By Peter Babajamu
August 30, 2022

In the construction world, where there is a massive influx of personnel (skilled and unskilled), professionals from the Engineering world, and across construction technology, there lies a responsibility for proper coordination. A General Contractor (GC) is responsible for managing financial resources, human resources (sub-contractors, trades, vendors), and time constraints to complete a project. As simple as this sounds, it is a complex chain of events broken down to the slightest activity possible to capture and account for all areas.

The first step required before construction could take place is the conceptualization of an idea. The client or owner has typically referred to, conceives an intention to improve their structure or/and infrastructure that will positively impact their business or way of life directly or indirectly. These ideas may include and are not limited to developing a new structure, expanding an existing structure, renovating a structure, procuring new facilities for infrastructure, etc. It takes a while to conceive and implement such ideas.

For an integrated project delivery (IPB), the owner generally seeks the services of a group or company of licensed consultants consisting of an Architect, a Structural Engineer, a Mechanical Engineer, and an Electrical Engineer. Depending on the gravity and nature of the job that is to take place, other consultants may be required. The consultants help prepare and translate the owner’s expectations into detailed documents. These documents include project specifications, design drawings, contracts, and standard codes related to each deliverable.

The first set of documents is not issued immediately for construction. Still, it is used as part of a tender process to allow the owner to employ the services of the victorious General Contractor (through a bid selection process). In addition, the first set of documents is required to obtain the necessary permits needed before the actual construction can be allowed to proceed.

From the General Contractor’s perspective, the first step after receiving an invitation to bid (Request for Proposal) is the preliminary phase, usually referred to as the Preconstruction phase. The Preconstruction phase is the design phase where the General Contractor studies and understand the initial set of construction documents, prepare a budget, and provide a detail on the building methodology, schedule, risk, safety techniques, logistics, human resources, etc. required to execute the project. There are meetings from time to time between the owner, consultants, and General Contractor in other to foster communication about the project. The meetings usually result in issuing addendums adding new information or removing previous information from the construction documents. The GC usually requires assessing the existing condition of the proposed job site to aid budgeting.

The preconstruction phase allows the owner to assess whether the project is constructible and helps to identify value engineering alternatives, green building options, and cost-saving options.

It also helps in the overall selection of the General Contractor showing the highest level of capability and not necessarily the cheapest.

The preconstruction phase can take as long as three months, depending on the size and scope of the job. Hence, the GC has a team that handles the requirements for this phase. The team typically consists of an estimator(s), procurement agent, site superintendent, a logistic coordinator and is headed by a preconstruction manager. The estimators are responsible for preparing the bill of engineering, management, and evaluation (BEME) or bill of quantity (BOQ) which provides a breakdown of the cost of materials, labor/services, and equipment for the project. The procurement agent handles negotiating and preparing the contracts that would be required in case the services of a vendor or subcontractor are required for additional budgetary information.

The site superintendent, in this case, represents the operations team. They provide information on the general requirements, general conditions considered, and the logistics that need to be put in place to achieve the overall goal. In addition, they prepare the schedule and identify lead times which can slow down the project.

The logistic coordinator is responsible for identifying and pricing priority equipment that dramatically impacts the project’s cost and time. Although they play a significant role in the construction phase, they are sometimes part of the preliminary phase.

The preconstruction manager organizes the team, represents the GC in meetings, and organizes the final bid document (bid submission form, bid information form, prequalification documents, assumptions, and clarification).

As soon as the bid document is submitted to the owner, the owner selects the General Contractor to execute the job based on several factors. Although it is typical and even a government requirement for public projects to select the lowest bid to remove bias, there is little freedom to consider additional factors.

Peter Babajamu is an Estimating Assistant with Canadian Turner Construction.


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