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6 stages of a project in construction

For every stage of a construction project, from the simplest to the most complex, there are certain steps and processes that need to be followed to ensure a successful outcome.

Projects in construction may vary based on their size, the number of stakeholders involved, budget and delivery date. Regardless of the case, though, a construction project is always a long and demanding process.

The good news is that with the continuous progress of digital solutions, the management of the different project phases can now be done much easier and with higher precision. On top of that, the collection of valuable data from the field can play a decisive role in improving, and ideally, standardising the construction process for future projects.

In a nutshell, here are the 6 stages of a construction project and what you should know about them:

1. The conception of the project

Normally, the conception of the project starts with the client. This is where the dream begins as well as the research for the right location and the specifications/standards that should be followed.

Depending on the project, the conception stage might vary. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few months or more, depending on how imminent is the need for the completion of the project.

It goes without saying that construction workers usually don’t have much input during this stage, as the ball is still in the hands of the project owner.

2. Design

Once the project is closer to fruition, it is time to sit down and talk design. This is still a preliminary stage, which means that nothing is guaranteed at this point. Nevertheless, design is the stage where usually the bidding process begins.

The team that is in charge of the design, led by an architect or an engineer, will need to make sure that each of the state regulations and codes is met while respecting the vision of the project owner as well as ensuring that the newly built structure will be usable.

There are normally four different steps within the design stage and they include programming and feasibility, schematic design, design development, and contract documents.

During the programming and feasibility step, each of the objectives and goals of the project has to be outlined. Numerous decisions are made at this stage, including how large the building will be, how space will be used, and how many rooms will be needed.

The schematic design is a sketch that will show the space as well as materials, colors, and even textures. That sketch will be used during the design development to research the equipment needed, along with the cost for them and the materials being used.

Once the contract documents are drawn up, everything is close to being finalised, because they contain the final drawings and specifications. These documents are used in the construction field by those placing bids to work on the project.

3. The pre-construction stage

The next stage of a construction project begins when the bidding is completed and the contractor has been chosen to do the work. As soon as the contractor is completed, the project team is put together.

Typically, a project team has the task to prepare the construction site before the work begins. As a rule, it consists of the following specialties:

  • Contract administrator
  • Project manager
  • Superintendent
  • Field engineer
  • Health and safety manager

In close collaboration with the contractor, the project team is responsible for visiting the field in order to complete a site examination. The site examination will allow the project team to detect or predict any environmental challenges that might emerge during the building process. Soil testing is also an integral part of this step.

When all information is collected, all plans and findings should be reviewed by the city authorities. This is usually a long procedure, as all concerns and opinions should be heard and addressed.

4. The procurement stage

Now it’s time for the project team to order and obtain materials, equipment, and workforce. This stage of the project can be more or less complex and challenging depending on how big the project is, the available resources and the agreed start date.
Many of the big construction companies have their own procurement departments. In such cases, it is common that the construction company will simultaneously order labourers, equipment and materials for a number of projects. This process might vary a lot in smaller projects.

All this work is usually performed by the general contractor, however, there are times when subcontractors will be in charge of certain parts. The subcontractors may be responsible for hiring their own workers or obtaining their own materials so that they know that they have exactly what they need to complete their portion of the job.

5. The construction stage

Before the construction work begins, a pre-construction meeting is done to ensure that everyone is on the same page when the construction starts. This meeting normally includes information about the following topics:

  • how to access the job site
  • the quality control of the project
  • how and where to store all the materials
  • the hours that everyone will be working

Each worker may be given their own schedule. It is also important to note that the schedule of each project agent might vary depending on their role. This is especially true for subcontractors who need certain parts of the job completed before they can begin their portion. It easily becomes evident that bad planning at this point can lead to serious delays and budget overruns.

Once the meeting is over and there are no lingering questions, the very first step of the project can begin. The goal at this point is to have planned everything so carefully that everything goes off without a hitch.  Of course, that rarely happens, as something always goes wrong during a construction project.

To avoid pitfalls, while planning your construction project, you should use some kind of digital solution.

