Just like with any project management plan, the construction project process consists of a series of predetermined phases that begin with project initiation and end with closure: completion and delivery. Often, the first concrete steps of a construction project will be to choose a construction management firm and conduct a feasibility report or study. This study, one of the critical stages of the construction project management process, belongs to the planning phase. In some systems, the planning phase is considered to belong to the stage called preconstruction. The importance of this first phase can’t be overstated—excellent planning will make a project; faulty or substandard planning will break it.
What does a feasibility study look at?
Perched at the top of a construction project management process flow chart sits the feasibility study which will culminate in a feasibility report. This introductory analysis takes the spark—the initial idea—and compares it with reality. Without having the details and green light that the report provides, moving forward could be a perilous step—kind of like buying a ticket to an exotic destination without checking the political situation, weather forecast or health alerts. You might have the vacation of a lifetime, or you might be headed for disaster.
One commonly used acronym for this project management step in construction as well as in other fields (especially IT), is TELOS: Technology, Economic viability, Legal considerations, Operational feasibility and Schedule.
- Technology and systems: Resources, materials, human factor, skill with BIM (Building Information Modeling) or other construction project management software options and so on: is everything needed to bring the project to a successful completion readily available? And are the major players sufficiently experienced with using these resources and technology?
- Economics: a.k.a cost/benefit analysis. For a commercial project, the economics step of the study asks: is it economically viable? What are the risks and strengths of the project? If it’s a residential project, can whoever is footing the bill pay in a timely manner?
- Legal parameters: planning requirements and restrictions, entitlement and so on.
- Operational capacity: This step is about scope. Are all of the players involved—and in a big, complex project there could be a cast of hundreds or even thousands—capable of doing their jobs as defined? The starring roles as well as the supporting cast? Will the tech crew and the extras be there when you need them?
- Schedule: Can this project be executed and delivered to the owner’s—and the team’s—satisfaction with regard to timing?
In terms of construction planning, further feasibility concerns will be aesthetic, environmental and cultural. Green though a yurt may be, how would the neighbors feel about having one officiating on the lawn next door?
Practically speaking, if this is a new construction project (rather than restoration), an engineering firm will carry out a land assessment that compares three elements: the client’s vision and needs; zoning/government ordinances; and the results of the topographic survey or site appraisal. This latter determines access, grade, soil, waste management options, resource availability, easements and restrictive covenants. Other factors for consideration might include planning permissions, infrastructure changes (including improvements: lightning-fast internet, improved water treatment, etc.), and the proposed yurt park or peacock farm next door. If there are no major obstacles in sight, the architects can set to designing early plan drawings. These will be used to give a ballpark estimate of project cost.
A detailed feasibility study can take time in accordance with the size of the project. It will let the team know if the project is viable, needs to be adjusted or is unlikely to succeed. If the stars align, and the general consensus is that the project is workable and wonderful, it will be time to move on to the next construction project planning step, preconstruction.