Pre-construction activities: what makes a successful project

pre-construction activities (floor plan discussion)

Pre-construction activities: what makes a successful project

8min read
by Olesia Chikunova, ADU Specialist.

Everyone wants their construction project to be completed as soon as possible. It does not matter what size of a house you are building – a 500 square foot ADU, a 120 square foot accessory structure or 4,500 square foot primary dwelling.

No one wants to live on a job site longer than necessary.

There’s only one item more important to your project schedule than finding a reliable construction partner: pre-construction activities. This essential phase lays the groundwork for the project and ensures its success. So, before you break the ground with bulldozers and front loaders, we recommend investing time and money into the pre-construction phase for outstanding results!

This is the only phase in a construction project where you will be investing more time than money!

Keep reading to learn everything about this crucial process, from its definition to a detailed guide on its activities.

It is easy to overlook pre-construction activities. It is boring. Often unfamiliar and hard to understand. However, the success of the entire project hangs on this preliminary work.

Cost estimation is only possible with a detailed project’s scope.

The project team needs to study all construction documents and eliminate potential problems. If cost estimates run too high, now is the best time for value engineering. Before construction. Not during construction.

pre-construction activities (discussion)

The Pre-Construction Phase: What Is It?

As the name suggests, the pre-construction activities phase includes everything that goes on from the beginning of the project to the first day of construction. It provides you with preliminary planning, engineering services, and a strategic plan for the project. A formal approach to the cost, scope, and schedule is also devised. Additionally, the process includes steps like:

  1. Refining the design of the home with your design team
  2. Troubleshooting potential construction problems with your general contractor
  3. Working out the initial budget
  4. Acquiring the necessary permits
  5. Procuring building materials with long lead times

In residential construction, the property owners usually find themselves in the shoes of the project owner.

No one is more interested than you to ensure the construction costs are controlled.

If this is your first time building a house, big or small, spend more time on the project’s initial phase. Order necessary materials before the start of a construction project. We are all used to overnight deliveries by now. But we have also witnessed supply chain disruptions. Imagine waiting for the final inspection and moving in because your vanity has been delayed by 3 months. (You can only pass the final inspection showing a working bathroom faucet.)

In the pre-construction phase, the entire team comes together to double-check that everyone is on the same page and shares the same vision. Effective communication between a homeowner, a project manager, an engineering team, city officials, and the rest of the project team ensures the process is on time and under control. 

In a nutshell, pre-construction activities are the foundation of a home that guarantees stability and success for the project. You can consider hiring professional pre-construction services for this phase of the project. The charges for these would vary with the job type, location, and project scope. What makes the investment worthwhile is that these services will save you from more expensive regrets, like not being confident about the contractor’s abilities or realizing the project idea is too big for the available space after the actual work has started (yikes).

What Makes A Successful Construction Project?

A successful construction project consists of multiple aspects. Still, there’s no denying that the pre-construction activities are the most essential. The activities during this process guarantee that your expectations are satisfied and the project is completed within the decided budget and schedule — but how exactly does this work? 

The pre-construction activities define the project scope and goals while considering critical factors. These include the available finances, risk assessment, soil condition, and resource allocation. What’s more, it takes into account regulatory compliance, environmental responsibility, and supplier and vendor relationships. 

This is also the time to get feedback from your more experienced friends and family. Before you finalize design, not after.

What Are the Pre-Construction Activities?

The activities of the pre-construction phase are not necessarily done on-site. Still, they require some collaborative link to bind together the entire team. Having the right software can help connect all the departments involved.

Project Scope 

Before hopping on to anything else, the most critical aspect is to determine the project’s scope. The project scope precisely defines what the project is (a primary building, an accessory dwelling unit, an accessory structure), the lot size and structure, the limitations associated with the project, and the objectives required for the project’s success. A more detailed scope will ensure clarity over the deliverables. 

Additionally, it helps set expectations with the project scope. It is the contractor’s responsibility to give the idea a shape that makes it more appropriate while bringing the final outcome close to the client’s expectations. 

A lot of questions need to be answered. Every answer influences the bottom line. Your pre-construction team should help you decide on what is best for your project.

Condition Analysis 

Effective decision-making and risk management greatly rely on one aspect: analyzing the conditions and constraints affecting the construction process. This includes a site evaluation: the soil type, geology, slope, and environmental conditions. 

Similarly, regulatory and permit requirements around building codes and regulations are essential considerations. These include height restrictions and floor area limitations. The conditional analysis also views the state of utilities to determine utility services’ status, condition, and availability. Doing so makes sure all resources meet the relevant laws and regulations. 

