Commercial construction projects vary considerably in size, scale and purpose, yet even the smallest project is never simple. Commercial construction projects involve, not only physical building, but also a wide range of areas from legal requirements to safety concerns and environmental regulations. Any project that involves such a diverse assortment of concerns inevitably has an increased scope for running into issues and, moreover, these potential issues are difficult to predict.
In the same way the key for the building work is laying the right groundwork, to complete a construction project successfully the key is in getting the preparation right. Proper preparation can prevent a myriad of misfortunes. This article serves as a prompt to ensure you take your first steps in your commercial construction journey confidently and in the right direction.
Good preparation is all about ensuring the project is carefully considered and potential issues are anticipated and addressed. For commercial construction the two primary concerns are the project’s purpose and location. It is also important to assess the legal and regulatory framework the construction project will engage with, the project’s budgetary restrictions and, lastly, the contractors the project requires.
What your construction is for may seem an obvious question, but it is essential to be sure exactly why you are embarking on the project. What will the completed construction do? What is its main function? What problem does it solve?
Commercial construction projects are driven by a need to improve an existing commercial operation or initiate a new one. For the project to be successful it must fulfill this need, enable commercial targets to be met and be cost-effective. When preparing a construction project many issues can arise and these can easily distract, maintaining focus on these key concerns is crucial.
Location and site conditions
After purpose comes location. The location of any development can vary from important to crucial. It is difficult to envisage any commercial endeavor that is not highly dependent on location.
Commercial construction projects can be divided into those that begin only with a need to fulfil a commercial purpose without a specific site and those which already have an identified site. For the first group the challenge is to find a site suitable for the purpose. For the second the preparation phase needs a clear-headed assessment of whether the identified site really is the best location for their commercial purpose. This means considering whether an alternative site would actually be preferable or, indeed, whether an alternative commercial use would be better for that specific site.
There are a huge number of variables to consider when assessing site viability, such as access to markets, access to suppliers, access to services, regulations concerning site uses and, finally, cost. It is always useful to take into account surrounding land-uses. These may impact on your commercial operations, limit access or your ability to expand or make future alterations.
Site conditions are also crucial, firstly, for the safety and ease of the construction and, in the long-term, for the viability of commercial operations on the site. Has the site had a history of industrial uses? Is there a danger of contamination? Is the site prone to flooding? Is there a possibility of forest fires?
Regulations can limit the function of your commercial construction and affect the viability of sites. The particular purpose of your proposed construction will determine which permits will be required, likewise, zoning laws determine the restrictions placed on certain sites. The regulations are likely to be different in different jurisdictions and local regulations need to be properly researched. There is usually little scope for negotiation when encountering these restrictions and the preparation phase must carefully assess their effect on the viability of the project.
Even if the project meets the requirements, preparing plans and submitting the correct paperwork at the right time can add delays and costs to your project. It is no exaggeration to say that the ability to work through the permit process may significantly influence the viability of a site.
Part of laying the groundwork for your construction project will, of course, involve considering the financial implications. Costing a large project is not easy particularly when it involves a number of unknown variables and the potential for delays. The experiences of those who have completed commercial constructions strongly suggest that you should look to secure funding for the highest estimate and incorporate financial buffers in case something goes wrong.
In the worse case scenario, a lack of funding can lead to delays, erode trust and put the whole project at risk.
Delays are perhaps the number one enemy of anyone overseeing a construction project. Delays typically increase costs and produce frustration, but even worse, delays are generally the main cause of further delays.
Often delays cannot be foreseen or prevented. However, many delays in construction are due to simple bad planning and careful preparation can go a long way to eliminate unnecessary hold ups. One clear method of reducing delays is to ensure that timelines are reasonable, are able to accommodate a certain degree of flexibility and are agreed by all relevant parties.
When preparing a commercial construction project it easy to fall into the trap of viewing contractors as another one of the issues that need to be negotiated. While, unfortunately, it is not always the case that interactions with contractors are easy and trouble-free, it is also unhelpful to view contractors negatively.