6. The post-construction stage

Last but certainly not least, the post-construction stage. Now that all the work on the job site has been completed, the project will soon come to a close.

Nonetheless, there are still a few steps that need to be done before the keys to the building can be handed over.
In general, the final stage of the construction project is divided into three critical steps:

a. New construction building commissioning

First things first, an inspection of the whole building needs to be done. If everything is done correctly, these inspections are fairly simple to pass.

The reason is that other inspections should have already been completed during the entire project. It is during those previous inspections that issues should have been found and corrected.

As soon as everything has been checked, it is time for the project team to train the client in operating and maintaining the newly built structure. That is a step of considerable importance as it will contribute to increasing the lifecycle of the project.

b. Owner occupancy

Now that the training is completed, the owner can take over the building. This is when the warranty period is on. In that way, the project owner can feel safe that there is enough time to examine all the different systems, equipment, and materials that have been installed.

There are three main types of warranty in construction:

  • Express warranty: It is normally included in the contract.
  • Implied warranty: It is imposed by law.
  • Statutory warranty: It is introduced in a state’s regulations.

c. Closure

That is the last step in the long process of designing and completing a construction project. The project team has to overall contractual agreements and make sure that the project is free from any type of legal burden.

At this point, it is also a good practice to carry out a post-project review which could help the different agents to detect any tasks that weren’t completed, analyze why this happened and put together a list of insights for the future.

A post-project review can also be the foundation for the creation of an in-depth project completion report.

Final word

At the end of the day, every stage of a construction project is a chain of tasks, decisions, and numerous tools. Its complexity is vastly depended on its size and the type of the project but there are always some core steps that can’t be skipped.

Impeccable communication between the different stakeholders and fact-based decisions are two fundamental pillars in the effort of streamlining a construction project and making sure that all phases will be developed and completed within the agreed timeframe and budget.


Estimating the Cost of Construction: Learning the basics

Basics of construction cost estimating

In the construction industry, one of the main challenges is managing building projects that have unique features and requirements. However, all projects have elements things in common: a scope of work, a time schedule, and a budget. Construction cost estimation is a fundamental skill for engineering firms and contractors since important project decisions are based on costs.

The accuracy of cost estimates improves throughout the design phase, as the project is specified in greater detail.

  • When there are no construction documents yet, only a broad estimate is possible based on the project scale and the type of facility.
  • Engineering firms and contractors with experience in many projects can use historic cost data to improve the accuracy of preliminary estimates.
  • Once the design process is complete, the construction drawings and technical specifications allow more accuracy.

The ownership costs of a building can be classified into capital expenditures, operation costs and maintenance costs. Capital costs tend to get more attention during design and construction, but there is also a great opportunity to save on operation and maintenance. For example, energy-efficient equipment normally comes at a higher price, but the long-term savings outweigh the additional cost.

Importance of accurate cost estimation

Construction cost estimates have different purposes depending on who performs the calculation. For instance, an engineering firm in charge of design performs a cost estimate that serves as a reference during bidding and construction. On the other hand, contractors provide cost estimates where they aim for a competitive price while achieving a reasonable profit.

Cost estimates are necessary when applying value engineering and tracking the construction process. The completed work can be compared with the planned work to determine if the project is on schedule, while the cumulative cost is compared with the budgeted cost.

  • For example, if the cumulative cost exceeds the planned cost, there are two possibilities: the project could be exceeding its budget (unfavorable scenario), but the completed work could also be ahead of schedule (favorable scenario).
  • Project managers can reach conclusions by comparing planned costs, actual costs, and the scope of work completed.

Since many project decisions are based on cost, a major estimation error can have serious consequences. Both project owners and contractors are affected when construction costs are underestimated. Normally, the party responsible for the error must assume the extra costs. Owners may end up spending more than they had budgeted, and contractors may be forced to complete projects with reduced profits or even losses.

