Published on Saturday, October 24, 2009
In Part 2 we’ll continue to look at the phases of a construction project as laid out in F. Lawrence Bennett’s book entitled “The Management of Construction – A Project Lifecycle Approach.” In this article, we’ll see how Mr. Bennett desribes the pre-project, planning, and design phases.
As I’ve already mentioned, I find this interesting as my experience has been almost exclusively with software development projects. If any of our PM readers are in the construction industry, I’d enjoy hearing your feedback and perspective.
A construction project begins with an idea, a perceived need, a desire to improve or add to productive capacity or the wish for more efficient provision of some public service. Whether the idea will be converted into a completed project will be decided during the planning and design phase. However, prior to that, among the first things the owner must do is to decide what sort of project delivery system will be used. How will the various parties be related? Will the owner engage a design professional to prepare plans and specifications and then contract separately with a construction contractor? Or, will a single entity be responsible for the entire project? Other possible options include several separate specialty contractors, each related by contract with the owner, the use of a construction manager as an advisor to the owner, the use of the owner’s own construction forces and the phasing of the project such that individual portions of the field work are commenced prior to the completion of all design work.
The other primary decision required by the owner early in the project relates to the type of contract to be used with the contractor. Will the contractor be paid a specified fixed price, regardless of the actual quantities used in the project and regardless of the contractor’s actual costs? Will the quantities of materials be measured and the contractor paid on the basis of those quantities and pre-agreed-upon unit prices for each material? Or, will the contractor be reimbursed for its actual costs, plus a fee, perhaps with an agreed-upon upper limit? The owner will also need to decide the basis upon which the design professional will be paid. Often these decisions are not made without consultation and advice. Depending upon the owner’s expertise and experience in administering construction contracts, the owner may engage a professional engineer, an architect or a project manager during this pre-project phase to advise on these important decisions.
The project is fully defined and made ready for contractor selection and deployment during the planning and design phase. It is convenient to divide this phase into three stages. The goal of the first stage is to define the project’s objectives, consider alternative ways to attain those objectives and ascertain whether the project is financially feasible. In this process of planning and feasibility study, a project brief will be developed, more details will be set forth in a program statement, various sites may be investigated, public input may be sought, a preliminary cost estimate will be prepared, funding sources will be identified and a final decision on whether to proceed with the project will be rendered.
In the second stage, the design professional will use the results of the planning efforts to develop schematic diagrams showing the relationships among the various project components, followed by detailed design of the structural, electrical and other systems. This latter activity is the classical hard core engineering familiar to students in the design professions, in which various engineering principles are used to estimate loads and other requirements, select materials, determine component sizes and configurations and assure that each element is proper in relation to other elements. The output from this design development effort is used in the final stage, wherein contract documents are prepared for use in contractor selection and installation work at the construction site. The design professional prepares not only the detailed construction drawings but also written contract conditions containing legal requirements, technical specifications stipulating the materials and the manner in which they shall be installed and a set of other documents related to the process of selecting the contractor and finalising the contract with the successful tenderer.
In Part 3 we’ll look at Mr. Bennett’s description of the contractor selection and project mobilization phases.
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