A construction project begins long before the first work crews arrive on the job site. Months, sometimes even years, can pass between the job’s conception and the groundbreaking — though much of that time is spent before construction contracts are even awarded.
Once your company has contracted to work on a project, however, it’s important to take an active part in preconstruction. Committing to this process will not only help the project to run more smoothly, but also increase the chances that you’ll be paid promptly and fairly for your work.
Preconstruction isn’t a single thing but rather a range of issues that vary with the nature, scope and complexity of the project in question. For every job, though, the goal should be for all parties involved to be clear on the stated building plans and procedures.
The American Institute of Architects has issued a best practices document called “A Sample Preconstruction Conference Agenda” that outlines common preconstruction issues. Here are some of the most pressing:
Who’s doing what. Preconstruction should establish the chain of command regarding who’s leading the project. It should also delineate who’s in charge of submittals (such as shop drawings, engineering data, permits, licenses, tests and inspections) and scheduling (including progress reports and updates, times for submittals, and approvals). In addition, there should be a set schedule for project meetings with clear agendas and attendance requirements.
Dollars and cents. Everyone involved needs to be familiar with the contract — particularly its provisions for change orders and dispute resolution. Make sure you know how it addresses progress payments, including procedures for setting aside retainage, paying for materials and submitting payroll records (if required).
What goes where. Much uncertainty can be avoided when preconstruction addresses the logistical structure of the job site. Who will handle the procedures and timetables for ordering electric, gas, water, phone and any other utility services? Which areas will be designated for parking and the storage of materials and equipment? How will you establish site access and rights of way — including cautions about adjacent property, protection of trees and similar issues? Job-site security arrangements should also be discussed.
If these issues aren’t raised, or you’re unclear about them in any way, it’s better to ask questions before you’re faced with a problem in the field. Be prepared to provide information as well. If you foresee a problem with scheduling or sequencing your work with that of other trades, bring it up during preconstruction.
By the same token, if you have ideas on streamlining work flow, offer them up and listen to what other project team members have to say. Remember that the goal of preconstruction planning is to get everyone on the same page, but you also may be able to avoid many problems by hashing them out in a group setting before work begins.
The connected team
An informed, communicative and connected project team boosts the odds that the job in question will run smoothly and efficiently. In turn, this sets the stage for you to be able to execute your best work and keep costs down. Be sure you’re making the most of preconstruction.