Before any actual construction work on a project begins, a comprehensive sequence of construction project planning activities needs to take place.
A well-executed preconstruction phase requires a series of targeted interactions, discussions, negotiations, and several meetings between key project stakeholders to ensure effective communication, coordination, and alignment throughout the project.
We’ll unravel the nuances of these meetings held before the commencement of construction, commonly referred to as “preconstruction meetings”.
So, let’s dive in.
In this article...
Purpose of Preconstruction Meetings
Naturally, the ultimate goal is to ensure smooth sailing once actual construction starts, reduce misunderstandings, and enhance collaboration, thus avoiding mistakes that could lead to costly rework and project delays.
Their purpose is to:
- review and finalize project plans, budgets, and schedules,
- establish a communication chain of command, safety protocols, and other details,
- clarify stakeholder responsibilities and expectations,
- address any last-minute concerns and changes.
Types of Preconstruction Meetings
Preconstruction meetings are usually preceded by a range of critical activities in the preconstruction phase. And some of these activities may be best finalized by holding a meeting between the key project stakeholders.
Naturally, these activities, their order, and whether a stakeholder meeting suggested in each step will be held or not largely depend on the project type, size, complexity, delivery method, contractual arrangements, and other factors.
In the table below, you can see a tentative sequence of preconstruction activities, their purpose, and potential types of preconstruction meetings that can be held.
|Define goals and assemble the project team
|Project kickoff meeting
|Conceptual design and feasibility
|Develop initial concepts and assess project feasibility
|Concept review meeting
|Create preliminary design and specifications
|Design development meeting
|Estimate construction costs and set budget
|Budget review meeting
|Obtain approvals and address permitting
|City/local authorities meeting
|Develop bid documents and select a contractor
|Contractor selection meeting
|Negotiate contract terms with the contractor
|Contract negotiation meeting
|Develop construction plans, schedules, and safety protocols. Assess risks, allocate resources, and qualify subcontractors
|Preconstruction coordination meeting
|Review project budget and financial milestones
|Financial review meeting
|Coordinate final details and roles
|Joint meetingSeparate meetings with clients, city, and subcontractors
All these preconstruction tasks and any meetings held along the way are laying the ground for the final preconstruction meetings.
A final preconstruction meeting may be held jointly with all the key stakeholders or separately with different ones, depending on the project setup and requirements.
For example, a preconstruction meeting with the client (joint or separate) is typically used to go over the last details, approvals, and issues, allow the client to present their vision and expectations, and get their final sign-off before construction starts.
Some project owners, like South Dakota’s Department of Transportation in the below example, have a special contract provision requiring the contractor to schedule and hold such a meeting.
As highlighted, the contractor is also obliged to provide the responsible engineer (owner’s rep) with a list of submittals.
These are documents, certificates, or samples that the contractor should submit for approval before they can start their work. We’ll cover them in more detail a bit later.
Other than client meetings, projects often require a separate meeting with city/local authorities to ensure compliance with permits, zoning, and regulatory requirements.
The required building permits and approvals should already be issued at this stage, but there are still details that need to be finalized before actual construction (or demolition, as in the example below) can start.
Accordingly, such preconstruction meetings focus on:
- reviewing project details and addressing any outstanding issues or concerns raised by the authorities,
- discussing specific requirements outlined in building permits and regulations, including the schedule of city/local authority inspections,
- establishing communication protocols between the project team and local authorities,
- ensuring adherence to safety protocols and regulations.
The last preconstruction meeting “type” we’ll mention is the one held with subcontractors, especially when there are many of them engaged in the project or during different project stages.
These meetings are dedicated to fostering collaboration and coordination among subcontractors and the construction team.
As such, their primary objectives include:
- reviewing project plans, specifications, and design details relevant to subcontractors’ scope of work,
- confirming compliance with contractual agreements, regulations, and project specifications (submittals),
- coordinating logistical details, such as site access, material delivery schedules, and shared workspace considerations.
As you can see, final preconstruction meetings can take various formats. Now that we explored their many potential purposes and variations, let’s see who attends them.
Who Attends Preconstruction Meetings
In the most basic setup, a preconstruction meeting can include just the project owner and the general contractor.
For example, if a client hires you to build them a garage in their yard, the final preconstruction meeting could include only the two of you discussing last-minute details and ensuring a clear understanding of the construction process and timeline.
Naturally, as the project size, complexity, and the number of stakeholders involved grow, so does the list of potential preconstruction meeting attendees.
Here’s a tentative list of the key players that can be invited to a single joint or several separate preconstruction meetings:
The attendance of these stakeholders will depend on project specifics, contractual arrangements, and whether there will be one or several preconstruction meetings.
For instance, the final meeting with the city/local authorities we described, if held separately, could include only the project manager, general contractor/construction manager, and city/local representatives.
The project owner may be present or represented by the project manager, and the list of other specific attendees would be determined according to city-specific regulatory and site management requirements.
These project team members would then relay any relevant information to other project participants who didn’t attend the meeting.
They would typically do so in a joint project team pre-construction meeting with main subcontractors present.
Moreover, the project manager’s role may be more high-level, meaning that the construction manager or general contractor takes on a greater role in the day-to-day management of operations.
In such cases, they could be the ones leading those final, hands-on preconstruction meetings with construction crews and subcontractors.
Overall, an effective preconstruction meeting (depending on its purpose and level) should be attended by all relevant stakeholders to ensure comprehensive project understanding and establish a cohesive framework for successful construction implementation.
Which Topics Are Covered
Seeing pre-construction meetings as only those gatherings immediately preceding actual construction, the topics usually covered focus on laying the final groundwork for a seamless construction phase.
