What Is Construction Planning? The Steps for Success

Construction planning is the first step in integrating all the project activities within a given time frame and budget. It is the stage where the project team chooses the action plans, policies, and procedures to attain its goals. Therefore, a construction plan is the central pillar for monitoring and evaluating all project activities.


What is Preconstruction?

Construction planning identifies all activities necessary in a construction project, splitting them into smaller activities and organizing them logically, determining the required machinery, labor, and materials. A construction plan refers to the set of documents prepared during construction planning. These are the resources, activities, schedule, and budget.

People outside the construction industry might underestimate the necessity of a construction plan, but it is the most cost-effective way of satisfactorily completing a final project. The construction plan needs to be as detailed as possible, as it is the benchmark for deriving the cost estimate and timeline schedule for the project.

Why is construction planning important?

Interest rates are rising and the strength of the economy is being questioned. Now more than ever its important to plan every step and account for every dollar for a construction project to yield maximum profits.

We have generally described construction planning as the process that guides a project from idea to completion, but you might be wondering what the actual purpose of a construction plan is. Having a proper construction plan has some perks.

1. Ensures a project is on time and within budget

Proper construction planning dictates how and at what pace we should work. It defines the activities, sequencing, and methods that will ensure the project is completed on time and within budget.

2. Maximizes productivity and efficiency

A construction schedule helps you improve your productivity by incorporating quality control measures.

3. Better time allocation

A proper plan allows you to allocate time among the stakeholders appropriately. This helps the project stakeholders to plan their time well. Total control of your project reduces the probability of overruns and delays.

4. Improves safety and procurement

The procurement process in a project will be streamlined as you can schedule your purchases exactly when needed. Safety performance also improves as you can use the construction schedule to know the workers on-site and ensure they follow safety guidelines.

However, poor planning means the project team needs a clear direction of the client's expectations. The unclear definition of objectives leads to low productivity and output, causing people to work inefficiently. Poor construction planning also causes a project to overrun its budget. The initially set out budget will not be enough to cover the project’s plan.

Who is involved in construction planning?

Critical parties are involved in construction planning, as we will discuss below.

Client and financer

The client and financer are usually the same parties, but their roles are distinct. The client is the final user, while the financer sponsors the project. When the client and financer are two separate parties, the financer has the prerogative to make and approve changes in a project.


This is the general term for people or firms under contractual obligation to provide services on a project. For most projects, there is one principal general contractor, with subcontractors working under supervision.


These are the parties responsible for providing direction and specialized knowledge in the planning and design of a project. Consultants are familiar with commercial projects as clients engage them for their expertise in specific knowledge areas.


Suppliers sell the materials and services needed in a project.

Engineers and architects

The architects develop the project’s conceptual design, whereas the engineers ensure the plan works. The engineer’s role is to ensure the designs are workable and structurally sound. The architect also focuses on permits and project details.

Stages of construction planning

Construction planning is a daunting process, especially for a large project. However, for small projects, the contractor can work without a construction plan.

The construction planning process is an enormous undertaking, as discussed below.

1. Outline key components of the project

The first step is to identify the key components and tasks and break them into subtasks to give a granular view of the construction process’s direction. Explaining the plan to the stakeholders leads to commitment and solid bids, which are crucial parts of the project plan.

2. Activity sequencing

This may seem like a mundane task, but improper activity sequencing leads to project delays and loss of hours in labor.

3. Duration

The project manager must estimate the period it will take to complete a project. This is important in cost estimation and improving the efficiency of a project.

4. Resource planning

Creating a comprehensive breakdown of the resources needed for a project and assessing the budget and other considerations, such as storage, is necessary.

5. Create a schedule and budget

After estimating costs and resource requirements, you should create a budget and a schedule to procure and execute activities.

6. Identify construction permissions

You need to identify what you need to do to get approval so that your project adheres to municipal codes.

7. Select the project team

During construction planning, you must make up a project team responsible for executing the plan.

Construction planning techniques

As much as we try to stay organized in construction, construction planning is one of a project's biggest challenges.

There are differences, and the proper technique can spell the success or doom of a project. This, of course, leads to the obvious question: Which construction planning technique should I use?

There is no correct answer, as each strategy has its pros and cons. Below, we will discuss some of the best construction planning techniques.

