. 

To avoid such challenges, project managers must hire professionals to break down the scope, identify work units, and provide detailed descriptions to avoid information discrepancies. They should also hire expert estimators to identify all costs to avoid budgetary constraints. 

Poor Communication 

Communication is the foundation of a successful construction project, including pre-constructions. Poor communication leads to ambiguous project scopes, which lead to scope gaps. It could also result in incomplete or inaccurate designs, forcing the project team to redo the work again. 

Poor communication is the primary cause of poor collaborations, where teams don’t share complete information. When this happens, it results in prolonged pre-construction phases, which leads to additional costs of hiring administrative help. 

Establishing effective communication channels helps to eliminate this problem. A centralized communication platform ensures everyone gets the information on time and that questions and requests are addressed with everyone aware of such actions. 

Final Thoughts

Pre-construction phases are critical in capturing the project’s specifications and requirements. The process involves planning, designing, budgeting, contracting, and ensuring environmental and building code compliance. Pre-construction phases ensure all information is accounted for to eliminate scope gaps. Open communication promotes collaboration and eliminates any ambiguous scope. 

Written by Bridget CooperUpdated on Apr 3, 2024

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