Cost estimates are also useful when analyzing measures that improve any aspect of building performance. These measures increase the project budget, but they can yield greater benefits over time. The following are some examples of measures that make buildings more expensive initially, in exchange for high savings during operation and maintenance:

  • LED lighting fixtures can achieve electricity savings of 30% to 90% compared with conventional lighting systems. They also last much longer, saving many lamp replacements over time.
  • Variable refrigerant flow systems and water-cooled chillers are among the most efficient air conditioning systems for large areas. Ductless mini-splits with a high nameplate efficiency are recommended for small-scale applications.

The construction cost estimation process

Since cost estimates are based on specifications and other technical data, they can be classified based on the information available.

  • An order of magnitude estimate is based on the project size and type of building, as mentioned above. This type of cost estimate is the least accurate since the information is still limited. However, an order of magnitude estimate can help the client decide if the project makes sense as a business decision.
  • As the design process reaches the schematic design and design development phases, cost estimation can be performed with greater accuracy.
  • Cost estimates are much more accurate when they are based on a complete set of construction documents.

Construction cost estimates must consider all expenses necessary to complete the project, including materials, equipment and labor. In the case of contractors, the offer must also include overhead costs and a contingency budget. Design engineers also consider labor and overhead when estimating construction costs, but this information is assumed. On the other hand, contractor bids are based on the actual costs of each firm.

Cost estimates are often based on unit prices, where the estimator calculates costs per unit of work, and then multiplies them by the total. The optimal unit to use depends on the type of work. For example, costs per square foot are suitable for flooring and roofing items, while costs per linear foot are better suited for columns and beams. Cost estimates are normally broken down by areas, such as structural components, mechanical systems, electrical installations, plumbing systems, fire protection, etc.

Project owners often focus on price when selecting a contractor, but an offer that is unreasonably low should raise suspicion. Cost estimates from the design firm are useful in this case since they come from a neutral third party that is not bidding. They provide a useful reference to determine if a contractor bid is too high or too low.

Using building information modeling for cost estimation

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has the potential to improve the accuracy of cost estimates. Structural elements and building system components can be visualized better than in 2D drawings, allowing a more accurate calculation. BIM can also automate many calculations, speeding up the cost estimation process. BIM is especially useful in projects with complex layouts since cost estimations from 2D drawings can be very challenging.

Since BIM can automate part of the cost estimation process, it is a useful tool to analyze design decisions. When engineers have many options to meet a specific project need, they can analyze the cost of each alternative more easily. While this process is also possible without BIM, the calculations consume much more time.

Once a building is complete, BIM remains a useful tool for facility management. If an expansion or renovation is needed, BIM can improve the accuracy of cost estimates. Projects in existing buildings are much more difficult to estimate when information is limited since the installations must be inspected directly. On the other hand, a BIM model reveals the location of all components, even those embedded in walls or floor slabs.


Construction Site Inspection

Why you need a professional in your construction project

Routine inspection is critical in each and every part of your construction project. Inspections guarantee that works within a project progress as planned and are according to requirements, standards and regulations.

Because running a construction site requires the coordination of people, materials and equipment, construction inspections are executed for a great number of purposes in every construction phase and throughout the entire project duration to ensure that things are progressing smoothly.

Construction inspections are usually carried out as a contractual responsibility performed by the contractors to provide the client or a third party an independent view of the construction works and their progress. The usual construction inspections include the following activities:

  • Inspection of the construction process to make sure that all materials and procedures comply with the plan and specifications
  • Inspection and documentation of all contractor activities
  • Reporting of daily on-site inspections
  • Detailed inspections of the quality of installations if they comply to standards and specifications
  • Scrutinising drawings and specifications and discussing deviations and non-conformities
  • Keeping and maintaining inspection checklists and records in a complete, accurate, and orderly manner
  • Participation in project meetings
  • Monitoring the contractor’s schedule
  • Inspections of paints and coatings
  • Field testing and materials sampling of soils, concrete and asphalt, etc.
  • Review and completion of change order/s
  • Monitoring and documenting materials delivered and used in the construction works
  • Performing semi-final and final inspections upon building completion
  • Preparation of punch list/s and monitoring of completion works
  • Handover inspection for smooth project close-out