Critical Path Method (CPM)

The Critical Path Method is the most used in construction planning. It is called the critical path because it calculates the minimum time needed for an activity by computing possible start and finish times. Graphs best illustrate the critical path and encircle each activity with its details. Arrows are then used to calculate the critical path. This planning technique is crucial as it creates a planning schedule for the construction team and establishes a basis for tracking activities during construction.

Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)

Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) is a construction planning technique that calculates the time needed to finish a project realistically. PERT is similar to the critical path method as we use it to estimate the time one needs for a project. However, PERT has three different time estimates. These are:-

  • The shortest probable time a task will take
  •  The likely time a job will take
  • The longest possible time a job might take

PERT is calculated from back to front as the end date is fixed, but the contractor might have front-end flexibility.

Line of Balance (LOB)

The Line of Balance is a planning technique employed where a project has blocks of repetitive work such as pipelines, tunnels, roads, and rail. It collects and measures information concerning completion, cost, and time. It shows a project's status, timing, background, and phasing. It compares actual progress in a project and forecasts future performance.

Q Scheduling

This is also known as quantitative or queue scheduling. It uses a bar chart format to show the materials used in different locations and times during a project. This type of planning helps workers manage and know the materials they need and when. Therefore, they can adequately use materials in sequence, avoiding disrupting the work and simultaneously tracking the budget.

Resource-Oriented Scheduling

This construction planning method focuses on the project’s resources and prioritizes the best way of using those resources. Resource-oriented scheduling considers the resources needed before and assigns the use efficiently throughout a project’s lifetime. The resources might be machinery, labor, space, or anything else in limited supply but desirable to project teams.

Last Planner System® (LPS)

This is a construction planning technique designed to produce a predictable workflow in the design, construction, and commissioning of projects. It is not a tool but works well with other critical path methods. The last planner method creates a bridge between the project teams that will execute and run the construction process. By doing this, they can identify the obstacles beforehand and eliminate them.

Gantt Chart

The Gantt Chart, too, is not a technique but a scheduling tool. It is a chart used by stakeholders to assess the level of dependency between activities.

Therefore, it helps the stakeholders identify the duration of activities and their critical paths. The Gantt chart includes the start and end dates of activities and a summary of activities in a project. However, it lacks the complexity of approaches that have the resources and materials needed to complete a task. Gantt Charts are critical in creating hierarchy in projects by showing which projects need immediate attention and which ones can follow later.

How to make a construction plan

Every construction project is unique. Construction projects are temporary and linear but follow the same working style. The different modes of communication present varying expectations. A strategic plan becomes increasingly important when dealing with a team that has temporarily come together to complete a project.

Below are the steps that are undertaken to make a construction plan.

The initiation

This is the first step, where we assess the idea and feasibility of the project. This is the conceptual stage, where we identify the project's objectives.

Work tasks

The next step in planning is outlining the activities necessary to complete a project. These activities are then divided into sub-activities for a granular project view.

Material resources

The material resources vary depending on a project’s location and scope. To accurately measure material resources, the project manager needs to compensate for factors such as wastage and spillage. A final contingency rate is added to the material resources to avoid shortages during construction.

Labor resources

Labor estimation is a challenging part of resource planning. A labor shortfall is harder to cope with than an equipment shortfall. Therefore, you ideally need the correct number of people with the right skills at the right time to avoid labor fluctuations. After estimating the material and labor resources required, the next step is activity sequencing. In assessing labor resources, you must also decide on the team and define who will lead and execute the plans.

Cost estimation

After computing all the resources needed, the next step is cost estimation. Cost estimation estimates all the resources necessary for the project and calculates the total budget. When the project is in motion, the cost estimates are used to assess whether the project is within budget. If the initial cost estimate is too high, the stakeholders can decide to scale down on the project and fit what they can afford.

Sequence and scheduling

The project manager must determine the order in which the activities must be completed. This may seem like a small task, but it is essential. Improper activity sequencing leads to wasted resources and costly project delays.

As you can see above, the construction planning process is complex, but it does not have to be overly complicated. You can map out everything, such as tasks and due dates, and organize them using powerful tools such as the Gantt Chart.


A construction plan keeps all project stakeholders in the loop from preconstruction to project closeout. You can therefore make better-informed decisions that land your projects on time and budget.

Using construction techniques such as the critical path method helps you plan, capture, and manage your resources, allowing your team to work effectively. A construction plan will give you real-time visibility into your project’s progress. Clarity in the construction plan makes it easy to accomplish much of the project’s work swiftly.

Looking to supercharge your earliest planning processes? 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.