What are the Stages of Construction Project Management?


Construction projects are a breed of their own. Each one is distinct, with different participants, varying conditions, and unique requirements. However, amidst these differences, the phases of a construction project are remarkably similar.

In general, these phases progress in a linear fashion along a timeline. Let us delve into the six primary phases of construction project management that are common to most project life cycles.

1. Initiating the project

The construction project's life cycle commences with its design. During this phase, the owner lays the foundation for constructing the project. However, there are instances where, after careful consideration, the owner may discover that the project is not feasible.

Creating a business case

Regardless of whether it is a towering office building or a modest housing project, owners must always establish a business case for their endeavor. In this part of the design phase, the owner envisions how the property will be utilized and the financial benefits associated with that use.

Conducting a feasibility analysis

The feasibility study serves to either convince the owner that the project is possible, highlight areas requiring adjustments or deem it unfeasible. During this stage of the design phase, the owner takes into account various variables, including land usage and construction costs, while refining the optimal approach.

Defining the project's boundaries

During the scoping phase, the project owner collaborates closely with architects, engineers, and occasionally contractors to determine the size and features of the project. The aim is to align the final outcome of the project with its intended use upon completion, while also considering future potential uses. In this phase, the design team creates all the necessary drawings and specifications for construction.

2. Acquiring the necessary resources

Once the project plans are finalized, the owner proceeds to the next phase. In this second stage of the construction project, the objective is to gather the team that will carry out the construction.

Choosing the most suitable approach

One crucial factor in any project is the chosen delivery method. In the past, owners mostly opted for the design-bid-build approach. However, nowadays, there is an increasing trend towards design-build and integrated project delivery methods. These collaborative approaches result in cost savings and improved project outcomes. The owner selects the delivery method that will best align with the project's objectives.

Selecting the participants

To engage project participants, the owner often invites contractors or construction managers to bid on the project. In many cases, corporate owners will extend an invitation to contractors to join their projects. This can involve contractors submitting competitive bids or collaborating with the owners to design and price the project. In both scenarios, the owners aim to achieve the best value for their investment while staying true to their original vision.

Awarding Contracts

The final step in the construction project phase is awarding contracts. The owner must carefully consider various factors when selecting a builder. Price is important, but the builder's reputation, ability to provide insurance and bonding for the project, and their experience with similar projects also play a role in the decision-making process.

3. Project Pre-construction

Once contracts are signed, the general contractor or construction manager begins working on the necessary details to initiate construction. They start by assembling the required workforce, often relying on subcontractors they already have a relationship. However, certain specialized aspects of the project may require them to seek out and collaborate with specialists. This phase involves a significant amount of time spent coordinating people, materials, and equipment, as well as meticulous planning.

Obtaining Permits

In areas where construction permits are not required, contractors are responsible for obtaining permits for various aspects of the project, including utility work and building code compliance.

Site Surveys

To ensure a clear understanding of the construction site, contractors refer to site surveys. These surveys often reveal additional conditions that were not initially outlined in the contract documents. This allows contractors to begin managing and documenting any unexpected surprises that may arise during the project.

Creating a Risk Management Plan

In order to protect both the owner and themselves, contractors are now required to have a formal risk management plan. This involves assessing all potential project risks and developing strategies to eliminate, control, or insure against them. These plans also help contractors anticipate and prevent any unforeseen costs that may arise from these risks.

Devising a Safety Plan

Safety is of utmost importance on construction sites, as it involves potential life and death situations. Therefore, contractors prioritize safety by creating separate plans to address safety risks, ensuring that it is given the attention it deserves.

Building work breakdown structures

To effectively organize and execute construction projects, contractors break them down into activities and tasks. Activities are the main components of the project, such as pouring the foundation, while tasks are the individual steps required to complete these activities.

Designing Project Schedule

The activities required for each task are outlined in the WBS, providing a clear roadmap from the start to the end of the project. It is the responsibility of project managers and schedulers to convert the WBS into a schedule that can be followed by work crews. This schedule includes milestones to track the project's progress.

Setting a Communication Plan

Additionally, contractors must establish a communications plan that aligns with the project's communication strategy. This plan outlines how necessary and time-sensitive communications will be conducted and includes measures of accountability.

4. Project execution

Once these preparations are complete, the project moves into the execution phase, where all previous work is validated.


Preconstruction meetings are held to ensure that all parties involved understand their roles and how they contribute to the larger project.

Procuring Resources

Finally, general contractors and specialty contractors procure the necessary resources for their respective tasks, including materials, parts, equipment, and labor management plans.

Starting activities

The project execution phase marks the commencement of physical work. Contractors transform 2D plans into 3D, bringing the project to life.

5. Project control

Controls are essential in construction projects to prevent them from veering off track. With numerous moving parts and variables, operating without controls is impractical.

Monitoring progress

During construction, this phase takes on utmost significance in project management. Without effective monitoring, it is easy to lose control of activities. Many project managers rely on web-based construction management software for real-time project information.

Tracking activities based on time objectives

Each construction schedule includes time limits for activities. Completing tasks ahead of schedule can disrupt the timeline just as much as falling behind. Therefore, project managers need to assess how well crews are adhering to the scheduled times.

Ensuring the quality of activities and tasks

Without quality checks, rework and change orders become a regular occurrence. Each task must meet the assigned quality standards to prevent subsequent tasks from suffering.

Modifying the schedule

As project managers analyze project timelines and quality aspects, sometimes adjustments to the schedule are necessary to align with the project's current trajectory.

Each party involved in a construction project has its budget to monitor. However, it is the responsibility of the general contractor or construction manager to oversee the overall project budget. If there are indications that the budget may be in jeopardy, the GC or CM must identify the cause promptly.

At the project's closure, there are several important aspects to address. First, the punch list must be completed. This list outlines all the issues that need to be resolved before the project can be officially closed. Each specialized crew focuses on addressing the items on the punch list that align with their expertise.

For projects involving buildings, another crucial aspect of closure is commissioning. This process ensures that all the equipment and systems within the building are functioning correctly.

Additionally, the budget must be closed out. This means that everyone involved can receive their final payments. If the owner and GC have withheld retainage, this amount is also due at this time.

The construction project phases serve as a framework for effective project planning. It is no coincidence that the early stages of a construction project involve more detailed planning than the later stages. Smart owners and contractors have recognized that investing time in thorough planning can prevent the need for extensive rework and costly mistakes. Therefore, the construction project phases are essential for well-executed projects.