When we see construction, it is very clear that a project is under way. However, there are several phases that our project managers, architects, engineers, designers, and contractors have busily undertaken well before construction begins. These preliminary phases, as well as the construction and closeout phases, are explained below.
In this phase, the owner (District) has contracted for an architect/engineer to evaluate the owner's desired outcomes, start roughing out the project scope, and address areas of concern or issues. From these discussions, the project is further defined and a preliminary, schematic design is developed. This pre-design process becomes the starting point for the more formal project design in the following phase.
The design phase involves all the project staff, such as the architects/engineers, designers, project manager, and owner, to formalize the design document and project scope. For major renovations, this phase can include not only the structural design, but also interior design elements such as furniture, fixtures, paint and coverings. Discussions, which may also involve the building staff and community as applicable, typically revolve around identified needs, desired FFE, project budget, etc. The result is a refined, finalized design document, out of which come the construction plans and specifications. These construction documents provide the actual instructions for implementing the project and are changed only as needed due to unforeseen conditions or revised project scope.
During the land use review phase, project staff, usually the architects/engineers, submit a land use application to the local jurisdictional agency(ies) (e.g., city or county). This application is intended to demonstrate compliance with local land use laws and regulations; for example, water quality- or zoning-related requirements may be part of the land use review. The project cannot proceed until the land use application is approved.
In addition to land use approval, the owner also must obtain permits from the local jurisdictional agency(ies) before they can implement the project. To apply for and receive permits, the owner must show, through the construction documents, that the project complies with local building codes, including structural, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical codes as applicable to the project.
Once construction documents have been prepared and the land use approval has been obtained, the project is ready to go out for competitive bidding as needed. In this formal process, interested contractors may submit their bid to perform the project work. Bids are evaluated based on the cost quotes, qualifications of the bidder, ability to meet the schedule, and other factors. The successful bidder is awarded a contract that binds them to complete the project for the stated quote and schedule, with change orders approved as needed to compensate for unanticipated conditions and/or revised project scope.
In the pre-construction phase, the successful bidder presents proof of insurance and compliance with bonding requirements. The contract between the owner and the successful bidder is approved and signed by both parties. Depending on the cost of the project, the contract also may require pre-approval by the Board before final signatures. Project management staff will work with the contractor to discuss the project and ensure everyone understands the scope, requirements and schedule before commencing construction.
This is the most visible phase of the project. The contractor will implement the project according to the construction documents, project scope and schedule, under the supervision of the project manager. Together, they will work to ensure safety on the project site, compliance with regulations, and, ideally, timely and thorough completion. Change orders to the contract (i.e., costs, time) are issued as needed to address changes in project conditions or scope.
Once the project is completed and commissioned (making sure everything works the way it should), the contract can begin to be closed out. This includes a punch list of completed items and/or deficiencies that need to be remedied before final payment can be issued. If all parties agree on completion, the contract can be considered closed and the final payment issued.