Post-Construction Phase: Project Management Approach

by Alexander Fraser

Getting the post construction phase right is just as important as any in a project. You want to properly get the project set up to be turned over to the client.

This can be a lengthy documentation process but it saves the budget if you don’t need to return for warranty work.

First, let’s break down the different phases of construction.

What Are The Phases of Construction?

In the construction industry, you should understand that there’s three major phases to each project. The pre-construction phase, active construction, and the post-construction phase. The requirements for each phase vary so you need to be familiar with the tasks you need to carry out.

As the project manager (PM) you will be expected to manage this phase to close out the job and get your company paid. This is a normal part in the construction process, so it’s important to improve your process as you work on more projects.

When Does the Post-Construction Phase Begin?

You would be surprised, sometimes the post construction phase can begin a couple months before construction is completed. But, this typically is to gather some of the closeout submittals as required by the contract specs. Expect the general contractor to reach out directly to the PM to begin this process for closeout documents.

Then, as the work begins to dwindle down to the last remaining tasks, this is when the major parts of closeout begins. The last few items include pre-final & final inspection along with commissioning. You goal is to make sure these activities are carried out with minimal hiccups, they can delay finishing the job.

Post Construction Phase Featured Image

What Does Post Construction Involve?

Close Out Documents

As mentioned earlier, the general contractor will reach out to their subcontractors for closeout documents in the post-construction phase. Here are some of the primary closeout documents you need to send to the building owner.

Warranty Letters

When it comes to warranty, refer to your project specs on what is required. Typically, it’s a one year period of time after the project has reached substantial completion. I say refer to the specs because it will give you information on the duration, but one year is standard.

It would be in good faith of your construction company to provide the warranty as well for private commercial work. This gives the owner the confidence that your work will be free from defects.

This document will be a letter which outlines what is covered, warranty start date, and duration period. It should also explain how the contractor should be notified if warranty work is required. This will then be signed by the company executives to validate the agreement to cover the work.

If you need a template to use, click here.

As-Built Drawings

As-built drawings display how the work was actually installed in a project. This starts from shop drawings which get submitted for approval by the engineers. As the work is carried out, the field crew will mark up the drawings to be submitted to the drafters.

The drafters will take all the mark ups and notes from the field and update the shop drawings to match it. This updated version will then be considered the as-built. This needs to be completed for the entire project and turned over to the owner.

With accurate as-built drawings, this helps with future expansions should the property owner consider it. Upcoming contractors will need a document to reference, this helps with the bidding process.

Operation & Maintenance Documents

These documents let the property managers understand how the building equipment should function. It also informs them on the best practices for maintaining the equipment to ensure its longevity.

Depending on the job, some require that these documents be printed out, placed in a binder, and submitted. If you have a large complex piece of equipment, then expect this binder to fill up quick. I have seen more engineers move away from the hard copy requirements and push toward digital files instead.

Test Reports

This can be the results of any functional testing or startup activities that are conducted for equipment. These test reports can vary depending on your trade.

For mechanical contractors this can include point-to-point, performance verification testing, and TAB (testing, adjusting, and balancing) reports to name a few.

Civil contractors will be completely different. For example they need to submit proctor, compaction, and compression tests. To learn more about the test reports required, click here.

Basically, tests are conducted on a construction site because this is how the contractor implements quality control. The project team will know that the specs are met based on the test results. There’s no questions asked when the report comes in.

Commissioning

Commissioning can occur in various stages of a job, but it’s not always a requirement. The RFP or contract specifications will clarify this, make sure you’ve reviewed the contract documents. If not required for the scope of the project, then you can expect the engineer to conduct this themself.

This is just validating that the equipment installed in a new building meets the design requirements. The commissioning (Cx) agent will need to witness the different systems operation per design. They will then sign off on their checklist to be turned over to the owner.

Typically, the team members who were involved with the installation of a system need to be present for the commissioning. This can include your project managers, superintendents, subcontractors, construction manager, technicians, and design team.

If you’re working on a job that’s all new construction, you can bet that commissioning will be involved. The owner has put in all this time and money into design development and came up with a strategic plan for the project. They will definitely want to shell out a bit more to make sure they’re getting their return on investment.

Pre-Final & Final Inspections

FInal Inspection

The project is nearing completion, commissioning was completed but you can still require inspections. This will be done by the project engineers and owner. They will walk the construction site looking to identify any deficiencies in the work.

The deficiencies that the engineers find is considered a “punch list”. You would use this document as a tool to track the issue found. Sending them to the trades responsible and requiring correction to get paid their 10% retention.

You want to make sure your post-construction cleanup has been done for these inspections as well. Construction workers will do their best to perform their housekeeping duties but things can be missed. You will not be able to turn over a building to the occupants if it’s still dirty from construction activities.

Consideration for Post-Construction Cleaning

One thing I wanted to note here for post-construction cleaning that I noticed while in the field. On the large projects, the general contractor actually subcontracted out a cleaning company. This company provided continuous cleaning services throughout the entire project.

They primarily focused on rough interior cleaning, removing any dust that was generated by construction debris. This way, when it came to the end of the project, there wasn’t a ton of cleaning that needed to be done.

I thought this was a clever way of handling cleaning on a project. While you should enforce that the workers clean as well, added support can go a long way. Plus, if housekeeping is not maintained, then this becomes safety issues, with the main concern being tripping hazards.

Once the punch list is completed you bring the engineering team back for the final inspection. They will check the list and make sure all of the items have been completed. If they deem the work to be done then you can expect to be issued a certificate of substantial completion.

These are the steps you will need to take in order to have occupants move into the building. At which point you’ll receive a certificate of occupancy.

Project Turnover

Part of the post-construction stage involves turning over the keys of the building to the new occupants. This is considered your turnover.

Of course not every project is the same and you won’t actually have a set of keys to provide. Instead you pass the responsibility of the building either a new site or renovated back on the owner.

An important consideration before the turnover is completed is making sure the owner knows what was installed. This will typically be through owner trainings at the end of construction.

For example, when your mechanical contractor installs a new HVAC system there are controls for the equipment. During the training, a technician might show the facility staff how to change out the belt on a fan motor or an air filter. In addition to this, the controls contractor will need to inform them on the different sensors and devices included on the system.

If thorough training has been completed, you’re less likely to get a call out to the job site if they can’t get the equipment running. It could be as simple as pressing a button on a VFD to get motor going.

You construction contract will typically require that you comply to the project specs and training is usually required. The best construction companies know this activity is crucial in keeping your warrant costs down. Occupants might think their building systems are broken if they don’t know how to operate it.

The bulk of the work is now completed and your project’s success is becoming more apparent.

What is left in the job?

Final Billings

You need to get paid for your work, the final billings will provide you with the remaining contract costs. And if you’re wondering what else can you bill for, well there’s something called retention. This is typically 5% or 10% of the total contract amount and this is laid out in your contract.

Owners or contractors will withhold this money because it’s a way to guarantee that the subcontractor will finish their part. A good contractor will not complain about this requirement since they understand this is a construction industry standard.

After all the closeout documents are submitted, inspections have passed, and occupants have beneficial use, you can bill for retention.

Conclusion

Construction involves many different steps to complete a project, you need to understand each phases requirements. It will be the only way to excel as a project manager in this industry.

If you can successfully manage the job the owner may come directly to your company for future projects.

The key takeaways from this is that you can begin collecting closeout documents early to avoid delaying closing the job. Maintain and update your punch list so you can complete the final inspection without issues. Also, properly manage the turnover of the building to avoid issues once the new occupants move in.

Thank you for reading.

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