How can you prevent costly errors and rework during your construction projects? Let everyone know the plans and expectations before you begin by holding a preconstruction meeting at the beginning of every job. You may not eliminate problems, but you should minimize their number and severity.

    A preconstruction meeting isn’t just for the big construction and contracting companies. Before the first shovel digs, get all the players together to make sure you begin on the same page and progress as a team.

    Why You Need a Preconstruction Meeting

    Why do you need a meeting before starting a project similar to the ones your company has done dozens of times before? Because no two projects are alike, and no cookie-cutter approach works every time.

    A preconstruction meeting is your first, best chance to manage expectations and clarify project goals and maintenance.

    You don’t even have the same players: Owners, subcontractors, foremen, and others change from time to time. The job site and project won’t be exactly like the last one, either.

    A preconstruction meeting is your first, best chance to manage expectations and clarify project goals and maintenance. This way you’ll be able to identify potential conflicts and overly-vague specifications and get them resolved before you are forced into a change order or expensive rework.

    The Attendees

    Deciding who should attend the preconstruction meeting depends on the size of the job. A small contractor will have fewer attendees, with some wearing multiple hats. A mid-size contractor has more players, including a project manager and possibly a site admin, too. While many small and some mid-size contractors tend to skip preconstruction meetings, that’s a mistake. Even a small project can become expensive if it goes off the rails.

    Large contractors, on the other hand, tend to operate as an enterprise and already hold preconstruction meetings because they recognize the complexity of the work.

    A smaller contractor’s meeting may only require the owner, an estimator, a crew leader, and the crew members.

    A smaller contractor’s meeting may only require the owner, an estimator, a crew leader, and the crew members. The owner must be the one with decision-making authority. Aim to reduce or eliminate the “whisper game” where information is distributed through second, third, and fourth parties. The preconstruction meeting should help communication, not hinder it.

    The Agenda

    Create an agenda and get a copy to every attendee before the meeting. These agenda items are common to preconstruction meetings:

    • Chain of command
    • Quality control roles and responsibilities
    • Introduction to the owner
    • Document review
    • Q&A

    An agenda keeps the meeting on track and eliminates surprises.

    The Documents

    The contract is the most important document for everyone to understand. All team members should be able to review it before the meeting. The owner and contractor are the main players here, but the rest of the team benefits from reading the document as well.

    If there is any misunderstanding about a clause or term, now is the time to clear the air.

    Other documents everyone must review include the following:

    • Project schedule
    • Payment schedule
    • Working drawings and as-built plans
    • Job-site policies and procedures, especially regarding safety

    This is everyone’s last look before work begins. You’ll have no time for side issues once the project is underway.

    The Discussion

    Besides the general discussion about the contract, schedules, and policies, there are other key areas to cover.

    • Who is responsible for quality control and assurance? What are their titles and individual responsibilities?
    • How will you solve problems? Who must be notified and when? Who has authority for various issues? What is your procedure?
    • Schedule regular QA/QC meetings to discuss project status and quality issues. Include meeting frequency, where they will be held, and who should attend.
    • Coordinate preparatory meetings for each phase of the project.
    • Establish quality expectations.

    The preconstruction meeting is a formal method of handing off work from the estimator to the field leader. Every point person receives the same information and has the opportunity to make remarks and clarify details. This way, the team can agree on performance goals and consider the best approach to optimize profit and productivity.

    Don’t assume everyone knows what needs to be done, even if you have worked with the same team dozens of times before. A preconstruction meeting ensures everyone at the starting line runs in the same direction.

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