Phases of a Construction Project Life Cycle – Part 1

Posted by Brad Egeland

Having almost exclusively only dealt with and led IT software projects throughout my career, I’ve always been intrigued by the area of construction project management. Though with my background, getting in the door – even on a consulting basis – to gain that experience just hasn’t happened or the timing was just never right – either in the Midwest or in Las Vegas during the housing boom.

So running across F. Lawrence Bennett’s book entitled “The Management of Construction – A Project Lifecycle Approach” peaked my interest. I’ve written about project lifecycle and methodology phases at great lengths in my articles and would like to present here Mr. Bennett’s parallel segments on the construction project lifecycle. Due to the length of the material, this will likely need to be shared over multiple parts starting with his general overview for the purpose of this article. The following text was derived from Mr. Bennett’s Management of Construction book.


Every project, not just those in the construction industry, goes through a series of identifiable phases, wherein it is ‘born’, it matures, it carries through to old age and it ‘expires’. A software development project manager, for example, might define the following phases in the project’s life cycle: initial proposal, process engineering – requirements analysis, process engineering – specifications, design, development, testing, deployment and support. Likewise, a project that results in the development of a new product might contain the following phases: conceptual, technical feasibility, development, commercial validation and production preparation, full-scale production and product support. Although there may be some overlap in the phases, the work generally flows from the first phase to the last, with the outcome of one phase providing the basis for efforts carried out in the phase that follows.

So it is also with construction projects. We will be identifying six phases in the construction project life cycle, each with its own purposes and characteristics. First, the owner must make certain pre-project decisions. Then the planning and design of the project is carried out. Next, the contractor is selected, after which the contractor mobilizes in order to carry out the field operations. The field work that the lay person often considers to be ‘construction’ can be considered a separate phase. Lastly, the project must be terminated and brought to a close; because these activities are distinct from the installation work, we separate them into a distinct, final phase.

To attempt to understand the management of construction by organizing the study on the basis of the project life cycle may be somewhat arbitrary, because there is admittedly some overlap between phases and thus some duplication in the presentation. However, this deliberate design of this text will provide a logical basis for tracking the project’s activities and understanding the roles of the people responsible for those activities, from the time the owner first conceives the idea for a construction project until that point when the contractor has vacated the site for the final time.

Structured in this way, each section provides a description of one of the project’s phases. The result should be an understanding not only of the importance of each phase individually but also of the way they interrelate to form an integrated whole project.

In Part 2, we will present an overview of each of the six phases of the construction project life cycle.

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