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Improving project efficiency with pre-construction planning

Pre-construction planning

By Holly Welles, Construction and Commercial Real Estate Writer and Editor of The Estate Update

Every development and construction project starts with a rather simple idea that grows until it becomes the final product, whether that’s a building, residence or some other structure. It’s every builder’s dream to make this happen on time and on budget for each of their clients.

One of the best strategies for completing high-quality work is to do the proper planning before breaking ground. Many believe this is an isolated process that involves select parties, including project managers, executives and clients.

The reality is that appropriate planning encourages everyone involved with a project to invest time during the phase, which helps produce a strong foundation. If the people doing the physical work have a chance to weigh in, it might curb improper expectations and inadequate oversight.

Ultimately, it leads to fewer delays and problems, higher-quality outcomes and, by proxy, much happier clients. To truly grasp what it can do for any project and what kind of benefits it offers, it’s necessary to fully understand the pre-construction planning process.

What is preconstruction planning?

Pre-construction planning is a preliminary form of strategizing that’s done before a job starts. The goal is to build or understand the full scope of a project and its requirements.

A complete planning phase generally includes the project definition, identification of potential issues, scheduling and milestones, scope, cost estimation, extraneous requirements and overall needs analysis.

It is also when project managers or business owners will share pertinent information with a client to help them decide if they should follow through with the plan or not. Additional funding for potential complications or changes may be discussed.

When a client and construction company agree to move forward, the contractor will then present the project outline, cost breakdown and schedule. This information will also be relayed to the construction team to ensure personnel understands what they must do.

While not all these steps are required and may not always be applied, the following is vital to the planning process:

  • Project scope: The scope of work can be as detailed as necessary and outlines what the construction crew will be doing, what the outcome is, how long it will take and how they will get there.
  • Budget: An initial budget limit must be set to determine the monetary confines of a project. An appropriate plan will also include details about how it was chosen, what it reflects and what comparable costs may be.
  • Schedule: A schedule is always necessary to determine the progress of a project. How long will it take to complete, will it stay on time and if not, what kind of delay might there be?

Once this information is laid out in a clear, concise manner for all involved parties, the project can move forward to the active stages.

How can construction businesses and developers apply it?

While pre-construction planning is generally a positive thing, it can must be practiced correctly. According to a study by World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology (WASET), the ratio of time spent on it has a negative correlation with actual work. For projects that averaged 30% more than the average length of pre-construction planning, schedules suffered considerably.

That means more time spent planning is less time dedicated to building. It just goes to show that planning itself must remain efficient, or else it loses its effectiveness.

The idea is to map out a route for the project, without getting caught up on the particulars. Concise and accurate planning results in a flexible outline that guides the scope of work, so it acts as more of a reference than a finished track.

It’s no secret that things occur during construction projects that change the course of work. While the best construction managers have practiced contingency plans for common jobsite risks, there will always be unexpected challenges to work through. Pre-construction planning helps set solutions in motion and put preventative measures in place.

Here’s what proper planning should look like:

1.Meet with clients or customers to get a precise understanding of the project. Explore their demands and interests to help anticipate what changes may be requested.

2.Develop an initial design by visiting the project site, choosing materials and coming up with a loose plan.

3.Assess requirements, scope, cost estimates and engineering to leave no stone unturned.

4.Build a responsibility matrix that includes third parties and subcontractors to understand who oversees what and when things will be delivered. Also, pre-plan contingencies in case one of the said parties is not timely or dependable.

5.Create a schedule that details milestones and sets goals for the team. It should also be communicated to clients to help them understand how the project will be carried out.

6.Understand that planning is never over and must always be a continued effort throughout the scope of the project.

What are the benefits?

For starters, effective planning always results in higher-quality work that meets the requirements of a project, including budget, time and resource constraints. It is nearly impossible to achieve any milestones promptly without first identifying how realistic they are.

For instance, if a schedule and budget limits are set higher than they should be initially, the final product will have been wasteful and inefficient. It’s a problem that’s exacerbated even more when continued planning isn’t carried out during the scope of a project.

Pre-planning also helps everyone involved understand the feasibility of a project and its cost requirements. Ideas presented during the initial planning may seem reasonable to one or more parties, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are feasible. Furthermore, something planned or suggested may need modification as a result of budget constraints. Maybe something is just going to cost too much to do, so an alternative is necessary.

The result of all this is a more accurate depiction of the initial design, even when modifications are present. Higher quality work, better levels of productivity, more cost-effective processes and a satisfied client are all intrinsic results of effective pre-construction planning.