The process of managing a construction project can be complicated if you are a building or property owner and haven’t managed one before. It helps to have a roadmap, so you know where you are going as you work through the process of designing and constructing your project.
We’ve compiled a construction project management checklist for owners that will lead you through the steps you need to take during a project. This is not an exhaustive list, as each project and team are different. Think of it as “Construction Project Management 101.”
This project checklist assumes that you have an idea for the project and have the funding in place. If funding is needed, that is a separate process that should happen prior to the steps on this checklist, if possible.
- Select architectural and construction management (CM) firms. The first step is to select your design team. Most projects will need an architect, several engineers, and an interior designer. It is also a good idea to select your construction manager early in the process, so they can work with the design team throughout the design. You can request formal qualifications or simply interview a few firms, whatever fits your comfort level and the type of project you are starting.
- Work with the design team to determine the project scope, initial budget, and schedule. The team will help flush your project idea out, let you know if it will work, and give you an idea of how much it will cost, so you can assess if you want to move forward or need to make changes to meet your budget.
- Perform a site evaluation. Depending on the type of project you are undertaking, you may need to hire experts to study the existing conditions at the site. These reports may include property surveys, soils reports, environmental studies, or asbestos and lead paint surveys. The design and construction team will use these reports to inform the design and the construction process.
- Meet with local jurisdictions regarding the permit process and any issues your project may encounter. The purpose of these meetings is to review your project and discover the jurisdictional requirements that will need to be incorporated. Issues like zoning, occupancy type, and site requirements will be addressed. Your architect can help you know what type of information the jurisdiction will require and what to expect during this process.
- Review the design and budget at 30% plan completion, 60% completion, and 90% completion. Your design team will give you a chance to review what they have completed as they go along. As the design progresses, they will present you with drawings and specifications. If you have a contractor on the team, you can also request budget estimates as you go. These estimates allow you to make changes to the scope of work or the design before everything is set in stone. A contractor can also help put together a preliminary schedule for the project, which will include a project activities list.
- Submit final plans to the jurisdiction for permitting. Drawings can be submitted by the design team or the owner. Usually there are permit fees that will need to be paid, so make sure you know who is taking care of these. These fees may include plan review fees and system development charges, as well as the actual cost of the permits once they are issued.
- Determine your bid review and scoring process. If you don’t have a general contractor or construction manager selected already, work with the design team to decide what criteria you will be using to assess the bids you receive. You may want to start with a short list of selected contractors, so you aren’t overwhelmed with a tremendous number of bids to wade through. Things to look for include years in business, similar project experience, and reviews by references. Price is always important, but can be misleading when other factors aren’t taken into consideration.
- Have the architect or construction manager send the project documents out to bid. It is best to have your design team or CM spearhead the bidding process. There are often a lot of questions and clarifications, and it can be confusing at times. The architect or CM will reach out to you for input as the process goes along.
- Work with the architect or CM to evaluate bids. You may want to take price, completeness, and schedule into consideration, along with other factors you are looking for.
- Once a contractor has been selected, negotiate the contract terms and sign a contract. Your architect, CM, or general contractor may be able to provide a contract that you will feel comfortable signing. If you don’t have a specialized contract that you use for construction projects, be sure to have an attorney review anything before signing. Meet with everyone on the construction team and develop a construction execution plan, which details how the project will start and who is responsible for what actions.
- Issue a notice to proceed. Once the permits have been issued and the construction contract has been signed, you’ll want to issue what’s called a notice to proceed. It officially starts the project schedule and will determine the anticipated completion date, lien rights, and other contract deadlines.
- Attend progress meetings. The CM will schedule regular progress meetings with the contractor throughout the project. These meetings usually deal with design questions, coordination issues, budgets, and other project concerns. Your role will be to answer questions when required, and provide guidance to the team regarding your vision for the project.
- Make regular site visits. It is a good idea to visit the site regularly to review the progress and make sure the work meets your expectations.
- Once the project is complete, perform a walk-through to develop the punchlist. The punchlist walk is a formal gathering with the design team, CM, and contractor. The team inspects the entire project looking for items that need to be addressed or were missed during construction. This is your chance to point out items that need to be corrected before you move in.
- Be present for final inspections. The final inspections are required to give you permission to occupy the space. As the owner, you should be present at these inspections and assist in developing the punch list.
- Move in. Keep track of any outstanding items or problems you notice as you are moving in. Often the contractor will remain on site during this time to help fix things as they come up.
- Make your staff available for systems training. The contractor will provide training to your facilities and maintenance personnel on the various systems in the building. You’ll need to work with the contractor to schedule these training sessions.
- Notify the CM or contractor of any warranty items during the first year. Most building warranties are for one year from final completion. It is best to let the CM or GC know when you see a problem, so they can dispatch the correct contractor to fix the problem. Not all issues will be covered under the warranty, so discuss that with the contractor before authorizing work.
Select your team
Working with a design and construction team can be a rewarding experience. Most projects last several months, or years, from concept to completion. When selecting team members, make sure that they understand your vision for the project and are willing to listen to your input before making suggestions. In the end, the goal of the project is to make your dream a reality.
Use this construction project startup checklist as a template for all your projects. It will help you stay organized and know what to expect next in the process.