The Preconstruction Phase: A Deep Dive

8 min

Before any construction project breaks ground, it needs to be designed, planned, budgeted, and scheduled, all of which occurs in the preconstruction phase.

Any mistakes during this stage will affect the project budget and timeline, so meticulous attention to detail, efficient collaboration, and strategic decision-making are imperative.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into preconstruction topic to empower construction leaders to navigate related challenges, optimize processes, and ultimately ensure the success of their projects.

What is Preconstruction 

Preconstruction is the crucial initial phase of any construction project, laying the groundwork for its successful completion.

As such, it encompasses a comprehensive set of tasks and activities that occur before the physical construction begins.

Broadly speaking, there are seven key preconstruction activities, which you can see below.

Data: Procore Illustration: GoCodes

For instance, assuming that a conceptual/preliminary design is ready, design development involves refining and detailing the initial project design to turn it into a series of project specifications, drawings, and plans.

Naturally, this implies close collaboration between architects, designers, and engineers.

As the design becomes more detailed and refined, estimators and cost professionals can join in to analyze the project specifications and provide accurate cost estimates.

The goal is to align the project’s scope and design with the available budget and financial objectives.

Concurrently, the continuous design review process should ensure that all other project stakeholders (project owner, regulatory bodies, community representatives, etc.) can also give their input to enhance the design.

The next key preconstruction activity, at least under the more traditional design-bid-build (DBB) model, is contractor selection.

As its name suggests, this project delivery method implies that the project owner has separate contracts with the designer and the builder, whereas the latter is selected in a bidding procedure based on a fully developed project design.

Source: ASD

Conversely, under the design-build (DB) model, preconstruction will exclude contractor selection since the designer and contractor are part of one team selected at the project’s conception stage.

In any case, the design development process can benefit from the input of experienced contractors, whether they’re acting as external consultants or already hired project managers.

Naturally, if the project is performed under the design-bid-build model, selecting the right general contractor is vital for project success.

From there, preconstruction also includes critical steps like:

Risk analysis and mitigationidentifying potential risks and developing strategies to mitigate them, including the contractor’s insights related to construction-specific risks
Project schedulingcreating and agreeing on a detailed schedule that outlines the sequence of construction activities, milestones, and deadlines
Permittingobtaining the necessary regulatory approvals and permits
Construction mobilizationplanning the resources (staff, equipment, materials) needed for the commencement of physical construction

Overall, preconstruction lays the foundation for project success by seamlessly integrating all the elements needed for a smooth transition from planning to actual construction.

Why is Preconstruction Key to Project Success

The answer to the above question could be summed up by a well-known quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin:

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

In the context of construction, failing to carefully plan a project of any size can have disastrous consequences, ranging from design errors, project delays, and budget overruns to accidents, injuries, and even lost lives.

Conversely, a well-executed preconstruction phase will generate time- and cost-savings, as well as ensure a safer working environment.

For example, design errors are infinitely easier and cheaper to remove while the project is still only envisaged on paper (or, today, in different digital formats) rather than when construction is already underway.

That’s why construction companies increasingly use Building Information Modeling (BIM) software or outsourced BIM services, which enable them to create a digital 3D model of the project.

Using BIM, they can overlay different building components, systems, and structures, enabling designers and engineers to detect design clashes and overlaps, as illustrated below.

Source: The BIM Engineers

In a study about BIM implementation, users reported a 73% decrease in design errors, which translates into fewer project delays and cost overruns caused by rework.  

As we will discuss later, there is a range of specialized software solutions and technologies that help companies automate, streamline, and improve most preconstruction activities.

The existence of such tools only underlines the impact and importance of the preconstruction phase in construction projects.

For instance, a comprehensive risk analysis during preconstruction helps identify potential risks and devise mitigation measures, contributing to a smoother project execution.

Similarly, when resource planning includes construction safety considerations, this minimizes the risk of accidents and injuries during the construction phase.

Likewise, when the project schedule is based on realistic timelines agreed with the project owner, this allows for better coordination and collaboration throughout the project, reducing the likelihood of delays.

All these examples also point to the main goals of preconstruction.

Main Goals of Preconstruction Phase

It’s clear by now that the primary goal of preconstruction is to ensure a smooth execution of a construction project.

More precisely, this means the preconstruction phase is focused on making sure that the project is completed:

  • on schedule,
  • within budget,
  • to the project owner’s satisfaction,
  • with a reasonable profit margin.

As such, the key objectives in this crucial phase include deliverables generated by performing all the key preconstruction activities we listed in the first section.

These activities and their deliverables are shown here.

Source: GoCodes

Naturally, each of these outcomes is the culmination of a series of intricate tasks performed during the preconstruction phase.

For example, if the general contractor is selected in a bidding process, this alone involves a meticulous sequence of tasks carried out by the preconstruction team, including:

  • drafting detailed bid packages, specifying project requirements, and distributing them to potential contractors,
  • evaluating the received bids, considering factors such as experience, cost, and schedule proposals,
  • negotiating with the selected contractor to ensure alignment on project goals and expectations,
  • signing the contract.

All the other preconstruction activities demand a similar level of detail and precision to achieve their intended outcome.

Moreover, some of them include elements without which other deliverables would not be possible.

A good example of this is cost estimates determined and refined during the design development and review phases.