Generally, a preconstruction meeting agenda includes a diverse array of topics, typically preceded by introducing key personnel, describing their roles and authorities, and sharing their contact information.
For instance, here’s a summary of one such agenda provided by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR):
We already commented on the first two items on the agenda, introductions of key project players, and their roles in the chain of command.
This is usually followed by reviewing the construction contract while focusing on items that will likely not be covered under other agenda items.
For instance, this can include checking whether the contractor (and/or subcontractors) provided necessary bonds and insurance or other documents or has requests related to modifications or completion date extensions.
As listed, the meeting continues with discussing payment terms and procedures.
This involves clarifying the agreed payment schedule, payment-triggering milestones, and any specific documentation required for invoicing and payment processing.
Then, plans and addendums are reviewed, i.e., the design is finalized, ensuring all parties are working off the latest plans and drawings.
After ensuring that the contractor/subcontractors have provided all required submittals, the meeting will move on to reviewing the construction plan, schedule, permits, methods, and sequence of operations.
Naturally, the plan of inspections that will be performed during construction by internal or external inspectors should also be finalized at the meeting.
From there, the meeting can move on to several more key items, such as:
- reviewing and discussing construction safety measures,
- clarifying who is authorized to issue change orders, the steps and requirements of the change order process,
- determining what are the site cleanup/closeout requirements.
Naturally, the meeting should end with a Q&A session to air out any last details, issues, or misunderstandings.
Additionally, preconstruction meetings often include a site walkthrough, where all attendees will inspect the project site, identify potential challenges, and discuss practical aspects of the construction process.
Overall, a well-structured and conducted preconstruction meeting covering a diverse range of targeted topics sets the stage for effective collaboration and a streamlined construction phase.
Time and Frequency of The Meetings
As it’s clear by now, the time and frequency of preconstruction meetings can widely vary depending on specific project requirements.
If we were to define a preconstruction meeting as any larger key stakeholder meeting that takes place before construction, the time when such meetings are held would span from project initiation to final preconstruction meetings.
In that sense, small projects could require one or even no high-level preconstruction meetings while larger projects can hold several.
As for those last meetings just before actual construction that we’re talking about, when exactly they’ll be held and whether there’ll be one or more also depends on project size, complexity, and setup.
For instance, a large project done in stages can have several preconstruction meetings prior to the start of construction at each project stage.
As for when to hold such meetings, general recommendations vary from one week to four weeks or more before work starts, but this timeframe is highly suspect to specific project variations.
Types of Documents Typically Addressed
Naturally, various types of documents are generated before the physical construction phase of a project begins.
Since all of them have been prepared in advance, not all of them will need to be addressed in final preconstruction meetings.
Therefore, the key documents typically reviewed are:
- design drawings (blueprints), including as-built plans,
- permits and approvals,
- safety plans and protocols.
The person organizing and leading the preconstruction meeting, most often the project manager, should prepare all these and other relevant documents for the meeting by highlighting or summarizing certain items of importance.
For instance, blueprints should have callouts to point out crucial information or specific construction/installation challenges.
If the project team utilizes Building Information Modelling (BIM), then a two- or three-dimensional model on computer and projector screens can be used instead, as illustrated.
Of course, it’s imperative that all key stakeholders have access to the aforementioned documents beforehand for their review.
This also implies that the preconstruction meeting agenda and sign-up sheet have been distributed to them at least two weeks (permitting variations) before the meeting.
Moreover, certain participants may be required to submit required information, documents, certificates, or samples before or at the meeting, or provide a schedule for their submission.
This may refer to the contractor providing submittals to the project owner or subcontractors providing them to the general contractor.
Submittals often include shop drawings, product data, material samples, test and quality certificates, and other relevant information that needs to be approved before certain construction activities can proceed.
In conclusion, the key documents reviewed in preconstruction meetings ensure that all stakeholders are aligned while submittals ensure regulatory and quality compliance, both paving the way for a well-coordinated construction phase.
Tools Used During Preconstruction Meetings
Lastly, let’s look at what tools are used for preparing and running preconstruction meetings.
In that sense, these digital tools are essential for streamlining communication, facilitating collaborative planning, and ensuring efficient document management during preconstruction meetings.
They can include a range of solutions usually used for organizing and conducting other types of meetings as well, such as:
- checklist and agenda templates,
- scheduling tools,
- document sharing and collaboration tools,
- note-taking and documentation tools,
- communication tools.
All of them also have their construction-specific versions or can be part of one integrated construction management platform.
Such specialized solutions help managers not only streamline the tasks necessary for conducting preconstruction meetings but also efficiently manage the entire construction project lifecycle.
Likewise, a well-prepared contractor, when preparing their bid or planning the project, can leverage several software tools in addition to project management, such as financial management or asset tracking solutions.
For instance, our asset-tracking app, GoCodes, ensures that the contractor knows exactly what equipment and tools they have, where they are, who has them, and what’s their condition.
This level of asset visibility, as well as historic equipment utilization and maintenance cost data, enables contractors to prepare more accurate bids and plan projects more efficiently.
Naturally, this extends to all types of historic data extracted from various other construction management tools, all of which can be leveraged for more efficient construction planning.
To recap, project managers can utilize the meeting preparation tools we mentioned to streamline meeting coordination and enhance collaboration, leading to well-organized and productive preconstruction meetings.
We hope this guide has shed some light on preconstruction meetings as great tools for ensuring that all project stakeholders are on the same page, understand their roles and tasks, and know how and when they should be performed.
Despite this complexity, project managers (or other meeting organizers) can embrace effective planning methods, foster collaboration and communication, and leverage specialized software solutions to orchestrate well-coordinated and productive preconstruction sessions.
This results in smoother project execution, enhanced communication, and reduced errors, leading to a more efficient and cost-effective construction process.