A Project Managers Take on the Pre-Construction Meeting

by Alexander Fraser

In construction, communication is key to having a successful project. Not only does this need to be with your team, but also the owners and their representatives. Before construction you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page, so you hold a pre-construction meeting.

What is a pre-construction meeting?

The preconstruction meeting is a time for you to meet with all the key players involved in the project. You will then discuss items like the construction schedule, site access, project constraints, and more. The idea is that everyone is in agreement before the work begin and this meeting is an excellent way to achieve that.

You will also hear the term “precon” thrown around for a preconstruction meeting. In this article, I will switch between the terms so you can get more familiar with construction lingo.

When should you hold a preconstruction meeting?

Technically, you could hold a precon meeting at any time, but there’s somethings you will need to think about. First, you don’t want to hold the meeting too early because people will likely forget what was discussed come construction. Second, you don’t want to do it too close to construction because if issues arise it could delay the start date.

For example, if you have finished reviewing your construction schedule but the owner does not agree with the start date. You decided to have the meeting only a couple weeks before construction starts. Now, you need to scramble to let your team know that the project will be delayed.

Project delays can be an issue to some who were relying on the work to keep their field crew busy. This is just one example on why it can be important to have the precon sooner before construction starts.

Now that you’ve scheduled your precon, you need to prepare for it. As the project manager you should expect to bring all the documentation needed for the meeting. You can also anticipate being responsible for leading this meeting, to help with that you’ll need to make an agenda.

How to prepare for the meeting

One key item in your preparation is to create a pre-construction meeting agenda. This will be your outline to guide you through the meeting, so it’s a good idea to have one prepared. In this next section I will cover what you should include for your agenda items.

The agenda is also a good way to gauge what type of documentation you will need to bring with you to the meeting. These items can include RFI/Submittals, construction schedule, and shop drawings to name a few.

Ok, let’s go over your agenda outline to lead you to your project’s success. If you would like a free Google docs template for an agenda click here.

For a Pre-Construction Meeting Template in pages, click here.

What to include in your agenda.

Introduction

First thing you should include in your agenda is the introductions. This will be a time for everyone in the meeting to announce their company and position. You can get a good idea of the attendees role in the project by doing this.

Laydown Area

The construction laydown area and what items are required on any jobsite. construction laydown area, laydown area, construction site necessities

The laydown area is a location onsite that is provided usually by the owner of the project to the contractor. This space can be used for material storage, parking, portable toilet staging, and trash bins. While this might seem like a little thing, it can make an impact on the project.

If the laydown area is not large enough to house your equipment and material, then this will impact your project financially. This also does not need to be in the construction site, sometimes it’s best placed in a nearby location that’s accessible. Work with the owner to determine to come to an agreement on the placement and space of the laydown.

Working Hours

This item might seem obvious to some but it’s a good to establish this during the meeting.

Normal working hours in construction is 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM, but it’s not always the best time for the customer. If your construction project is located in a residential area, the owner might request a start time of 8:00 AM. This way they don’t upset the neighbors and risk receiving complaints.

There’s other times where the work may impact the normal operations of the facility. If this is the case, you can expect a request to work during off hours. This can usually start anytime after 5:00 PM and end at 1:30 AM.

Typically in the RFP, there would be some mentions to the working hours of the project. Owners understand that there are laws which require companies to pay for working during off-hours. So, they include a working hours requirement so the contractor can account for it in their bid.

Jobsite Access

For any project, the one most basic thing is knowing how the construction workers will access the job site. This may just seem like a little thing, but it needs to be discussed. The owner might decide to provide you with the building keys or for high security buildings you’ll need an escort.

Here’s a real life example of why coordinating job access is important. While I was still a project engineer, my task was to get our team onto the job site. The job site was on a government air strip so it required an escort at all times.

When speaking with the construction manager on the governments side, there was some poor communication on my part. Our project team needed to set up the laydown area and the construction limits. So, when they arrived to the main gate, there was no escort to be found.

