Every project, and especially a complex one like a construction project, needs a comprehensive plan.
There are many elements to consider—budgets, schedules, stakeholders, task management, necessary equipment, risk assessments, communication channels—you name it.
However, when you plan each aspect in advance, you can make sure that your projects are completed with minimal risks, within budget, and on time.
Naturally, understanding what construction planning is and why it’s essential is just the beginning. You also need to grasp the different types and approaches to it.
That’s why we are here. Today, we will explain everything there is to know about construction planning.
And while the sole planning process is quite challenging, armed with this knowledge, you can make sure that when you plan your next construction project, you do so most efficiently.
So, buckle up, and let’s dive in.
In this article...
What Does Construction Planning Involve
When we talk about construction planning, we’re referring to a comprehensive process that maps out a project from start to finish.
It involves setting project goals and objectives and evaluating whether they are feasible for a company.
Then, construction planning goes on to set a realistic budget, create a feasible timeline, outline specific tasks that need to be accomplished, and identify the necessary materials and equipment.
Think of it as the foundational framework of the entire project or a manual to which everyone involved refers, ensuring the project stays within budget and adheres to the timeline.
Large-scale construction projects don’t begin without detailed plans. Therefore, making a plan before starting the project isn’t just a good practice—it’s necessary, especially in corporate ventures.
At this point, we must also mention who is involved in construction planning.
The most accurate answer is that construction planning is a collaborative effort. This is not a solo performance of a project manager. Instead, it requires a cast of key players.
You have the project manager steering the ship, architects, engineers, and designers contributing their expertise, and financial experts aligning the budget with the project scope.
What’s more, input from contractors, subcontractors, and, notably, feedback from future users of the space is invaluable and should also be integrated into the planning process.
Construction planning is, fundamentally, a collective effort where each participant brings a unique perspective to the table.
Only when the expertise of all these professionals combines can you make a comprehensive construction plan that will set the stage for successful project execution.
Why is Construction Planning Important
Every construction project manager’s goal is to carry out a project on time, within budget, and to every stakeholder’s liking.
Similarly, clients expect projects to be delivered according to the agreed-upon budget and timeline.
And that’s why construction planning is so important. Planning prepares you to tackle the work efficiently and meet these objectives.
Still, let’s explore some concrete reasons why you should plan projects in construction.
First and foremost, proper construction planning accounts for unforeseen costs and delays and handles them efficiently.
When you anticipate potential challenges and prepare strategies to avoid or minimize those risks, you gain control over uncertainties that would otherwise cause delays, budget overruns, and quality issues.
Whether it’s adverse weather conditions, supply chain disruptions, or unexpected site issues, a well-devised plan equips you to navigate each of these hurdles effectively.
This preparedness not only safeguards the project but also instills confidence in stakeholders, fostering a sense of reliability and trust.
By defining standards, materials, and construction methodologies in advance, you lay the groundwork for a project that not only meets but exceeds expectations.
The effect is many-sided—satisfied clients, enhanced company reputation, and even ground for future collaborations.
Maximized efficiency is another compelling reason for robust construction planning.
When you plan a project ahead, you can identify and prioritize tasks that directly affect how long the project will take to complete (critical path method).
This planning helps you minimize idle time, streamline workflows, and improve resource utilization, leading to a more productive and time-effective construction process.
In essence, construction planning benefits the construction company, stakeholders, and clients.
It brings tangible benefits in terms of time, costs and the quality of the final product, making it a win-win for everyone involved.
Different Types of Construction Planning
In construction management, the planning process unfolds across different dimensions, each serving a distinct purpose.
The main three are:
- strategic planning
- operational planning
Understanding the differences between these three types of planning is essential to get a comprehensive grasp of the construction project’s lifecycle.
Let’s briefly explain all three.
This is a forward-looking process focused on long-term goals and objectives.
It involves setting clear and measurable project goals, analyzing market trends, defining return on investment, and formulating high-level strategies to achieve these goals.
This planning addresses resource allocation, risk assessment, and the integration of technology and sustainability that will enable ROI.
Strategic planning is usually done by the project owner’s corporate planners.
They decide which project aligns with the company’s goals. Projects, in turn, become the vehicles through which these strategic objectives are realized.
Operational planning delves into the nitty-gritty details of how the strategic goals and objectives will be executed.
It is the bridge between the vision outlined in strategic planning and the day-to-day realities of construction.
This planning phase focuses on the tasks, materials, and resources required for successful project execution.
It brings together project managers, architects, engineers, and various experts who collaborate to make a tangible, actionable plan.
Once the operational plan is made, the baton passes to scheduling.
This process involves putting the operational plan into a time-bound framework.
Scheduling ensures that tasks are not only outlined but are also sequenced logically to optimize efficiency.
This involves determining start and end dates for each task, setting milestones, and accounting for dependencies.
