The 5 Phases of a Construction Project Explained

Published Categorized as Construction
Phases of a Construction Project

Construction projects can be hectic and chaotic. That’s why there are so many helpful guides and organizational tools that a project manager must follow to ensure that everything gets done in an orderly and timely fashion. One of the best tools is the life cycle of construction, which has five distinct phases that you should always follow.

Here are the 5 phases of a construction project:

  1. Conception and initialization of the construction project
  2. Definition and planning of the construction project
  3. Implementation and execution of the project plan
  4. Monitoring and controlling the execution of the plan
  5. Construction project closure

So, let’s go over the steps you’ll need to take during each construction phase. I’ll lead you through all of the details and walk you through each step to help you effortlessly transition through each phase for every project you work on.

Why Should You Implement the 5 Phases of Construction?

As is true with almost any process, having a routine can help you ensure that you don’t miss any details. Routines also minimize the stress of demanding situations. So, to save yourself and other stakeholders from getting overwhelmed by the demands of a project, you can use the five main phases of construction to stay on track.

You should implement the five phases of construction because it can guide you through the ideal steps you’ll take during, before, and after construction. They’ll also give you some benchmarks to work towards as the project progresses.

So, if you want your project to go smoothly, using the project life cycle can help, which breaks down each significant phase you’ll need to complete your project.

1. Conception and Initialization of the Construction Project

In the first phase, conception and initialization, the owner and a small team of planners will lay out the beginning steps for a project. You’ll need to formulate several documents during this phase to ensure that all the project’s benefits and disadvantages have been assessed.

The Conception of the Project

In this phase, owners come up with an idea for their project. Usually, they think up a preliminary design that includes all of the components that they desire.

Then, the owner gathers a team of designers, architects, engineers, a project manager, or other parties to assess whether the project is realistic enough to pursue or not.

Feasibility Study

Often, the team will start by performing a feasibility study, which is one of the essential steps in construction. It helps the project planners assess whether the project is realistic and possible.

The team will gather information about the scope of the project. They then design the project, determine the necessary steps for execution, and estimate financial costs and a working timeline.

According to the US General Services Administration, “The Feasibility Study process has the single greatest influence on a project’s development for success.”

Business Case Document

The team will likely put together a business case document next.

Business case documents closely assess the financial benefits and costs of a construction project. It also includes information about changes to the owner’s original design, constraints that might make the project unattainable, and problems that might arise during the other construction phases.

At the end of the document, the team will assess the benefits and disadvantages of the project. Then, they’ll present them to the owner, who’ll decide what to do from there.

Cancellation or Project Initiation

If the owner and team don’t think that the project is attainable or feasible, they’ll cancel it.

Suppose the owner can afford the project and is satisfied with the budget, materials, and most realistic completion timeline. In that case, they’ll likely draft a Project Initiation Document (PID).

Project Initiation Documents are crucial to the construction project. You should always make sure that they include as much detail as possible, even if you’re still in the initiation phase. They contain information about the scope, the budget, the timeline, the roles of stakeholders, the justification for building, a risk analysis, and design plans.

Once the document has been dispersed to all involved parties, you can move on to the next construction phase!

2. Definition and Planning of the Construction Project

In definition and planning, you’ll work towards one goal — writing your project plan. The definition and planning phase is the most collaborative. You’ll need to frequently meet with the project’s stakeholders to ensure that your plan is accurate and well-organized.

The project plan will likely need to be adjusted later in the execution phase. However, keeping all of the plans for construction well-documented is imperative if you want your project to go well.

Here are the steps in the definition and planning phase.

Finalize the Design

Before you can write the rest of your project execution plan, you’ll need to ensure that the designs are as accurate as possible. Meet with your architect and designer to discuss the necessary materials, the design specifics, and ask them about any risks involved with the plan.

Ensure that the owner is well-informed about any design changes that need to be made during this phase. Then, work with the team to finalize the design.

Set a Budget

After you know what materials are necessary, start working on a budget that would cover the following:

  • Material costs
  • Professional services and fees
  • Ideal cost of contractors
  • Equipment and tool costs
  • Project management software costs
  • Liability insurance costs
  • Taxes
  • Utilities
  • 10% contingency margin in case of additional expenses

Set a Timeline

Once you know what materials you’ll need, you can start to estimate the start date and date of completion for your project.

While you set the timeline, consider the other phases of construction and their steps. You may want to choose some of the execution phase’s steps as benchmarks for your progress.

Be sure to plot out as many small deadlines as possible when planning the timeline so that you can always accurately estimate whether you are on-target or falling behind.

Analyze Risk

Risk analysis is crucial if you want to avoid setbacks, safety hazards, potential material shortages, land development issues, and many other components of your project that could make or break your performance.

When measuring risk, consider:

  • Qualifications of your stakeholder team
  • Potential delays due to permits, unreasonable deadlines, or inclement weather
  • The reasonability of your budget
  • Conflict between stakeholders

Measuring risk and sharing a risk assessment with all of your stakeholders and the project owner before construction is vital to the process. Keeping everyone informed on the risks will also help you and your stakeholders accommodate any issues that might come up in the later phases.