I had to scramble to get someone out there right away. It took over an hour to get the escort there to let the team in. The entire time they were just on standby burning a hole in the budget since they couldn’t work.

That day I got an earful from the project manager. Thankfully, our subcontractor didn’t back charge us for the time wasted. Since then, I’ve always made sure the site access is clearly defined and the construction team is informed as well.

Construction Schedule Review

This part of the meeting is probably the most critical, take your time to go over the schedule. You will be covering the construction process from start to finish. This is also a time to identify certain milestones along with major activities.

Major activities would be thing such as power outages, crane lifts, impact to HVAC, etc.. The owner needs to be aware of these types of tasks so they can prepare. If not, they could have some angry tenants wondering why their AC is broken.

This is one of the important documents that you’ll want to bring with you. Bring a physical copy to provide to the project members as it helps to have visual aids to reference.

Open Items

Items can be a term used vaguely in construction to refer to different tasks, documents, or potential issues. So, when I refer to open items, it could be an outstanding RFI that could impact the design.

What might happen is that the construction superintendent identifies an issue with the existing conditions. They relay their findings to the project manager, informing them that there’s an issue with the design drawings. This information is then written onto an RFI to provided to the design team.

Depending on the RFI, without a timely formal response this could result in construction delays. Honestly, having a meeting can be the best way to solve an issue if there’s any gray areas with the design. Just know that depending on the outcome of the RFI, this could result in change orders.

As a project manager you will need understand how to manage roadblocks such as outstanding RFIs. By coming up with solutions you prevent delays and keep the owner happy.

Quality Control

Quality control could be a big ticket item depending on the customer. If you’re doing a project for the federal government, they’re big on their quality control requirements.

For example, they require someone to be onsite at all time as the acting quality control manager. This person is a companies own inspector and they need to ensure all work complies to contract plans and specs. The government also requires that preparatory meetings are held before each new activity.

During the construction phase, quality controls is one of the best ways to satisfy the owner. But, each job will require a different level of quality control. Private jobs might not have nearly as many requirements as the federal government.

It doesn’t give you an excuse to neglect providing a quality product. You still need to follow building code, and for jobs that require a permit, schedule regular inspections. Quality control will fall on the contractor, and as the project manager you’ll be the first one they question on deficiencies.

Billings

Simply put, this is the opportunity to discuss when you will be submitting your invoices and the frequency. Typically, the billing will occur once a month and most contractors will try to bill toward the end of the month. Getting paid is the most important part, make sure the owner in agreement and sets their payment schedules.

You now have you precon meeting agenda! One other item you can think of adding would be the project closeout documents. While this is not critical to include, you might want to consider this on smaller projects.

Documents to Bring With You

So you properly prepare for the meeting here’s a list of items that you should make sure to bring with you.

  1. Construction Schedule
  2. Meeting Minutes/Sign-in Sheet
  3. Outstanding submittals/RFIs
  4. Project Shop Drawings or Contract Drawings
  5. Maps view of the proposed location for the laydown area

The meeting minutes is simply a sign-in sheet for all the attendees. This way you have a record of who was involved in the meeting. It’s a good resource to have if you get questioned on who was present for the precon.

You will want to bring at least one set of your shop drawings or contract drawings. When questions arise about the plans this will be a quick reference for everyone involved. If you need to view certain floor plans or details, having at least one set of drawings will help in this situation.

Who to include in the preconstruction meeting?

Here’s a list of the key players that should be involved in the precon.

  1. Project manager
  2. Owner/Owner Rep
  3. Construction Manager
  4. Superintendents
  5. Job Leaders/Foreman
  6. Building Managers (If Applicable)

The idea here is to include everyone that will play a role in the decisions and outcome of the project. With everyone present in the meeting, it’s easier to get everyone onboard with the project plan. This will be a major benefit when it comes to coordination in the job.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve gained a good understanding on the purpose of a preconstruction meeting. The key takeaway from this article is the meeting serves to get everyone to agree with the plan for construction. If you don’t establish this before construction starts, you will have a hard time with your project.

Thank you for reading.

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