Building construction is a complex, significant, and rewarding process. It begins with an idea and culminates in a structure that may serve its occupants for several decades, even centuries. Like the manufacturing of products, building construction requires an ordered and planned assembly of materials. It is, however, far more complicated than product manufacturing. Buildings are assembled outdoors on all types of sites and are subject to all kinds of weather. Additionally, even a modest-sized building must satisfy many performance criteria and legal constraints, requires an immense variety of materials, and involves a large network of design and production firms. It is further complicated by the fact that no two buildings are truly identical; each one must be custom-built to serve a unique function and respond to the uniqueness of its context and the preferences of its owner, user, and occupant.
The process by which a building project is delivered to its owner may be divided into the following five phases, referred to as the project delivery phases. Although there is usually some overlap between adjacent phases, they generally follow the order listed below:
- Predesign phase
- Design phase
- Preconstruction phase
- Construction phase
- Postconstruction phase
1. PREDESIGN PHASE
During the predesign phase (also called the planning phase), the project is defined in terms of its function, purpose, scope, size, and economics. It is the most crucial of all the five phases, as the success or failure of the project may depend on how well this phase is defined and managed.
2. DESIGN PHASE
The design phase begins after the selection of the architect. Because the architect (usually a firm) may have limited capabilities for handling the broad range of building-design activities, several different, more specialized consultants are usually required, depending on the size and scope of the project. In most projects, the design team consists of the architect, civil and structural consultants, and mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire-protection (MEPF) consultants.
In most building projects, the design phase consists of three stages:
- Schematic design stage
- Design development stage
- Construction documents stage
The schematic design gives graphic shape to the owner’s program. It is an overall design concept that illustrates the key ideas of the design solution.
Once the schematic design is approved by the owner, the process of designing the building in greater detail begins. During this stage, the schematic design is developed further— hence the term design development stage.
The purpose of the construction documents stage is to prepare all documents required by the contractor to construct the building. During this stage, the engineering consultants and architect collaborate intensively to work out the “nuts and bolts” of the building and develop the required documentation, referred to as construction documents. Each consultant advises the architect, but they also collaborate with each other (generally through the architect) so that the work of one consultant agrees with that of the others.
3. PRECONSTRUCTION PHASE
The preconstruction phase generally begins after the construction drawings and specifications have been completed and culminates in the selection of the construction team. The construction of even a small building involves so many specialized skills and trades that the work cannot normally be undertaken by a single construction firm. Instead, the work is generally done by a team consisting of the general contractor and a number of speciality subcontractors. Thus, a project may have roofing; window and curtain wall; and heating, plumbing, ventilation, and air-conditioning subcontractors, among others, and so on, in addition to the general contractor. The general contractor’s own work may be limited only to the structural components of the building—basements and foundations, load-bearing walls, reinforced concrete beams and columns, roof, floor slabs, and other components— with all the remaining work subcontracted.
4. CONSTRUCTION PHASE
Once the general contractor has been selected and the contract awarded, the construction work begins. The construction drawings and the specifications should provide a fairly detailed delineation of the building.
Medousa Developers has its own inspection process to ensure that the work of all subcontractors is progressing as indicated in the contract documents and that the work meets the standards of quality and workmanship. Additional quality control is required by the contract through the use of independent testing laboratories.
The observational role still allows the architects to determine that their drawings and specifications are transformed to reality just as they had conceived. It also provides sufficient safeguard against the errors caused by the contractors’ misinterpretation of contract documents in the absence of the architects’ clarification and interpretation.
5. POSTCONSTRUCTION (PROJECT CLOSEOUT) PHASE
Once the project is sufficiently complete, the contractor will request the architect to conduct a substantial completion inspection to confirm that the work is complete in most respects. By doing so, the contractor implies that the work is complete enough for the owner to occupy the facility and start using it, notwithstanding the fact that there might be cosmetic and minor items yet to be completed.