Pre-project planning in construction for capital projects involves understanding requirements and developing strategies to commit resources and address risks that help improve the chances of a project’s success. During front-end planning (FEP) when expenditures are relatively low, it is easier to influence a project’s outcome as compared to during later stages when expenditures are more significant. Project owners need to be deeply invested in the pre-project planning process, as the level of planning efforts directly impacts the flow of the project.
Below, we detail how pre-project construction planning is used in projects and the key factors to consider during the process.
Key Considerations for Pre-Project Planning in Construction
The early stages of the capital project life cycle heavily influence a project’s outcome. By improving the cost and schedule predictability, determining risks and project viability, and reducing changes to project scope, pre-project planning can help achieve overarching business goals. It is important to note that pre-project planning in construction is a process that can be standardized to suit a project’s specific needs.
The following are some of the key factors that project owners need to consider.
Early Alignment Among Stakeholders
Pre-project planning is tied closely to project goals and objectives and requires establishing alignment among stakeholders early in the process. All stakeholders must agree with the main project objectives and priorities, and the business case must be clear and communicated efficiently to ensure that the project achieves the requirements. With an understanding of the requirements, the construction plan can be made with the business goals in mind. Common considerations that may affect constructability include:
- The required costs to meet business ROI.
- The operability of the existing facility during construction.
- Schedule requirements or constraints.
Feasibility is the process or stage in which a project is evaluated as a realistic option to achieve the business case at a cost that meets the required return on investment. Construction involvement at this stage is critical for real-world decision-making to determine if the project is feasible. Within the level of accuracy of the cost estimate, owners need to know whether the project can be built in the way it was estimated. Construction reviews will consider aspects such as geographic location, equipment access, material supply availability, labor availability, and technical assumptions made for the build estimate (since it has not been designed yet).
Construction Design Specifications, Methods, and Equipment
The most successful projects begin with the end in mind—in other words, understanding the final product and how it will be built. This will lead to better decision-making about the design process during front-end planning and the engineering phase.
Pre-project planning in construction should consider design specifications, the construction methods to be used, and the construction equipment required. Important decisions such as whether to stick build a project in the field versus pre-fabricating or modularizing should be made in the very beginning.
Similarly, identifying long-lead equipment and material that would take months or even longer for procurement is integral to scheduling engineering and construction during pre-project planning. Understanding the construction quality requirements is also important early in the planning phase to ensure the appropriate processes and personnel are in place.
Tasks such as heavy lift planning involving critical rotating pieces of equipment need to be reviewed for logistics and constructability. Damaged equipment can prove to be very expensive, leading to potential cost overruns. These aspects of pre-project planning in construction require several weeks of preparations and are defined during front-end planning as the project advances into the FEP 2 and FEP 3 stages. It’s also important to have effective communication between the engineering and construction teams and any vendors or subcontractors.
Construction requirements have the potential to be ignored during pre-project planning, and it is common for the engineering requirements to be the main focus. Oftentimes this is done to reduce hours. However, saving a few hours of engineering during the pre-project planning in construction can result in a significant increase in construction costs as well as delayed schedules.
Budget and Schedule
Cost and schedule are the two most important factors that can be significantly improved during pre-project planning in construction. According to the Construction Industry Institute, well-performed pre-project planning can reduce total project design and construction costs by as much as 20% and minimize the total project design and construction schedule by 39% against the authorized estimates.
Construction reviews by qualified construction personnel during front-end planning are critical to mitigating risks associated with project estimate development. Cost and schedule are usually very dependent on one another, so often a significant change or error in either of them often affects both. It is important to have detailed reviews early.
Using the EPC Approach for Pre-Project Planning in Construction
At H+M Industrial EPC, our in-house construction team emphasizes project planning and execution to avoid delayed schedules and cost overruns.
Our integrated team identifies challenges early and works cross-functionally to solve them. Effective pre-project planning allows us to guide a project from concept through startup, staying within estimated values at which projects are funded. By using the EPC approach to incorporate detailed pre-project planning in construction, we drive project success from the start.