What Are Preconstruction Services?  

preconstruction services

Preconstruction services, as the name suggests, are used before any actual construction begins. These services are part of the preconstruction planning stages of a construction project and are very important to make sure any job goes smoothly. 

A more modern construction practice and part of the broader construction project management, preconstruction is the first phase of the overall planning, coordination, and control of a construction job. Preconstruction aims to nail down the planning of the project and give the client a clear picture for what their job is going to look like, how it is going to get done, and when every aspect of the job will be completed. 

And remember, this all happens, before a single piece of construction is conducted. So what exactly are these preconstruction services that help make a project run so smoothly? Let’s take a look. 


Preconstruction: A modern approach to the design-bid-build method 

Preconstruction services are used to help meet a client’s vision as well as match their construction budget. These services will make sure a project is feasible on a given site and enable the client to look into some more cost-effective options. 

The age-old method of construction project delivery is known as the design-bid-build method. In this construction delivery method, the project would be completely designed before it is built. The plans and specifications that were created during this design period would form the construction documents

During the design process, preconstruction cost estimates are created to help with the owner’s decision making. These early estimates are supported by schematic designs and previous jobs of similar scope. From here, the job would move to a design development stage and finally the construction document state. 

The owner of the project would then request for bids for the job, and would award the project to a successful bidder, who then gets to build the project. The construction bidding process in the design-bid-build system was rather intense and arduous, often taking weeks to complete. The cost estimate was formed by cost estimators on the construction team who then also prepare the bid. 

Preconstruction emerged from construction cost estimating to include other areas of the planning process. The preconstruction process is more hands-on with the owner, rather than doing everything separately. Owner input is used throughout the preconstruction process, which helps contractors to create a construction plan and estimate that meets the owner’s needs. 

What are preconstruction services? 

Preconstruction services go well beyond just estimating what a project will cost. They include everything from an initial client meeting to plans, schedules, studies, value engineering, permitting, land acquisition, and more.  

Let’s take a look at several different preconstruction services. 

Initial meeting & regular follow ups 

The contractor or design team representative will first have an initial preconstruction meeting with the client to go over the client’s objectives. In this initial meeting, the contractor will learn the client’s goals for the project as well as their budget. The contractor and client will meet several more times during the preconstruction process to stay up-to-date on progress and allow for any changes to be made. 

Much of what will be discussed at these regular meetings will be the result of what the team puts together through the other preconstruction services. 

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An overall evaluation of the project 

The preconstruction process starts in broad terms with an overall project evaluation. This will emerge from the initial meeting between client and contractor and is the big picture elements of the project. This initial evaluation lays the foundation for the rest of the preconstruction services as well as the actual construction. 

It is here that needs and expectations for the project will be clearly defined and understood by all those set to participate in the job. The client and contractor will typically come up with a final conceptualization of the appearance of the building as well as the material and size. Basic floor plans will be created which will emphasize production process flows. The design consultants and inspectors to be used with other preconstruction services will also be chosen. 

Creating an initial schematic design 

Another preconstruction services, which is sometimes carried out during the initial evaluation, is to create a schematic design for the project. This will give the client their first visual on what the project may look like when completed, but since it is just an initial schematic, they are able to provide feedback along the way to reaching a final design. 

This process can be crucial to landing a bid for a job, as clients often won’t award a bid unless they have a clear vision for what the final product will look like. 

Initial budget estimates 

There are several components that go into estimating the budget for a construction project. These may include the cost of materials, subcontractors, suppliers, equipment, and more. It is likely that multiple estimates will be provided as the contractor works through various options with the client, and any budget estimate should always be rated against the project budget. 

The contractor will also need to identify the cost of potential issues, as well as evaluate any opportunities for potential savings. Finding cost-saving alternatives can be a major benefit of the preconstruction process. 

Selecting materials & equipment 

Another preconstruction service is the choice of the materials and equipment that will be used in the job. This starts first with the building systems that will be used and the equipment required to use that system. The materials sometimes offer savings opportunities, and the contractor will also evaluate if there are any LEED or sustainable design and construction options. 

Sustainable building has become very trendy in recent years, and most construction companies know clients are looking for opportunities to make their building more “green.” 

Value engineering 

In this preconstruction service, the contractor will attempt to determine if the scope of the work will fit within the client’s budget. The contractor will look for more areas where there are opportunities for cost savings based on experiences they have had with projects of a similar scope. They will project the life-cycle cost analysis of certain materials involved in the job and provide alternative solutions. 

Site analysis 

Here the contractor will visit the construction site and will look into the site’s feasibility. This means they will be checking to see if the site is a good fit for the requirements of the project. They will attempt to predict any future issues and costs that may be encountered. 

