Pre-Construction Planning Best Practices

ISA GC Council members reported that generally projects of significant size are in the finishing stages of completion and that there are several projects in waiting which they predict will start to launch in late-2018, 2019 and 2020. Although there is a current lull of sorts occurring where labor resources are sufficient, the council predicts as projects ramp up the Indiana construction market resources will begin to constrict. Therefore, the pre-construction process and preplanning are going to be very important in the next few years for ISA members to deliver projects when and how owners want them done.


Through this discussion, the council believes that there are some key best practices for owners and their construction partners to consider in the pre-construction and planning phase. By considering these best practices, owners will be better assured to have construction resources available when they need them in order to build their projects safely, on time and on budget.


  • Owners should seek out opportunities to build their education and awareness of different project delivery methods that assist in preplanning. The conventional delivery methods utilized in Indiana such as design-bid-build are antiquated approaches that do not allow for preconstruction planning. Research has shown that the cost of changing something in a project in preconstruction planning is far less than once a project is off the ground. Organizations such as ISA, Design Build of America, Indiana Construction Roundtable, and the Construction Managers Association of America provide education and resources.


  • Owners typically have a well-developed relationship with design firms in front-end planning. Many owners do not consider the same type of relationship with contractors and subcontractors. Owners and contractors need to build mutual trust as partners on a project in order to ensure proper front-end planning. Programs such as the ISA Construction Networking Event of the Year and other educational programs help foster a relationship and lead to partnerships. Additionally, contractors and subcontractors can provide technical and practical knowledge to help drive a project when it is still in conceptual planning.


  • Scheduling is always one of the top three lowest scoring areas when subcontractors are evaluating a project within the ISA GC of the Year Awards process. Although this is focused on evaluating GCs primarily, the entire project is evaluated on different areas of performance. There is always a focus on schedule when a project is under construction; however, the construction team needs to ensure that a preconstruction schedule has been set. Within the preconstruction schedule, financing needs should be included. Projects will go through design, budgeting, and bidding only to be stopped by the financing process. At times the financing process can linger which delays a project from starting. This puts strain on the companies that bid the project to keep their prices and resources available for when the project can move forward.


  • Prior to a construction team designing and building a project budget, owners must gain an understanding of the budget parameters. The owner wastes time and money putting forth the effort to get their concept designed and budgeted only to find out that what they wanted cannot be afforded.


  • Subcontractors need to engage and put forth resources in the business development process to better understand the pipeline of opportunities, so they can preplan. Companies that build a strategic growth plan and project when opportunities occur will be in a better position to react to client needs. This process begins with business development to build relationships to learn about opportunities months before instead of days before once bid requests are out.


  • Architects, contractors and subcontractors need to be prepared to have tough conversations when owner decisions can affect original cost proposals. Although a company wants to serve its best clients or a new potential client in every way possible, company leaders must be prepared to provide honest feedback to those same clients. For instance, a decision to delay a project and then ramp up quickly can cause overtime which can cause cost to go up. When companies promise things that they cannot fully support, it builds unsustainable expectations.

ISA Building Bridge with Architects and Owners

JUNE 15, 2017  –  ISA’s GC Council is working to improve construction delivery by meeting with stakeholders in the construction process. Earlier this year, the council met with 5 Indiana-based architects representing their firms and AIA Indiana. Firms participating included CSO Architects, Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf, BSA Lifestructures, Schmidt Associates, and Fanning Howey along with Jason Shelley, Executive Director of AIA Indiana. The initial meeting was viewed as a starting point to discuss opportunities for collaboration between the construction/design team and the construction/design/owner teams. Discussions revolved around project delivery methods and collaboration best practices. Participants collectively agreed that involving the primary construction trades in front-end design and planning was critical to the success of safety performance, setting a manageable schedule, and understanding budget requirements. Moving forward, the council will consider educational programming, creating and publishing best practices, and data tracking.

Earlier in 2017, the Indiana Construction Roundtable (ICR), which represents the interest of end users of construction, invited the council to provide feedback on an ICR program that would allow owners to collect and validate contractor QA/QC programs. ICR has issued a QA/QC standard, derived from industry input companies utilize as a roadmap for developing a base-level QA/QC program. To measure where contractors stood with following such a standard, the ICR launched a pilot validation program with the goal being that owners could be better ensured that quality defects and rework would be mitigated on their projects. While members of the council believe ICR has produced a valuable quality roadmap and validated the notion that contractors should have a well-developed QA/QC program, the council weighed in on the path forward of this program. The council issued, with the support of the ISA board, the following statement:

“ISA leadership supports any initiative that will make the industry better for members of ISA and their clients. A chance to raise the level of all quality within the industry will directly and indirectly benefit all ISA members. Many ISA members believe that they deliver quality construction overall, while acknowledging that there is always room for improvement. ISA members achieve superior quality by investing resources in training, processes and labor. ISA’s goal is to cooperate with our clients to provide the end user with the highest value. In evaluating a request to engage in the ICR Quality Program, the board of directors and the GC Council wishes ICR to consider that the highest value is not always the lowest price. Given that ISA members typically invest more into such important aspects of business such as safety and quality, ISA members believe that there should be a competitive advantage and recognition to such investment. Therefore, the ISA board of directors and GC Council will support moving forward with the ICR Quality Program if owners participating clearly define their expectations and stick to those expectations. If, and when, expectations are set, but only upheld in certain cases, the program will only serve as a hurdle and not a true industry improvement opportunity.”

David Peterson, Chairman of the ISA GC Council, “ISA members are involved in a significant portion of the construction completed in Indiana. The ISA GC Council’s goal is to better align all components of those construction teams – owners, contractors and design professionals – so we deliver value while maintaining a viable business climate. These meetings with owners and architects are a way to promote conversation and alignment that goes beyond the typical GC/CM – trade subcontractor relationship.”