The Construction Process: An Overview

Post written by David Stewart.

The construction process has evolved over decades of problems occurring and people finding ways of preventing them.  The resulting traditional roles and responsibilities are recognized by reputable organizations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Associated General Contractors (AGC).

Here you have a basic run-through of the steps you will go through, start to finish. 

1.     Retain an Owner’s Representative

You will save a great deal of money and anxiety if you get yourself and owner’s rep before you do anything else. Having the impartial opinion of a professional versed in all areas of the construction process will make sure your interests are protected throughout the project and give you confidence that you are making the right decisions.

2.     Plan

Choose your architect, and get started on some some well-laid plans. 

The Architect: As the Owner, it’s your responsibility to define the project and specify the level of quality you are willing to pay for.  You’re probably not going to be able to do this yourself, of course.  That’s what architects and their sub-consultants are for- they prepare plans and specifications to specified detail. 

Plans and Specifications: A cornerstone philosophy in the construction industry is that the contracting community can rely on information contained in the plans and specificationsPlans and specifications must be

      a)   accurate - the actual condition of the site must be represented in the construction documents.

     b)   suitable for their intended use – the plans are not suitable if a contractor accurately follows the plans and specifications, yet fails to produce a finished project suitable for its intended purpose or satisfactory to the end user (if the building isn’t weather-tight, for example).

In the most successful projects, an owner’s representative, knowledgeable in matters of durability and contractor requirements, makes sure of the level of detail appropriate for the plans.  This way, the Owner knows that he or she is paying a fair price for a successful result.

Architects are traditionally the prime consultants and are tasked to recognize when sub-consultants must be retained to provide specialized services such as structural engineering, geotechnical engineering and mechanical/electrical design.

3.     Choose a Contract

Legally, construction projects are not required to have formal contracts, however, both AIA and AGC contracts are fair and do make completing a successful project (finished on time, under budget and to the Owner’s expectations and Contractor’s fees without claims or residual disputes) a great deal more likely.

Contracts are between two parties:

  • The Owner is required to provide plans and specifications that show the design to the level of detail that the contractor will need to complete the project. 
  • The Contractor and subcontractors must accurately construct the work specified in the plans.

Your Owner’s Rep will help you choose the right contract for you.  It’s important to get this step right to protect yourself from changes becoming very expensive.

4.     Bid

Now it’s time to get some contractors to build your project. This is done by submitting bid packages to the contracting community.  Contractors then tender quotations for the work and you chose who you want to go with.

It is important that the construction documents in the bid package clearly depict ALL work required for a project that is code compliant and that bids contain enough information to meet the Owner’s requirements and specified levels of quality.

This is because

a)    The contracting community has no discretionary authority with respect to completed construction details or material selections.   

b)    The general contractor uses plans and specifications to ensure each subcontractor has a clear understanding of their obligations under the contract.  If there is no reference to a weather resistive barrier, for example, it is then unlikely that this will get done, exposing the project to severe damage.

c)       To obtain the best possible price for the project, the general contractor must competitively bid work packages to the subcontracting community. If a subcontractor goes above and beyond the requirements of the bid documents, they will likely bid a higher price and will not be awarded the work.  If saddle flashings are not included in the details, it is unlikely that they will be installed, once again exposing the project to severe damage.

Once the plans have been finalised and contractors selected, construction can begin.

5.     Build

Reputable contractors will establish and maintain appropriate tools to manage their projects, such as CPM schedules, cost reports, change order procedures, submittal procedures and Request For Information (RFI) procedures

Most construction contracts make provision for the contractor to be paid for work completed on a regular and frequent (usually monthly) basis.  Your owner’s rep will ensure the amounts paid to the contractor accurately reflect the completed work.

Contracts must allow for changes once work has begun.  Thus, essential features of construction contracts include

  • The ability of the owner to make changes as the work progresses
  • Provisions for contractors to be paid a fair and appropriate amount of additional money for the changes. 
  • Similarly, the owner must have the ability to reduce the scope for a fair and appropriate deduction in the contract cost.

Once again, an experienced owner’s rep will protect the owner’s interests in the event of such changes. 


Circumstances will vary, but we hope you’ve found this brief introduction helpful.

For more information on the construction process and Owner’s Rep Services, get in touch with Stewart Consulting.

Photo credit: mugley / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Posted: Wed, 21 Nov 2012