Progress

Most inspections are usually conducted but not limited to the construction phase. However, before you can inspect and start reporting on a project’s progress, specific inspections are carried out as part of the general contract administration process. These inspections may be part of:

  • Contract review and contract signing
  • Pre-contract meetings
  • Client onboarding

But there are also inspections during the construction phase that are still part of the general contract administration process according to Designing Buildings Wiki:

  • Condition surveys of neighbouring structures before the start of any construction work
  • Regular valuation inspections to evaluate work progress intending to appraise interim payments
  • Mock-up and sample checks and test verifications
  • Commissioning process inspections
  • Inspection preceding the certification of practical completion
  • Inspection succeeding handover of site to client on certification of practical completion
  • Inspection at the close of defects liability period to draw up a schedule of defects
  • Inspection upon completion defect rectification outlined on the schedule of defects

Construction site inspectors may either be the project manager, a member of the contractors’ existing team or an entirely different consultant. Depending on the size of a project, site inspectors may be permanently assigned on site or may be office-based but with regular scheduled visits.

Depending on the size of the project, site inspection may have to be carried out by a team with specific inspectors per different department of the project: mechanical, electrical, structural and architectural works. Design consultants also play a role in periodic inspections, especially of those that fall under the terms of their own engagement conditions.

For specific aspects of a project, specialist inspectors may be required to perform inspections on environmental policy, waste management on site, accessibility, etc.

Since site inspectors furnish the contract manager or project manager with independent evaluation of construction works and their progress, site inspectors usually keep daily construction logs or a site diary, front construction progress meetings, and create and submit regular reports.

Quality

Quality control (QC) inspections in construction involve those that ensure that the construction works comply with requirements and standards. For construction quality, there are technical specifications that describe what controls must be carried out to guarantee that construction works are carried out satisfactorily.

These controls are not only for the products and materials, but also include the execution and completion of the construction works. Remember, a thorough inspection system is very important in pulling off high quality construction projects. And for inspections to be thorough, not only will you need the technical skills and knowledge of construction materials and processes, you will also need to have sound judgment, diplomacy and great communication skills.

Inspections are a way to control the quality of a finished construction work. The desired outcome is to refine the product or work before being presented to the client such that those that do not comply with requirements are fixed.

For your construction company, the goal is to reduce the costs of poor quality and that the deliverable project complies with all of the client’s requirements whether you’re implementing internal or external controls, or even both.

Standards and procedures for quality control (QC) and assurance (QA) in construction are usually based on the implementation of the following:

  • ISO 9000: Quality Management
  • ISO 9001: Quality Management Systems – Requirements
  • ISO 9004: Managing for the Sustained Success of an Organisation – A Quality Management Approach
  • ISO: 19011: Guidelines on Internal and External Audits of Quality Management Systems
  • Directive 89/196/EEC: The Construction Products Directive (CPD)

The international standards applied to construction is the ISO 9000 family of standards which includes technical guides, reports and specifications related to the efficiency of a construction organization’s quality management system. Basically, the principles that determine the quality management in construction standards are: scope of the construction project, the budget of the project and the schedule for completion.

Construction inspections related to quality may include checks for materials, work units, processes and services designed and planned by the construction company in order to comply with the contract’s quality requirements. For preventative strategies, an inspection scheme is also aligned with the quality plan for the construction works requiring guarantee in construction quality.

Inspections may also be carried out around documentation, work instructions, action plans, etc. for the execution and control of construction processes.

Health and safety

Construction inspections are also important to make sure that health and safety, the Construction (Design and Management) (in the UK), and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work regulations and standards are being complied with and followed.

