Timing plays an important role in many everyday processes, and construction is one of them. In fact, your construction project’s success or otherwise largely depends on the timing. Season drives most activities in the construction industry. Everyone wants to avoid breaking ground when it is winter or rainy. But there are exceptions, as you will later find out in this post.
The focus here is to help us understand, in detail, project scheduling. Therefore, we will be touching on the design process, including assembling a design team, permit processing and its effects on the project schedule, and how to design the ideal construction project timeline.
What Determines a Project’s Timing?
We can only answer this question if and when we know the ins and outs of project design. Below are the phases involved in the process of designing and building a project.
Pre-design: This is the stage where initial activities like regulatory research, project goals definition, and project team formation happen.
Schematic Design: This is the stage where you conceptualize and develop a schematic design of the process. You are required to produce the construction documents, including drawings and specifications showing the construction requirements in detail.
Permit Processing: You need to submit, process, and get the necessary regulatory approvals.
Contractor Selection: This is where you invite bids and negotiate the construction contract.
Construction: The actual on-site construction, including breaking ground, site activities, and getting an occupancy permit.
It is best to start working on large projects earlier. The same goes for projects with permit processing that needs extended planning reviews. Starting earlier – mid-to-late fall – allows you to break the ground close to the start of the following construction season – mid-April or early May.
If you are working on simpler projects like additions or exterior alterations, starting in the late fall is okay. Alternatively, you can wait well into winter and still not miss out on the construction season.
Suppose you are looking to break ground on a completely new house or take on more comprehensive projects like green-certified remodels and net-zero energy setups. In that case, you should start even much earlier – the summer or earlier in the year. You will need about a year for the designing, planning, approvals, and negotiations.
It is safe to start any time of the year for buildings without an exterior building envelope and are not affected by weather impacts. These include projects that do not affect the weather-tightness of the building, including kitchen remodels, bathroom remodels, or complete interior remodels.
Lastly, in situations where your timing is completely off track, you can start working on designing, obtaining permits, and contract negotiation while waiting for the rainy season to end. This way, you even have more time to do every other thing necessary before breaking ground. In addition, it makes the construction phase very easy.
When is the Right Time to Break Ground?
Irrespective of when you commence planning, you must break ground and start construction at the right time of the year. You shouldn’t begin additions that can threaten the exterior envelope during the rainy season; it may lead to severe problems. It is essential to make your house water-tight before the rainy season. So, start early on the design process by choosing your architect in time.
Article by HL Architects in Durham North East UK
That gives them more time and puts them under less pressure to create a design process than when you want to break ground during the rainy season. While the winter rains can come late – usually during mid-winter or January, doing the right things will put you in a safe zone. We advise that you study the traditional construction season of the area very well for some head starts.
Important Steps in the Construction Process
1. Assembling a team
You start by putting your team – the right team – together. Once you have chosen an architect, you can engage with other consultants such as structural engineers, civil engineers, surveyors, etc. Who you have on your team largely depends on your project type. You should also add a contractor to the team early enough to help with cost control and other essential aspects. You can trust your contractor to complete your team. But if you have no contractor in mind, your architects will be in the best place to offer referrals.
2. The Design Process
The architect will hit the ground running by measuring your house. This stage of the design process is the Existing Conditions or As-Builts phase. This precedes the actual design or the Conceptual Design Phase, where the architect works on the building flow, light admission, massing, and connection to nature. The conceptual design phase also includes the initial proportioning, composition, and materiality. You will be required to provide your feedback or criticism on the few conceptual designs the architecture offers. You must be honest about your thoughts on what you want to keep, remove, or adjust so that the design can move forward. Modifying the designs is easier at the early stages – the more progress made, the more difficult it is to effect changes.
When you have a single final design, then you can move on to the Schematic Design Phase. After this phase is the Design Development Phase and the Construction Documents Phases. The exact duration of the design process depends on the project specifics. For example, there may be six weeks between starting and contractor bidding in some cases and up to six months in others. Projects that require coastal zone approvals and similarly complicated projects can take up to 12-18 months or even more.
3. Regulatory Approval Process
There are two phases of the permit process: the Planning Approval and the Building Approval. The project specifics will determine if you need a different Planning Department review or not. For example, it may not be necessary for basic projects like a minor remodel. However, if you are doing even a basic remodel in the coastal zone or any other sensitive environment or visual corridor, you may need a separate Planning Department review. In that case, you may spend more time on the production. Your architect must be able to identify this potential early enough, so you can adjust your process and production schedule to fit.
After the approval of the Planning Department, you move to the Building Department review. This is where the authorities check if your project is in line with the building codes. This check may entail distributing your plan sets to the Environmental Health, Fire, Public Works, and other related departments. How long it takes to get a building approval depends on the project’s specifics and your jurisdiction. It could be instant or drag for up to six weeks to get the first round of comments. Your structural engineer, architect, and other members of your team will respond to these first-round comments as early as possible, after which you re-submit to the Building Department for another review. If the second review is final, you will be informed, and you can expect your permit to be issue.
4. Construction Contract
Once you have the drawings that are at the right completion level, your contractors are expected to create accurate fixed-price bids. This may take 3 to 4 weeks or even longer if it is a new house or complicated project, whether you are asking for a single bid from a contractor or bidding the project competitively. The next weeks will have you working on agreeing on a contract and signing it. However, you can do this with project design and documentation when you have complete drawings and specifications, provided you are in a negotiated situation with a contractor and not on competitive bidding.
5. Actual Construction
How much time you spend on construction is determined by the project. For example, you can do a kitchen replacement in three to six weeks or four to six months if it is an extensive remodel/addition. The variables that determine the duration include your contractor’s schedule (possible clashes with other projects on their calendar), how committed the subcontractors are to the project, and the season of the year (weather also affects construction schedule).
Scheduling construction is an art and science on its own. Only the contractor has the knowledge and experience to oversee this stage. This is why the construction schedule is also called the “Contractor’s Schedule.” Contractor schedules are made using a Gantt chart or similar scheduling software. It is best to have it in place way before actual construction; it aids planning and facilitates a more effective organization and management.