From the world’s most magnificent structures to embankments that yield to modern day traffic ways, property owners use project management to organize complex builds that bring ideas to life. By following the project plan, contractors build structures in phases, beginning with project pre-planning and culminating in the erection of physical land features. For many years, construction firms documented tasks manually and with limited technology. Now, however, sweeping innovations promise to bring the construction trade up to speed with other technology savvy industries.
What Is Project Management in Construction?
As outlined by the Project Management Institute, project management is the coordination and monitoring of labor and resources for the duration of a project.  Although project management originated in the information technology field, any industry that undertakes complex initiatives uses the practice to manage resources. The construction industry applies project management to build structures for many purposes, such as:
- Agricultural production
- Public use
- Environmental sustainability
- Industrial manufacturing
- Institutional occupation
- Residential dwellings
Each build consists of many interrelated tasks. To keep the projects on track and on schedule, project managers leverage their communication skills, expertise and troubleshooting acumen.
Phase 1: Pre-project Conception and Decision-making
Construction projects start out as developers’ conceived visions or necessities.  During this phase, the property owner determines concept feasibility and chooses the best method to complete, or deliver, the structure. This process includes deciding whether to hire individual contractors and architects or a full service firm, as well as whether to pay a fixed price for what it cost to erect the structure.
If the property owner is not familiar with this process, they will hire a consultant to oversee the pre-project plans. While cost estimates emerge at this stage, it is important to note that it is impossible to develop a firm estimate until an engineer drafts the blueprints and itemizes all required resources.
Phase 2: Project Planning and Design
It is common practice to divide this phase into three stages. First, the project manager conducts a feasibility study to determine if the build fulfills the property owner’s vision within acceptable financial parameters.  Next, highly skilled engineers complete a diagram outlining how the project components interrelate and detailed blueprints of mechanical features, such as the landscape, structural, gas, electrical and plumbing components. Finally, the designer outlines legal items such as contracts, permits and zoning specifications. By the time the project planning and design phase ends, the property owner and consultant have completely outlined the project and are prepared to select a contractor and execute the build.
Phase 3: Estimating Cost of Labor, Materials and Equipment
With fully outlined specifications, the cost estimator calculates all project expenses.  The labor estimate includes contractor or union rates, taxes, benefits and potential overtime. Next, the estimator determines material costs based on current market rates, including delivery or pick up expenses and exchange rates for imported materials. Additionally, the estimator calculates indirect expenses, such as permit fees, temporary structures and administrative costs.
Phase 4: Selecting Contractors
Now that the property owner has completely outlined the project specifications, they select contractors through open bidding or by choosing from a handful of builders meeting specific criteria. If necessary, the owner or consultant will institute a pre-qualification process to screen out unqualified candidates.
Potential contractors review the build specifications to determine whether the job is profitable. If so, they research the best ways to complete the project phases and then prepare a proposal for the property owner. Finally, the owner will choose the winning bidder among contractors who submitted acceptable proposals.
Phase 5: Project Mobilization
Once the property owner chooses a contractor, the bid winner must complete several tasks before commencing with the project. They must outline their planned activities to secure instruments such as bonds, licenses and insurance and review the cost estimate to familiarize themselves with projected expenses for reference during ongoing construction. The contractor also determines work site layout details – such as delivery entrances, site security, temporary structure placements and materials and equipment storage and then begins the build.
Phase 6: Operation and Construction
This phase involves three broad processes, task tracking and management; resource allocation and control; and recordkeeping and communication. Task tracking and management falls under five basic classifications:
1. Cost monitoring
2. Quality control
3. Schedule performance
5. Worksite safety
The contractor begins the project by securing sufficient skilled labor, assigning tasks and making sure that enough material is on-site to begin work. Throughout the project, the contractor must document all progress, plan deviations and other relevant information.
Phase 7: Termination and Closure
Toward the end of the build, the contractor must complete several tasks before delivering the final project by notifying the property owner that the structure is ready for use. The contractor must complete all final clean up, finishing work, initial use preparations and inspections, as well as remove all temporary structures and relieve all labor and contractors from further responsibilities.
After completing these tasks, the contractor must prepare final documentation proving that the construction company has completed all agreed upon work and secured all licenses and permits for the project and structure before requesting final payment.
The contractor must also provide the property owner with blueprints outlining all changes from the original plan, available operational manuals and included building warranties. Finally, the contractor transfers this documentation to the owner’s administrative department and, if it is part of the agreement, trains staff members on how to operate and maintain the structure mechanical features.
A Long Awaited Evolution
A report published by the World Economic Forum states that now is an exciting time for the construction and engineering field, which has historically incorporated technological innovations slowly.  The fields have remained relatively unchanged over the last four decades. However, this inactivity is coming to an abrupt end. Technological innovations are emerging among many construction industry sectors.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) digitizes many construction processes using technologies such as digital sensors, intelligent machines, cellular devices and newly created software programs. Construction related firms are in the midst of propagating the innovations throughout the industry. To date, innovations have improved operational efficiency by 20-percent wherever construction enterprises have deployed the new technologies.
Civil engineers play a crucial role in engineering the structural solutions of tomorrow and plan, design, construct, and operate the infrastructure essential to our modern lives. As a student in the online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program, you can enhance your quantitative decision-making skills and learn how to justify managerial decisions with data. You will also explore the capabilities of modern management technologies and discover how to successfully leverage these tools to maximize efficiency in your projects and on your teams.