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If you have taken part in construction projects, you are likely familiar with the term construction phase. You might be interested as to how the overall idea turns into a reality. Although many construction projects differ in complexity, size, and scope, nearly all projects follow the same completion process. A good understanding of this process can inform critical decisions governing the project and assure higher chances of success along the way.

What is the construction phase?

The construction phase is the physical process of building and all other associated activities such as landscaping, refurbishing, site clearance, and demolition.

The contractor typically performs the construction work. However, it is not uncommon for a contractor to split the project into smaller phases to achieve the milestones. In this case, the contractor tenders the individual stages to subcontractors and suppliers.

The construction phase is the industry's backbone, but contracts have to be awarded through a competitive bidding process before construction. Due to the bidding process's competitive nature, mastering these bids is crucial for bringing business to your company.

The necessary bidding procedure consists of four steps, namely:

  • Bid solicitation
  • Bid submission
  • Bid selection
  • Contract Formation

All these steps take place before the construction phase, and we will expand on these points below.

Before the Construction Phase

Before the construction phase

  1. The bid solicitation - this is when the project owner sends out invitations for bids. They give specifications for the project, project requirements, contract type, and delivery method.
  2. Bid submission - in this stage, the contractor submits all the relevant business information encompassing management plans, past projects, and their track record for timely project completion. It also has cost estimates based on the bill of quantities.
  3. Bid selection - the winning bid is selected in this stage. In most government projects, it is the one with the lowest price. However, in private projects, the owners can choose bids that are higher priced.
  4. Contract Formation - after the owner selects the winning bid, a contract must be formed and signed. This is an excellent opportunity to negotiate the contract price and terms of the agreement if your company wins the bid.

After the awarding of the contract, the construction process commences. The process, according to construction management, is divided essentially into four phases. These are:

  1. Planning
  2. Preconstruction phase
  3. Construction Phase
  4. Post-construction Phase

The proper execution of these progressive stages of construction planning is the foundation that ensures success for a project.

Planning phase

The planning phase is the first stage of any significant project. It is where the owner, architect, and construction manager discuss the project. They evaluate the feasibility of the project, as each project has its own unique set of variables. The planning phase only accounts for a tiny percentage of the total cost, but it has a tremendous impact on the construction phase. It is here where we discover the importance of estimation in construction. Poor planning will lead to the misappropriation of resources in the construction phase, where over 90% of the liability and costs lie.

Preconstruction Phase

During the preconstruction phase, the architect and the engineers begin with the construction documents and the contract documents that will be submitted to the relevant authorities for the issuance of building permits. The architect issues the drawings to the contractor to precisely define what is being built. It is crucial to engage the contractor on this stage for pre-construction services to provide constructability expertise with evolving design. The contractor also gives input on pre-construction costs, which should be included in the total construction budget. This approach is critical in managing the budget, as there will be fewer opportunities for budget increases.

Activities During the Construction Phase

Activities During the construction phase

The construction stage is the hub of the project. It is the phase where the planning takes off. The whole professional team involving architects, consultants, and engineers are engaged in this phase. The experienced team has to perform quality control inspections, check and approve the technical submittals and ensure that the contractor generally delivers the project as designed.

It is here that the contractor divides the work into smaller phases and, in many cases, tenders the smaller stages to subcontractors. However, the main contractor always retains responsibility for the overall project.

During this stage, there are very many important things to consider. Some of them are as follows:

  • Ensuring the contractor knows his appropriate duty and quality requirements.
  • Assurance from the contractor that he will correct any arising problems in the inspected construction works.
  • Stipulating the defects liability period, if any
  • Checking if there are contractual distinctions between different works described. For instance, are there any contractual distinctions on the aspects of civil works and engineering works?
  • What are the procedures to be undertaken in the case of a dispute?
  • The probability of timely project completion

The activities during this phase are quite numerous. It is essential to be keen on the sequencing, lead times, and any legislative or time-sensitive compliance issues. Apart from the granular issues covering construction, there are other vital components of this phase that you should consider.

The Construction Phase is Risky

If you carry out a risk analysis on the construction phases, the highest risk is the construction phase. Here is where the construction manager comes in to mitigate the risks. Through comprehensive planning, the construction manager can identify the threat and counter it before it happens. There are some risks, such as weather, that are, however, beyond anyone's control.

Apart from risk mitigation, the construction manager must be very vigilant to keep the project on track. Their services may include monitoring the contractor's safety program, monitoring the scope, time and budget, and any other insurance and risk management controls.

The Construction Phase is a linear process.

Except in a few exceptional cases, the construction phase is a linear process. This means that one portion of the work needs to be completed before embarking on a new part. For someone who does not work in construction, the project might unnecessarily take a long time. However, this is because one team waits for another so that they can start working. The construction manager ensures that the construction runs smoothly to avoid delays.

Post-construction Phase

The post-construction phase is where the physical construction happens, but it has not yet been handed over to the owner. It includes activities such as demobilization, a punch list, and document closeout.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who prepares the construction phase plan?

The burden for the preparation of the construction phase plan lies on the principal contractor of a project. In the construction regulations (2015), it states,
"12.—(1) During the pre-construction phase, and before setting up a construction site, the principal contractor must draw up a construction phase plan, or make arrangements for a construction phase plan to be drawn up."

Why do I need a Project Manager in the Construction Phase?

The project manager is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the project, from planning, actual construction, monitoring, and closure. They also ensure targets on budget and cost are met.

Which projects require a construction phase plan?

In previous construction regulations (2007), the construction phase plan was required only for notable projects. However, the new version of the regulations in 2015 requires a construction phase plan on all projects.

Final thoughts

The stages we have discussed give an idea of the logical extension of a construction project's processes. As discussed, most construction projects are linear, and the progress from concept to a finished project assumes a linear manner.

Construction projects are complex and can be a headache for someone unfamiliar with them. Following the right steps in the construction, phases play an essential role in guiding the process from inception to completing a project.