For anyone embarking on their first construction project, building a good relationship with a commercial construction projector can have huge advantages. Professionals in the commercial construction sector are experts at assessing whether your concept can be transformed into a viable built structure and discussing your initial ideas with them can place you on the right course from the very start of the process.
Indeed, many of the issues addressed above can be made much more manageable with the knowledge, expertise and understanding a good contractor can provide. A good architect or engineer, for example, will be able to transform ideas scribbled down on the back of an envelope into professional blueprints. They can also provide invaluable help in dealing with regulations over site uses. Organisations with substantial experience dealing with the legal requirements for development can help you avoid the tedious process of proofing and submitting documents and, in particular, reduce the risk of making costly errors in detailed submissions.
Furthermore, estimating the time taken to complete a project and the budget required is a complex skill and having a realistic assessment of the costs and length of a potential project as early as possible can make a huge difference. Another significant advantage of employing a general contractor is their ability to help with other contractors. Professionals in the construction industry are experts at dealing with others within the industry and you could save yourself a great deal of time, money and frustration by allowing a general contractor to hire and manage subcontractors. A general contractor who has good local contacts will be invaluable here. Building a team of the most reliable subcontractors who are able to work to schedule and budget might be the most important task of any construction project.
In conclusion, it may well be that the best groundwork you can lay is to properly research commercial construction companies and hire one that can help facilitate your project and provide expert advice to guide through the process.
If your general contractor’s most important task is to put together a team of subcontractors then it might be thay tour most important task is to find the right general contractor. Choosing a general contractor is, therefore, not something that should be rushed. When preparing for your construction project the time spent examining the portfolios of general contractors, their referrals and testimonials may be the most important. This preparaty stage should not be rushed. Search for word-of-mouth recommendations, consider a number of options. Checking out a second, third or fourth option at this stage will be worth it if it means you get the right expert in place. Consulting widely here will help you avoid having to consult widely over every decision further into the project because you have hired someone you don’t fully trust.
A general contractor will act as a business partner throughout the course of the project. If you manage to put in place someone who is not only an expert in the field but trustworthy and a good communicator, then you will have laid excellent foundations for your commercial construction project.
Any commercial construction project requires careful planning and coordinated project management. This applies to small-scale building work as well as large industrial projects. However, while larger, more complex construction projects will require the hiring of professional specialists to oversee these tasks, for lower budget projects the client may be inclined to plan much of the project themselves and even take on the responsibilities of a project manager.
This article details the importance of project schedules and examines how the project manager can devise and maintain a project schedule. A project schedule is a central document to all commercial construction projects, its main purpose is organizational - to render the multiple components of the project as a comprehensible timeline. By bringing clarity to complex operations a good project schedule should also promote efficiency, help the project adapt to new circumstances, encourage effective communication and, importantly, help the project stay on budget.
Commercial construction projects consist of four phases [link to article #1]. However, within these four overall phases there are a great many overlapping tasks that must be completed. To organise these in the most efficient way it is common to establish a project schedule to break them down more manageable tasks. On construction projects one task is often dependent on the successful completion of another, schedules show when each of these tasks should occur and how they are interlinked. A Gannt chart is the best method of visualizing the sequence and timing of tasks and showing how different tasks are connected.
When preparing a project schedule the first step is to outline an overall timeline by establishing the expected duration of the four main phases of construction. Dividing these phases into discrete steps enables the project manager to understand which parts of the project can be completed independently of each other and which are closely connected. The overall aim is to ensure each phase of the project proceeds as efficiently as possible.
A key factor in maintaining efficiency is to determine important benchmarks. The project manager must be able to draw on some level of experience and knowledge to ensure these milestones are realistic. The setting of achievable deadlines gives clarity to subcontractors, demonstrates the demands of the project to team members and helps prevent delays. A successful project schedule communicates deadlines to all interested parties and needs minimal interpretation.
Maintaining an element of flexibility
Although the scheme is there to add certainty to the project and to make sure it is delivered on time, it should not be set in stone. Although meeting deadlines is important, setting unreasonable deadlines or failing to adapt to changing circumstances may also have negative outcome.