These inspections can be internally conducted by the contractor, or externally by the regulating body, or by third party audits. These are the health and safety inspections  needed to be conducted in the construction site or within a construction project (according to the HSE):

  • Prevention of falls and personal fall protection systems
  • Work at height
  • Work platforms such as scaffold and mobile platforms
  • Ladders and stepladders
  • Personal protection equipment (PPE), including head protection
  • Plant, vehicles and other equipment
  • Storage
  • Electrical systems
  • Asbestos risk
  • Provision of welfare facilities such as toilets and handwashing facilities
  • Site conditions and order
  • Avoidance of obstructions
  • Management of respiratory risks
  • Structural stability
  • Prevention of unauthorized access to the site

The timing of inspections should be scheduled as to frequency and accompanied with correct reports and actionable items.
The resulting inspection reports should contain:

  • Details of the person creating the report
  • Details of the person the inspection was conducted for
  • Location of the inspection
  • Date and time of inspection
  • Details of the nature of the inspection
  • Information on identified health and safety risks
  • Description of action(s) taken
  • Elaboration of any further action required

Building control

Construction inspections for building control are conducted to confirm that compliance with building regulations are met. In Kenya, it is the National Construction Authority that develops appropriate legislation and standards associated with health, safety, accessibility, energy conservation and sustainability of the built environment and includes professional organisations, government bodies or a comparable agency.

These building control inspections are usually executed by a building control local authority or by an approved third-party inspector. Building control inspections are generally required in the following key stages of a project:

  • Commencement
  • Excavation (before excavations are filled)
  • Foundations (before they are covered up)
  • Laying of damp proof courses
  • New drains installation (before covering up)
  • Construction of the primary structure
  • Installation of insulation
  • Roof construction
  • Completion

Since building regulations or building control inspections involve the participation of a building control body, an advance inspection notice of the works’ progress must be submitted to the relevant building control authority so that inspections are scheduled appropriately.

If the needed inspections are not conducted, the completion certificate will not be issued and construction works may not proceed. However, if the contractor continues with the works, it may be necessary to open up parts of the construction project to carry out inspections in the future.

In the UK, there are what they call the competent person self-certification schemes or competent person schemes, which allows registered installers (usually small firms or sole traders) competent to self-certify specific types of building work.

Other Inspections

There are other construction inspections not included in the categories above, which include:

  • Planning inspections to substantiate compliance with planning permissions, conditions and obligations
  • Inspections for release of funding by applicable agencies
  • Insurance inspections
  • Routine inspections of street works by highway authorities for road and sewer construction types
  • Environmental inspections related to pollution (noise, water, smoke, etc.) and installations like kitchens and drains
  • Fire safety inspection for fire escapes, protection systems, hazards and storage of certain materials
  • Factory inspections
  • Aracheological inspection of excavations

Some construction inspection guidelines

As mentioned above, the main quality measures of a construction project are the project scope, the budget and the time for completion. Always go back to these three main points when you’re planning an inspection. Listen up as our construction inspection guidelines focus on them.

Project scope

The defined scope of the construction project should be leading the inspection processes at all times wherein the client’s needs are the main focus of the scope. All construction inspection checklists and all construction reports must always have the client’s details with thorough notes of communication history between the client and your construction staff.

Remember, every little thing adjusted or installed must be authorized by your client. Communication with the client is top priority of any of your construction project checklist. Use construction inspections to make sure everything is going according to the project scope.

Budget

All of your construction inspection checklists that deal with money must always reference the project budget. Completing a project within budget is another priority as a contractor or project manager, which greatly reflects the quality of your work.

Make sure to have inspections that would ensure the coordination your suppliers, the purchasing of materials, labor activities and payouts, etc. Make use of your construction inspections wisely to monitor that every spending falls within the budget as you progress from one phase to the next even until completion.

Schedule

Your construction project schedule directly affects your client’s budget and needs, which can turn a satisfied client into a dissatisfied one bringing some costly litigation to the table. Utilize construction inspections to monitor your project schedule on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

Always update all relevant stakeholders of any kind of delay including their details. Delays in construction can cost a lot; always keep to the clearly defined project schedule at the start of all construction activities.

Construction errors and change orders

Human error and change orders are inevitable in construction projects. The importance of construction inspection lies in a good inspection system that deals with errors and necessary changes. Having a clear guideline and focus in coordinating construction project inspections will help you with the success of your construction project. Organizing and documenting your construction inspections and inspection checklists are the key.

 


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