Everyone’s heard that classic carpenter’s motto “measure twice, cut once.” A preconstruction meeting is essentially a broad-scale, multi-team approach to that same concept. They ensure everyone is on the same page from the get-go, on topics as diverse as how change orders how the chain of communication will be handled on site.
Unfortunately, construction project success is not a given. In fact, surveys show that construction projects routinely come in over budget. And timelines? According to the same source, a mere quarter of projects came within 10% of their deadlines (and not on the favorable side of that date). Overall, nearly a third of building projects fail or underperform.
When setting up a project for success, a preconstruction meeting can go a long way. These are essential for preconstruction planning and for kicking off builds and keeping them strong throughout. Today, let’s explore the basics of preconstruction meetings, including what they are, why they matter, and how to do it right.
So, what’s this meeting all about? In a nutshell, a preconstruction meeting is when stakeholders meet with builders to answer lingering questions and set up everyone on the same page. They also try to identify special considerations and forestall potential areas of complication that can lead to change orders. As one of the main contributors to cost and time overrun, change orders are a nightmare for all.
Hence, preconstruction meetings help to finalize all objectives and implementation strategies. The various invested parties (discussed below) get a chance to have their say, while the construction firm can voice any concerns ahead of time.
Preconstruction meetings are important for countless reasons. Here are several key benefits:
Even a small building project involves a lot of stakeholders. This is a chance for everyone to get to know key stakeholders, breaking down siloes between procurement and legal, scheduling and management, and so forth.
At the start of the meeting, all drawings and designs should exist in a state of approval. However, if there’s a problem, you want to catch it up front. Now’s your chance to review everything one final time before work is put in place.
It’s easy at the beginning of a build to get lost in the excitement and relief of finally starting a project. The stark realities of complex coordination, inspection timelines, and closeout seem mercifully far away. And who wants to think about them anyway?
Still, in the long run, a meeting before construction begins can help avoid misalignments and make even the toughest jobs run smoothly.
A preconstruction meeting is also an opportunity for collaboration that can help teams to improve efficiency. By reducing change orders, avoiding delays, and procuring materials strategically, you can jump on modern trends and pump up productivity.
The preconstruction meeting should include, at a minimum, the owner and general contractor. They’re the peanut butter and jelly of stakeholders, and it’s hard to make significant changes without them present.
However, the more people you can align in the meeting, the better which means bringing them to the table. Where possible, try to include the:
Again, this is a chance for everyone to get concerns off their chest, plan ahead, and get to know one another.
It’s essential to prepare a document checklist for the preconstruction meeting. A good list helps you keep track of essential items discussed in the meeting as well as any relevant follow-up action items.
The exact form it takes will look different project to project, client to client. But generally speaking, you’ll want to come prepared with the following documents:
Again, your meeting agenda will look different depending on what you’re building, who’s part of the process, how long the project will take and so forth. However, while you may customize it to your heart’s content to meet your needs, you will likely want to include the following items.
Regardless of your project’s details, you’ll want to make the first item on your agenda a general Who’s Who. This is where you identify names and contact info for project leads for the benefit of both the contractor and owner. You should also go over which subcontractors you’ll use and their designated roles in the project. If any concerns come up, this a chance to address them.
Review all contracts, plans, and legal documents with all stakeholders. If issues arise, some items seem vague or anyone has an issue, let them raise it now.
Similarly, you will also want to review all plans and documents before moving forward with the rest of your preconstruction meeting. That includes:
Putting a plan in place for how you’ll address each of these can dramatically reduce the amount of confusion and headaches down the road.
Next, review your project budget. Discuss the terms and conditions of payment as defined by program requirements or in the construction documents. You should also discuss completion requirements before payments will be made, so that everyone knows what has to happen.
Discuss with the contractor any required start or completion dates that might be specified in the construction contract. If there aren’t any, ask the contractor for their scheduling plans for the project and discuss any perceived issues or problems. Think road restrictions, weather conditions, site conditions, time constraints, and other events that might arise.
Furthermore, try to determine when construction will commence and how long the contractor estimates it will take to complete the work. Inquire whether the contractor intends to work weekends or holidays.
Agree on access routes that equipment will use, and discuss any erosion and sediment control issues and requirements associated with site access. You should also identify:
Identify and discuss potential safety issues that may arise as part of construction work and what provisions will be made to address them.
Describe the steps and requirements of the change order process. Clarify who is authorized to issue change orders and any associated financial limitations. Additionally, clarify who will be the authorized representative for the negotiation of change orders.
How do you plan to manage, share, and maintain records of construction documents during the lifetime of the project? Put it out there so everyone can get on board with your processes.
Lastly, review the chain of command. There’s nothing worse than not knowing whom to contact for what or when. Instead of leaving people to guess, make sure everyone knows exactly whom to contact about what.
Overall, inviting the right stakeholders to the table and covering the above agenda items can go miles to set your projects up for success. It’s time to take back your wasted time and money (not to mention your sanity) by implementing and enhancing preconstruction meetings today.
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