The contractor does this by creating an overall site master plan, which will include things like parking, traffic circulation, and even landscaping. They will also review the soil to ensure that the site has a suitable foundation. The contractor will even look into the existing infrastructure, capacity, and the proposed routing and location. All of this goes into whether or not the site will be suitable, or feasible, for the intended project. 

Getting proper approvals 

You might know that there are certain permissions required for most any construction project. What you might not realize is that you should actually acquire these permits and approvals during the preconstruction phase, not during actual construction. 

This will include getting the proper building permits and site plan approvals. There may be additional permits required with utility providers, and additional permits may be necessary for certain jobs. Your contractor should know which permits are required and get them all together before any construction begins. 

Review of design documents 

That schematic that was created earlier? It is just the roughest of the rough drafts. Your contractor will pore over this set of documents to make sure that it reflects what the client is asking for. Every detail and possible oversight must be considered so there aren’t high-priced contingencies during the bidding phase. 

Materials must be evaluated, the systems and product delivery in place can be reconsidered, areas of concern will be targeted, and more. The project won’t move forward until there is a consensus among the entire team that they have considered absolutely everything and gathered the opinions of everyone involved. 

Set a preliminary schedule 

A vital part of preconstruction information is creating an initial schedule. This preliminary schedule will identify key milestones and schedule everything in the entire project, from start to finish. This will help organize the project and set a clear outline for how it will make it to its conclusion. 

All design and construction activities will be clearly defined with start times and approval milestones. The project sequencing plan will be formed, and the subcontractor and client input will be given to finding a final schedule that works from everyone. This will be the baseline schedule from which the entire project will be run. 

Establishing a final budget 

The client will likely come to a preconstruction meeting with a budget already in mind, but it will take some thought to reach the actual project budget. Much of how the budget is created will depend upon cost control measures taken by the contractor. 

Prior to finalizing the design of the project, the contractor will take one more look at the scope and cost to see if there are any other ways they can cut costs. This might be through the cost models and conceptual estimating, soliciting subcontractor input to see if there have been any changes to market conditions, manage cash flow, and work through every other element of the preconstruction checklist to create a final budget. 

Procurement management 

Long lead items will also be considered at this phase. It can be easy to overlook lead times when procuring certain materials which may cause senseless delays during a project. 

Long lead items are those that are necessary to meet the project schedule, but which take a long time to deliver. By planning ahead for the lead time, there won’t be any delays caused by waiting for any items during the construction. 

Bid packaging 

Now comes the time to bid on all of the work that is needed for the project. While the bidding process will be open to other construction companies, the contractor who prepared the preconstruction plan will have a leg up as they are able to close loopholes and have intimate knowledge of the process. 

There will typically be a few qualified bidders and a detailed analysis will be given to developing a comparison baseline. The owner and architect should be involved in this evaluation process, and subcontracts will also be considered. The entire scope of work will be evaluated and a final schedule will be created once a bid is secured. 

Safety considerations 

Last but not least, preconstruction services should always include a focus on safety. Beyond adhering to local, state, and federal regulations, every person on site must be kept safe as well. Every worker and situation must be evaluated to make sure that all workers are safe at all times. 

A safety plan should be created specifically for this job, as it will have unique situations that no blanket safety procedure can cover. This goes for subcontractors and site visitors as well. 

Future of preconstruction services 

In the design-build world, early customer interaction is the key to a successful project. Customers want more visibility throughout every step in the process. Looking ahead, the future of design-build will focus on connecting each stage with the customer, providing real-time data and a clear understanding of the decisions being made. This collaborative journey between contractor and customer helps set the stage for a successful project by establishing clear expectations. 

Get more out of preconstruction 

Preconstruction services give contractors and owners the opportunity to evaluate the entire project and create a plan that will take it all the way through its conclusion: the post-construction phase. This is a major cost-saving opportunity that will allow a construction project to flow more smoothly. Much of the job will heavily rely on the decisions made during this initial planning stage.  

Looking to supercharge your preconstruction strategies? Download our helpful guide: The Digital Builder's Guide to Preconstruction Collaboration 

Jeff Gerardi

Jeff Gerardi is the general manager of preconstruction technology at Autodesk. In his role at Autodesk, Jeff oversees the vision and strategy of Autodesk’s preconstruction portfolio of products. He is involved in the development, marketing and driving the success of these products. Prior to Autodesk, Jeff founded ProEst Estimating which was acquired by Autodesk in late 2021. Under Jeff’s leadership, ProEst grew into a thriving, cutting edge SAAS technology firm that served thousands of contractors across the globe. Born into a family of business owners, Jeff has long had an entrepreneurial spirit which helped this company’s growth and success. Jeff is based in San Diego with his wife and three children. They are all avid athletes always looking for life’s next adventure.