The Importance of Effective Preconstruction Planning

David J. Stark
Preconstruction planning is an often overlooked yet vital part of the project development process.

Standard goals such as keeping a project on time and on budget are much easier to accomplish when proper preconstruction planning has been done. Conversely, it is much more likely that a project will face difficult and unforeseen challenges by a less prepared team when preconstruction planning has not been done.

Like heading out on a road trip, proper preconstruction planning involves a high level of foresight.

Properly planning a project is a lot like properly planning a cross country road trip. When viewed as this metaphor, planning benefits become clear. To have a successful road trip, you should plot out your route on a map, and figure out where you will be stopping for gas and overnight stays, making hotel reservations to secure a room. That way, as you drive you can concentrate on making decisions that are close at hand to safely travel. By planning out big decisions like what roads to drive on or where to stop for major needs like gas and overnight sleep, you have already compared alternatives and ensured that you can face any unforeseen obstacles, such as detours, bad weather, car trouble, etc., with less stress.

Like heading out on a road trip, proper preconstruction planning involves a high level of foresight. The following outlines the three necessary elements that all good preconstruction planning stands on.

Scope of Work

The scope of work is the single most important road map you can set. To properly plan for it, you need to ask questions such as: what are you going to do? Is it described clearly? Is it agreed to by all stakeholders? The scope of work can become detailed, but as a minimum it should have a step-by-step process outline listing how you will work toward the goal.

Budget

Without a clear budget, the scope of work cannot be planned. Setting the budget will help determine what kind of subcontractors you can hire, what kind of materials you can use, and where you can construct your project. It is also important to clearly determine: how was the budget developed and is it based on reality or guesses? Make sure your budget reflects the resources you actually have available, rather than being aspirational.

Schedule

Creating an accurate schedule is the key to ensuring how your project will be constructed. Assigning a deadline to every milestone task creates a key blueprint to holding your consultants accountable and keeping your project on target. Key questions to ask include: how was the schedule developed? Are critical milestones or constraints identified? If you want to have an even more detailed plan, consider creating a cost loaded schedule to associate your budget and your timeline.

Although many times there is one element that drives a project and decisions made along the way, these three critical project elements need to be developed in unison.

Although many times there is one element that drives a project and decisions made along the way, these three critical project elements need to be developed in unison. As a project progresses and the project team uncovers details that could challenge the success of the project, it is essential these be addressed before moving on. This does not mean that all answers must or can be pre-determined, but that appropriate contingencies must be included for any unresolved issues you can anticipate.

At the most efficient level, all three of the above elements can be broken into sufficient detail and correspond with one another. That is, an item in the scope of work should have a corresponding budget value, and it should also be listed as a task in the schedule. That gives you a better chance to make good decisions that factor in all aspects of the project scope of work, budget, and schedule, not just the one you are mainly focused on. And when you disect a project it really is a series of decisions you make along the way. The better prepared you are for these decisions, the more likely you are to make the best decision when you need to make it.

Faithful+Gould conistently supports preconstruction planning on projects across multiple sectors. We've helped many clients make smarter decicions during the initial project stages that have made huge impacts on the overall financial health and schedule of the porject, in many cases saving time and money.

Written by