The goal is to create a realistic timeline that aligns with both the project’s objectives and the project constraints caused by external factors such as weather conditions, material availability, and any regulatory requirements.
In a nutshell, these three types of construction planning are interwoven in construction project management.
Strategic planning sets the direction, operational planning defines the how, and scheduling puts the plan into a realistic time frame.
Two Different Approaches to Construction Planning
According to the book “Project Management for Construction” by Chris Hendrickson from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, there are two approaches to construction planning.
One is cost-oriented, and the other is schedule-oriented planning.
Let’s explain both approaches.
As the name implies, cost-oriented planning is centered around project expenses, categorizing them into direct costs (e.g., labor and materials) and indirect costs (e.g., overhead).
This approach primarily focuses on planning projects for financial efficiency, ensuring that the project remains within budget through optimized resource allocation.
Now, consider a construction company tasked with building a bridge.
In a cost-oriented planning approach, attention would be given to budgetary considerations.
The company would analyze labor costs, material expenses, and overhead, aiming to allocate resources in a way that maximizes financial efficiency without compromising quality.
This might involve negotiating favorable deals with suppliers, optimizing workforce deployment, and scrutinizing indirect costs to ensure they align with the budget constraints.
On the other hand, schedule-oriented planning focuses on the timely completion of tasks.
This approach, however, can take two forms: time-oriented and resource-oriented planning.
Time-oriented planning is primarily concerned with the sequencing and timing of tasks, ensuring that each step is completed within specified deadlines.
In the case of our bridge construction project, time-oriented planning would involve creating a detailed timeline outlining the sequential order of tasks, from the initial site preparation to the final touches.
This might include setting milestones for key construction phases, such as completing the foundation, erecting support structures, and laying the bridge deck.
The focus here is on meeting deadlines, tracking progress, and making sure the project is completed within the agreed-upon timeframe.
On the other hand, resource-oriented planning ensures that the necessary resources, including labor, materials, and equipment, are available and efficiently utilized throughout the project.
For our bridge construction, resource-oriented planning might involve ensuring that the right number of skilled workers is available at each construction phase, that materials are delivered promptly, and that heavy machinery is used efficiently.
The choice between cost and schedule-oriented approaches is a deliberate decision driven by the distinct needs and priorities of each project.
However, in complex projects like building a bridge, a balanced consideration of both cost and scheduling aspects is essential for successful project management.
This dual approach ensures financial efficiency while adhering to deadlines and maintaining the overall quality of the construction project.
Main Phases of Construction Planning
Construction planning also has different phases. They range from project initiation to its closure.
This phase marks the beginning of the construction planning process.
When initiating a project, you have to write a business case and a feasibility study. In the first document, you clearly define the project’s goals and benefits.
And through a feasibility study, you evaluate if the project is feasible with the resources available.
The initiation phase sets the tone for the entire planning process, ensuring that the project is well-aligned with the overarching vision and goals.
The planning phase is a comprehensive stage where the groundwork for the construction project is laid out.
It starts with defining the scope of the project, breaking it down into manageable tasks through a work breakdown structure (WBS), estimating costs, and creating a detailed budget.
The development of a project timeline, risk analysis, and communication plan are also critical components of the planning phase.
In essence, in this phase, you prepare a detailed roadmap for project execution.
The execution phase is the point where the detailed plan from the planning phase is put into action.
Construction activities begin on the ground, and the effectiveness of the plan is assessed in real time.
The execution phase requires adaptability, as any deviations or unforeseen challenges must be addressed promptly to ensure the smooth progression of the project.
Project Monitoring and Control
Simultaneous with the execution phase, monitoring and control are crucial aspects of construction planning.
This involves overseeing project progress, managing any deviations from the plan, and continuously measuring performance against established benchmarks.
The monitoring and control phase ensures that the project stays on track and corrective measures are implemented promptly to address any issues that may arise during execution.
The closure phase occurs when all project tasks are successfully completed.
It involves detailed documentation of all aspects of the project, creating a comprehensive record for future reference.
Pre-handover preparations are also undertaken in this phase, ensuring a smooth transition to the project owner.
This phase can also include cleaning the site, returning tools and equipment, managing waste disposal, and removing temporary infrastructure.
In summary, each phase of construction planning plays a distinct role, collectively guiding the project from its conceptualization to successful completion.
For a more detailed understanding of each phase, refer to our comprehensive article on the construction planning process.
And that wraps it up. Today, we have covered what construction planning is, who is involved in it and the main types of construction planning.
We also pinpointed two different approaches to construction planning—cost-oriented and schedule-oriented and briefly explained the main phases of construction planning.
We part with the hope that you now understand construction planning in detail and its importance for your construction projects.
As we emphasized time and again, planning is necessary, especially in the construction industry, where projects are complex and require many tasks, materials, and equipment to be carried out.
So, reevaluate how you plan your construction projects and use newfound knowledge to improve your construction planning!