Tip— If you’re working on a project that isn’t beginning from the ground up, a condition analysis will help you understand if the structure can do well with a major renovation (or if a complete replacement is required). Do not skip due diligence. 

checking the plans

Cost Estimating 

Setting a budget in the pre-construction phase gives homeowners an accurate idea of what they can expect to spend. Contractors use multiple strategies to establish an estimate, such as:

  1. Referring to past projects with similar requirements
  2. Receiving quotes from material suppliers
  3. Allotting finances to the legal costs and contractor fees

Clients can then decide the quality of materials that can be used and the luxe features that can be included in the final design.

Scheduling & Phasing 

Scheduling calls for the team to come together and assign a particular timeline to each task. The contractors then contact the subcontractors to confirm they can complete the allotted jobs on time. 

The construction schedule should also include inspection and permitting to account for unpredictable delays down the lane. Accurate schedules are rare because so many parties are involved. But the effort is worth it anyway. It gives involved parties a clear understanding of what lies on a critical path.

Constructability Review 

From environmental issues to regulatory problems, the person responsible for carrying out the pre-construction activities highlights and discusses any underlying problems that can cause obstructions during the process. Sometimes, design decisions clash with regulatory requirements. When talking through the potential issues, the contractor will also bring up solutions or reach an alternate agreement that keeps the project going. 

Every detail matters. Everything is interconnected. Size of studs drives door frames. Drywall parameters influence cabinet sizes. Countertop material drives installation costs. And the list goes on.

Project Design  

The pre-construction activities are over when the design is perfected, and design documentation is complete. Collaborating with architects and designers can help create a seamless architectural design with a functional layout and appearance — all while considering user requirements and maximizing space utilization. It is not just about floor plans.

Do you need help to select colors, tiles and countertops? You may need an interior designer to guide you. The selection in the shops is overwhelming, even if you are choosing something in the black and white color scheme.


This pre-construction activity should also include an engagement with structural engineers. This aims to design an efficient building structural system with high-quality materials with a load-bearing capacity and earthquake resistance. 

framing studs


Although most inspections occur during or after the construction, some need to be addressed during the pre-construction activities. Common types include a survey of the property’s condition, a geotechnical report, or an environmental impact analysis. Inspections for safety may also be reviewed here. However, be sure to talk to your municipality for an accurate inspection list. 

Bid Packaging

Multiple vendors and subcontractors will work on your project. We have at least a dozen subs working on any ADU project. On a primary building project, your pre-construction team will consist of a dozen consultants. When a realistic budget has been set, it is time to look for partners with the necessary specifications to meet the scope of work requirements. Get ready to send out a comprehensive bid package.

With more significant commercial projects, the construction manager invites bids from competing firms who submit their tenders. The owner and the manager then review the submissions and follow them up with interviews. Once a good fit is found, the contractor is hired. 


With residential projects, it often depends on the size of the project. New construction of a primary home or building a 300 sq ft ADU? The requirements for a construction company you need to hire will be different. 

However, common mistakes in the bidding process might lead to cost overruns. Viewing and understanding each error before diving into the process can help reduce the risk of ending up with loopholes that cause delays — and, potentially, disputes. 

  1. Incomplete project documentation can result in errors in the bids. The main culprit is inaccurate specifications/drawings.
  2. Lack of clarity in the bid documents will lead to assumptions on the contractor’s side. This can create unnecessary disputes down the lane.
  3. Providing short bid timeframes can result in rushed submissions and poor-quality candidates. 
  4. Failure to address questions can discourage qualified bidders from participating. 
  5. Neglecting the evaluation of all factors by, for example, selecting the lowest bid and compromising on experience and qualifications can drive your decision to a less-qualified bidder. 

The solution? Provide detailed project documentation and clearly communicate throughout the process. Additionally, set realistic bid timelines — and keep the process transparent by answering every query. 

This is how an ideal bidding process should look like:

auction bidding process

Benefits of Pre-Construction Activities

What makes the pre-construction phase a worthwhile investment? 

  • Gives a better foresight into the potential issues, saving you from costly errors that will result in dramatic cost overruns.
  • Improves stakeholder engagement, as the pre-construction process involves detailed communication within the entire team. This means you can expect a good relationship with every member and, as a result, a coherent process. 
  • Increased likelihood of a successful project. Paying attention to every aspect before the construction begins makes you more likely to plan a project without delays and legal disputes. This guarantees successful results.

Ironically, this planning process becomes a solid foundation for project success.


happy homeowners

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