Once construction has begun the project manager must strike a balance between ensuring the deadlines are respected, while allowing a reasonable degree of flexibility to work around the inevitable adjustments any large project requires. While it is tempting to push the project through as quickly as possible, setting tight deadlines without sufficient scope for likely delays due to predictable elements, such as the weather, is simply poor planning. Reviewing and modifying the scheme happens frequently over the course of the project and is one of the essential tasks for the project manager.
Ensuring effective communication
All commercial construction projects are completed by teams. The more effectively the team works together, the more successful the project will be. The project manager is the hub of this communication and, once the initial planning phases is complete, maintaining channels of communication with subcontractors is one of their most important responsibilities.
A project schedule will also have the likely benefit of improving communication between the project client and subcontractors as it enables all interested parties to see what should be happening at each stage. A good project schedule will also explicitly highlight who is responsible for the completion of each task. Overall, an accurate, carefully-prepared and clear project schedule will eliminate uncertainty and prevent miscommunication. By aiding the effective organisation of the project, it can ensure efficiency, control expenditure and have substantial cost-benefits.
Working to budget
Last, but certainly least, any plan for a commercial construction project must keep a control over the budget. In an ideal world the perfect commercial construction project would be completed, not only time, but to budget. Naturally, the project schedule and budget are interdependent and usually prepared by the project manager at the same time. Once again, the project manager has to make certain the budget is realistic and attainable.
A key concern here is the level of detail. Many projects run over budget simply because the details have not had adequate attention - small costs can quickly multiply and add up.
This article seeks to help anyone interested in planning commercial construction by outlining the basic phases the project will entail.
Each construction project, whether it be a new-build, extension or alteration, must meet a set of specific commercial demands and be tailored to suit a specific location. Nevertheless, there is a standard sequence of phases used in almost all commercial construction. An awareness of the four phases a typical commercial construction project will follow enables clients and interested parties to plan the project more effectively. Moreover, it will help them understand the progression of the project and to anticipate and avoid any possible pitfalls.
Edmonton, December 7, 2019
- Planning and design
The planning and design phase involves a large number of different steps and commonly requires assessing multiple options and making numerous revisions. This stage will involve the client working closely with engineers and/or architects.
The primary objective of the planning phase is to clearly establish the main function of the construction and how this can most effectively be fulfilled. The process of design involves ensuring that external requirements, such as the surrounding environment and zoning restrictions are met while not compromising the capacity of the project to effectively fulfill its main function.
At this stage, input from the client, architects and engineers is used to determine the general nature of the construction - its footprint, dimensions and materials. From this core design concept, decisions can then be made on structural, mechanical, electrical and service aspects of the design.
Architectural plans are then prepared for the project to show the relationship between spaces and built forms. These plans should also demonstrate how the construction will enable key activities to be completed effectively. At this stage it is important that all interested parties have a chance to review the plans and suggest revisions if necessary.
- Pre-construction documentation
Once the planning phase is completed, the client needs to present potential builders with a set of standardised working drawings for the proposed construction. In order for contractors to fully understand the details of the project, these drawings must clearly communicate the dimensions, appearance, layout and materials required for the project.
Based on the supplied project documents and specifications, potential contractors estimate the cost of material and labor costs to provide detailed bids. The competing bids need to be assessed in order to judge which contractor can supply the best route for the project. At this stage contracts need to be drawn up and signed.
Scheduling also requires documentation with a careful schedule of work drawn up to ensure the phases of construction occur in a correct and timely manner and to avoid unnecessary delays. This will also involve the organisation and management of subcontractors.
The final set of documents required are building permits. Permission for construction needs to be approved by the relevant authorities. The project cannot move on site until construction has been legally approved.
With the paperwork in place and contractors hired it is time for ‘fieldwork’. As shown below, correct scheduling is essential for successful work on-site. This is when a project manager can play a huge role in determining whether a project runs efficiently by ensuring steps are performed in a safe and timely
At times completion of the project may seem a distant prospect, however, it is important to plan for this stage as it is when payments to subcontractors will need to be dealt with. Furthermore, paperwork, such as safety or use permits need to be approved.
As can be seen from this brief overview, for the project-owner the emphasis is on getting the preparatory work done early in the life of the project. Thorough preparation can lessen involvement in the construction phases.