This early estimation process helps project owners assess the project’s financial and technical feasibility, clearly define its scope, objectives, and deliverables, and establish a realistic budget.

To do this, they can choose from a plethora of construction cost-estimating software tools or hire professional cost estimators.

Source: World Estimating

Moreover, potential bidders (or the selected designer/builder) can further refine these estimates during subsequent phases, allowing for a more accurate assessment of project costs, resource allocation, and potential risks.

To recap, the collaboration, planning, and precision required to achieve the set preconstruction deliverables are crucial for smooth and profitable project implementation.

Who Is in the Preconstruction Team

Naturally, the initial preconstruction team is assembled by the project owner.

In a foundational setup, the owner typically engages an architect to conceptualize the initial project vision.

Depending on the project structure and agreements, the architect and owner collaborate to involve engineers, ensuring a thorough assessment of the project’s technical feasibility.

This core team is subsequently expanded with the addition of a construction manager.

As discussed earlier, the construction manager may either serve in a consulting capacity or have already been selected to manage the project.

Throughout the preconstruction phase, their primary responsibilities include providing valuable insights into the construction process and orchestrating logistical aspects, often with the assistance of a construction planner (a.k.a. project engineer).

Moreover, the team can further expand to accommodate various construction specialists and consultants, as illustrated below.

Source: GoCodes

As you can see, the preconstruction team can include additional key members like cost estimators, schedulers, risk analysts, legal advisors, environmental consultants, and more.

Bottom line, the team’s composition and roles largely depend on the specific needs and complexities of the construction project.

During preconstruction, the team may dynamically evolve to address emerging requirements and challenges.

Coupled with regular preconstruction meetings, this adaptability should ensure that the project owner has a well-rounded and expertly equipped team to navigate various preconstruction aspects, from regulatory compliance to risk management.

How to Solve Common Preconstruction Challenges

Lastly, let’s see what the core project stakeholders (owner/designer/contractor) can do to address common preconstruction challenges, such as design errors, wrong estimates, missing information, or poor collaboration and communication.

As mentioned, most of these issues can be minimized, mitigated, or even eliminated by implementing various software solutions and technologies.

We already saw how BIM enables stakeholders to rectify design overlaps and clashes, enhance design accuracy and coordination, and effectively collaborate.

Likewise, there are other software tools that aim to unite the often-fractured preconstruction activities by providing all stakeholders access to the latest project data in real-time.

One such solution focused on preconstruction is ConCntric.

Source: ConCntric

This platform is focused on facilitating collaboration between all involved parties during the preconstruction phase and throughout the project lifecycle.

The primary benefit of such solutions is that they provide a single source of truth, i.e., a central cloud database with updated project data that can be accessed from any internet-connected device at any time.

Coupled with other process automation features, these and similar software tools can revolutionize preconstruction workflows by minimizing data discrepancies, fostering real-time collaboration, and enhancing overall project transparency.

Similarly, other software solutions focused on improving the efficiency of construction processes, such as project scheduling or asset tracking, can further enhance the efficiency, quality, and precision of the preconstruction phase.

For instance, planning the use of equipment and tools necessary for a project and allocating them to appropriate project sites and timeslots is much easier when you have a central register of all company assets which is automatically updated.

Our asset-tracking app, GoCodes, provides that and much more.

It’s an easy-to-use and cost-effective solution that can be used to track and manage equipment, tools, and other assets on a company-wide and project-specific level.

Source: GoCodes

GoCodes combines cloud software, a scanner app, and robust QR codes that, when scanned with a smartphone or tablet, enable the software to automatically capture who scanned a specific QR code-tagged asset and at what location.

This automatic, scan-based user identification and GPS tracking enables regular updates to the central register, allowing managers to, for example:

  • allocate equipment, tools, and other assets to current and future projects,
  • schedule tasks and maintenance activities,
  • assign assets to people, places, or projects,
  • set up automated email notifications when tasks are assigned or become overdue.

These features can enhance specific preconstruction workflows, providing project managers with real-time visibility into equipment utilization, facilitating proactive maintenance planning, and ensuring accurate allocation of resources.

Naturally, the described solutions are only a small fraction of technologies that can be leveraged to improve all aspects of construction management, including preconstruction.

To recap, a majority of common preconstruction challenges can be effectively managed through the strategic implementation of advanced software solutions, enabling stakeholders to streamline operations, improve communication, and enhance overall efficiency.

Conclusion

Having provided an overview of the preconstruction phase, it’s clear that this stage, although construction is yet to begin, is key to completing projects on time, within budget, and with the desired quality.

Moreover, it’s evident that preconstruction workflows are best managed through the synergy of the professional expertise of the involved construction professionals and technology.

More precisely, strategically selected and adopted software solutions can automate time-consuming tasks, minimize errors, and provide real-time data insights, allowing professionals to more efficiently coordinate, collaborate, and communicate during the preconstruction phase.

Naturally, this results in better-planned, cost-optimized, and efficiently managed projects, ensuring increased productivity throughout the construction process.

About GoCodes

GoCodes is the industry leader in tool tracking. We provide customers with the ultimate single vendor solution that includes cloud-based software, top-rated smartphone scanner apps and rugged QR code tags.

We pride ourselves on delivering a personalized service, cutting-edge technology and software that is easily used by your entire team.

GoCodes ensures our customers achieve success in their tool management projects every time.

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