Before you put a shovel in the ground, there’s a lot of hidden work that must be done. If this “hidden work” is done right, the chances of completing a new build on time and on budget significantly increase.
We’re talking about the pre-construction phase of a construction project, which tends to occur after a general contractor is awarded a contract to build it. Depending on the size, scope and scale of the project, the “pre-con” phase can last anywhere from a few months to a year or more before the project team eventually mobilizes and breaks ground on the job. While that may seem like a lot of time spent essentially planning the job, it’s important work that sets the stage for how the rest of the job will go.
In this post, we’ll further explain the pre-construction phase, why it’s so important and how it can help set the tone for whether a project is successful. Read on to learn more.
Pre-Construction 101: What to Know
Think of the pre-con phase as the first phase of a construction project. It’s where the initial budget is established, where the schedule is planned out, and where any risks or challenges are more thoroughly assessed to help determine the budget and schedule. The pre-con phase tends to be a collaborative effort between the client, the designer and the general contractor. Engineers and architects may also be included during this phase.
The end goal of pre-construction is to mobilize with a clearly defined vision of what’s going to be built. Pre-con also provides an opportunity for the project’s stakeholders to form a good, collaborative working relationship and ensure that everyone is on the same page right from the start.
There’s also the chance that the job never materializes past the pre-construction phase. In some cases, unforeseen challenges or risks arise during pre-con that may push the budget into a price range the owner becomes uncomfortable with. In this case, the project may not advance any further.
Key Steps Involved in the Pre-Construction Process
There are various phases that occur during the pre-construction process, from schematic design to bidding out the various work packages. Here’s a closer look at some of the key steps involved in the process and what they aim to achieve:
Think of schematic design as the very early design phase of the project. Usually, the owner will have an architect create mock-up renderings prior to the job going out for bid. However, those renderings often don’t represent the end result. Schematic design works to develop floor plans and picture how the spaces in the building will truly flow. From here, the architect will work with the client and move on to design development.
After the architect has gotten enough feedback from the client, he or she can work to really hammer out the specifics of the building. More detailed drawings, finishes and building systems are often decided upon in this stage of pre-con.
This step tends to be the most laborious part of the pre-construction phase. While the plans aren’t 100% complete, they give the contractor a basis for bidding out work to subcontractors and other partners.
On most projects, there tends to be one general contractor and then a whole slew of subcontractors who carry out the various parts of the project. In the bidding/procurement step, bid packages are released and these “subs” are often decided upon.
After pre-construction moves through these phases, the project is closer to breaking ground and really starting to put work in place.
The pre-construction phase might feel like a lot of extra, hidden work on a project, but it is essential for settling the scope, budget and other key project details that make building possible. Understanding the importance of pre-construction can help ensure your next project is a success.
Author bio: Jocelyn Brucker is Corporate Marketing and Communications Manager for The Weitz Company — a full-service construction company, general contractor, design-builder and construction manager with office locations throughout the United States. She has been with The Weitz Company since 2020 and specializes in communications, marketing and proposal management.