Hire Contractors

Once your plan is ready, you can start requesting contractor bids. Before you accept an offer, always meet with the contractors and walk the construction site with the design plans in hand.

Discuss the materials, labor, and equipment that you want the contractor to supply. Always review contractor bids thoroughly to ensure that they have included all of your requirements in their offer.

3. Implementation and Execution of the Project Plan

Now that all of the planning is done, it’s time to break ground! The implementation and execution phase is where you and all of your stakeholders will use the plans to start construction.

Within the implementation and execution phase, there are steps you’ll need to follow.

Meet With the Team

Before construction activity starts, host a meeting for every single person involved in the construction. Distribute copies of the construction plans to everyone present, and go over the plan with them. Be sure to assign laborers to teams and tell everyone their role during the execution phase.

You’ll also need to assign someone to write daily reports. Nowadays, it’s easy for crew members to take progress photos and videos. So, if you want to communicate digitally, ensure that the person in charge of reporting knows how to share information with you, the design team, and any other party who would benefit from seeing progress updates.

Host Safety Orientations

Another thing you must do before starting the construction is to host a safety orientation. Invite laborers and contractors to the meeting, and go over safety codes that they must follow. You should also discuss the emergency safety procedures and address the risk analysis report you included in the construction plan.

Keeping everyone safe is imperative if you want to stay on schedule, so never skip this step, even if your construction team is experienced.

Conduct Status Meetings

You’ll need to plan status meetings, too, to discuss the progress with all stakeholders. Keeping everyone informed and updated is your job during this phase, so it would be best to facilitate discussions about the project’s budget, timeline, and quality. You can meet weekly, but it’s up to you to decide how often you meet.

Adjust the Budget and Schedule

Inevitably, something always goes wrong during construction. Whether a storm sets you back or a material shortage raises the budget, coping with these changes and documenting them is crucial. So, as problems arise on-site, you may need to adjust the budget and timeline for your project.

Making sure everyone is aware of any changes to the plan is also essential if you want to keep your project on track. So, you should always share information about alterations with all stakeholders.

4. Monitoring and Controlling the Execution of the Plan

Ideally, the monitor and control phase will overlap with the execution phase. During this phase, you’ll closely monitor the construction progress and keep yourself engaged in the execution of the project.

After things get rolling on-site, it’s easy to lay back and watch things happen, but staying active is vital if you want your project to keep on track.

It would be best if you keep reassessing the project to ensure that you are still in control of all the details. If anything happens, you may need to adjust your plan to compensate for unexpected issues.

In the monitor and control phase, you’ll need to follow these steps.

Control the Scope

During your project, the scope may become compromised if you go over budget or if there are not enough materials to complete the original design.

As a project manager, it’s your responsibility to adjust any changes in the scope and discuss them with the owner before finalizing the alterations. You may have to find ways to keep the scope true to the original plan by cutting costs in another area, or you may have to raise the budget to get the job done right.

Monitor and Control Cost

One of the most common problems in construction projects is running out of money to fund the job. Your job during this phase is to keep track of expenses and catch any additional costs before they get out of hand.

You’ll need to keep track of receipts, pay stubs, and all other financial documentation related to the project and balance your total expenditures very frequently.

Keeping track of your finances will help you address any financial overages or irregularities before raising your total project budget, saving you from disappointing the owner.

Manage Schedule

You’ll also need to keep note of the timeline for your project and keep everything on track to finish on the anticipated date of completion.

Naturally, staying true to the planned finish date you designated before beginning the execution phase is challenging. However, catching timing and scheduling issues before they get out of hand is crucial if you want to keep things from falling behind even more.

Perform Quality Control

Always check in with on-site supervisors and forepersons to keep updated on how well the construction crew is working.

Sometimes, if the project schedule is too stringent, workers will cut corners to get things done on time. Try to catch situations like this early, and ensure that someone investigates the quality of construction daily and includes information about it in their daily reports.

Monitor and Control Risks

During any construction project, it’s imperative to reassess risks constantly. Keep in mind anything that could go wrong with your project and document it. Label each risk as high, medium, or low based on how likely the issue is to occur.

5. Construction Project Closure

Once Phase 4 is over, and all of the deliverables have been delivered, it’s time to evaluate your construction project’s success.

During the project closure phase, you’ll need to assess your successes and failures. Compare the final timeline, budget, scope, and quality with your original construction plan and use the changes to write better plans for future projects.

Hold a meeting and invite workers, stakeholders, and the owner to discuss their satisfaction.

You may need to ask stakeholders to take surveys to evaluate your success. Analyze how well you stuck to your original plan and learn from any mistakes you made. Document all changes you made and use them to write better plans for the future.

In addition, during this final stage, you’ll need to total the project’s costs and share them with the owner. You can terminate your contractors now, too.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *