Construction project management has five phases, the same as any project. But there are major differences that are important to understand. Construction phases have different names and require different documentation to begin with.
We’ll define in depth each of the five construction phases: initiation, pre-construction, procurement, construction and post-construction. Then we’ll explain the difference between the construction phases and the project life cycle. To help you manage your construction projects better, we’ll even add a few free templates.
What Are the 5 Construction Phases?
Construction projects are carefully planned. From the smallest to the largest and most complicated, they’re broken down into five construction phases to detail all the steps necessary to complete the project on time and within budget.
Having construction phases is one way that a project can be broken down into manageable parts, each with its own set of challenges. Understanding what goes into each of the five construction phases is the first step to controlling your project.
Project management software is used by construction project managers to plan, manage and track the project. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that has powerful Gantt charts that break the project into five construction phases. Our Gantt chart organizes all your tasks, links all four task dependencies and even filters for the critical path to identify essential and non-essential tasks. Once you have a plan and schedule, set a baseline on the Gantt chart to capture it so you can compare your planned effort against your actual effort in real time to help you stay on track.
Now, let’s look more closely at each of the five construction phases.
1. Initiation Phase
The initiation phase might be the most important of all five phases as it maps out the approval process for the project and sets everything in place to build. Within this phase are three distinct steps: programming and feasibility, schematic design and contract documents.
Programming and feasibility are where the planning team defines the project’s objectives and goals. A feasibility study is done to make sure the project is worth pursuing. A site analysis is also conducted. It’s during this step that the size of the building or structure is determined, including how much space it’ll take up, the rooms that’ll be in the building and so on. Once these decisions are made, a project initiation document is created.
The schematic design includes a sketch that shows the pace as well as materials, colors and textures that’ll be employed. This information directs the design development, equipment and materials that will be used in construction.
The last step is the construction documentation. This includes the final drawings and specifications. At this point, there will be a selection of the project delivery method, construction cost estimating and permitting. The construction bidding process will also begin at this point.
2. Pre-Construction Phase
After the bidding is done and a contractor has been chosen, the pre-construction phase begins. As the name suggests, this phase is prior to breaking ground on the job site. A project team is assembled, which commonly includes the following: contract administrator, project manager, superintendent, field engineer and health and safety manager.
The project team starts preparing for work, setting up the job site so that it’s ready for construction. This includes pre-construction meetings, working with schematic design, other construction drawings and the construction schedule. The construction budget will also be referred to as well as the larger construction plan.
The project team might have to deal with environmental issues, such as testing the soil. When the site is complete, the plans and findings are reviewed by local government officials. This is also the construction phase in which the project plan, budget, design and timeline are finalized and the project team begins to gather the necessary resources for construction.
3. Procurement Phase
As the name suggests, the procurement phase of the construction project is when the project manager and project team order, purchase or rent all the materials, tools, equipment and services they require to execute the project. Some documents that’ll be used during this procurement phase include the material takeoff and bill of quantities.
Naturally, the scope of the project is going to make this a relatively simple construction phase or a much more challenging one. Not only the scope but also the availability of resources and the start date will all have an impact on how smoothly this construction phase is completed.
4. Construction Phase
All that work done over the course of the previous three construction phases comes together in this construction phase. The project manager, design and engineering teams have laid the foundation on which to build a successful project. The construction phase is when the contractor and subcontractors fulfill that promise (although the design, engineering and architecture teams aren’t out of the picture and consulted throughout this phase).
Some documents that will be used during this construction phase include the construction daily log to capture the work done at the end of the day in order to pick up when you left off the next morning. A construction change order will be used to manage any changes whether due to equipment failure, weather or client requests. A weekly activity report will capture the project within a week’s time period and will be used to track progress and also update stakeholders.
Communication is always important, but it’s key to the success of the construction phase. The construction manager and construction contractor will stay in close contact with each other, while the architect, engineers and the project manager will perform quality control inspections, respond to requests for information (RFIs) and review and approve any technical submittals. All this is to make sure that the project is delivered as designed.
5. Post Construction
The last step in the construction phase is closing the project. The work is done and the project is coming to a close, which means that the construction manager will use a punch list to catch any work that still needs to be completed. But that isn’t all that happens during project closure.
All the resources used to execute the project, including the project team, will be demobilized. Equipment rentals will be returned, the worksite is cleaned and subcontractors move on to other jobs. A final inspection takes place to ensure the work was done to code and a post-construction walkthrough with the owner occurs.
The project manager will have to make sure that all project documentation is complete and archived. It’s always helpful to do a post-mortem in which the team discusses what went wrong and how to avoid repeating mistakes in the future. Finally, a notice of completion will be issued.
Construction Phases vs. Project Life Cycle
As we’ve discussed, construction phases are a way to break up the project into a smaller, related set of tasks. Construction phases do have a life cycle of their own, which is the time between starting one construction phase and ending it. In some cases, however, the life cycle of construction phases can overlap.
However, a project life cycle isn’t the same as a construction phase. A project life cycle can be looked at as we’ve noted above as the actions that are included in each construction phase. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project life cycle “consists of five distinct phases including initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closure that combine to turn a project idea into a working product.”
Therefore, we can conclude that construction phases are the stages that a project goes through over the course of its life. The project life cycle is the larger whole, while the construction phases are the smaller parts.
Construction Project Management Templates
Regardless of which of the construction phases you’re working on, project management templates can help. ProjectManager allows you to access dozens of free project management templates for Excel and Word. Here are some that are related to the construction phases.
During the initial phase, you’ll want to get approval for the project before moving forward. Our free construction proposal template for Word helps you prove your case by defining the scope of work, cost and payment, schedule as well as terms and conditions.
As you work on your budget during pre-construction, our free construction estimate template for Excel will help you forecast costs more accurately. You can list the work for each of the five construction phases and their associated costs, including labor and materials.
Our free construction schedule template will help you during the pre-construction phases. It organizes your deliverables and tasks on a visual timeline, including costs and resources. You can add milestones and much more.
During the construction phase, our free construction daily report will make it easier for you to note all the work that was done that day, whether it was completed on schedule, what will be needed to complete the work undone, who visited the site and even the weather conditions.
Download our free punch list template for Excel to use during post-construction. The template is numbered to make it easier to reference specific tasks that need to be completed, plus it adds the location, type, owner, priority and more.
How ProjectManager Helps Manage the Construction Phases
While all of those templates are helpful when managing a construction project, if you want to have more control and greater efficiency in these processes you’ll want to upgrade to project management software. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that is flexible enough to be effective across all five construction phases. Construction project managers and their teams can use tools to plan, monitor and track work all in real time to help make more insightful decisions.
Monitor Progress With Real-Time Dashboards
Once you move into the construction phase it’s critical that you monitor your progress to ensure you’re keeping up with the project plan. Our real-time dashboard automatically collects live data and displays it into easy-to-read graphs and charts that give you a high-level overview of the project’s health, tasks, time, costs, progress and more. Unlike lightweight competitors, there’s no time-consuming setup required. Just toggle over to the live dashboard and it’s ready to view.
As you’re in the construction phase, you’ll want to keep track of your team’s assignments. If they’re overallocated that can lead to delays and poor morale, which is a vicious cycle leading to further erosion. Our resource management features allow you to see your team’s availability when assigning, including PTO, holidays and more, then you can look at the color-coded workload chart to make sure everyone is sharing the load. If they’re not, then reallocate resources right from the chart.
Those are only a couple of the features you’ll find with our software. There are secure timesheets and five project views that allow teams to work how they want when executing their tasks or checking things off the punch list. There are also customizable reports that can be shared to keep clients updated and so much more.
ProjectManager is online project management software that connects project teams whether they’re in the office, at the job site or anywhere in between. They can share files, comment at the task level and more leading to greater productivity. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.