Even before the COVID-19 pandemic turned almost every industry upside-down, construction numbers for 2020 and beyond were uncertain. According to the Fails Management Institute in early 2020, engineering and construction spending for the year was likely to exceed 2019 numbers by a meager 1%. Then the coronavirus hit, and everyone’s forecasts were quickly thrown out the window.
This uncertainty doesn’t mean you should hang up your construction management hat, though. Highways, office buildings, houses — all of the infrastructure that people need — are still necessary. Economic uncertainties, global pandemics, and shifting geo-political atmospheres don’t bring building completely to a halt.
They do, however, create a potentially more competitive or regulated construction environment. That means you’ll have to be ready to pivot within those environments to continue to meet client needs, all while protecting your returns at the same time.
This guide to construction management in 2021 looks at the common stages of construction management and how they work differently today as well as tips for staying safe in a COVID-19 era. It also provides information about how technology can help you stay competitive and profitable, even when economies might be uncertain.
What Are the Stages of Construction Management?
While construction management companies and professionals are already quite familiar with the stages of a construction project, we’ve covered each briefly below with a particular focus on understanding the challenges you might experience during each stage in 2021 and beyond.
1. Project Conception
What is it? Project conception is the client’s baby. At this stage, construction management firms may not even be involved yet, or might be working only on a consulting basis in order to provide feedback and advice. Clients might come up with requirements and goals for the project, discuss resources and budgets, and look for locations.
Potential challenges: Moving into 2021, economic and geopolitical uncertainties may be the biggest obstacle. Clients could be reluctant to leave the dreaming phase. They may be afraid to begin such projects when these kinds of uncertainties are part of the picture. Even those who are certain that they plan to move forward with the project may need to remain in conception stages longer than they otherwise might as they consider how to surmount the obstacles unique to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Design & Bidding
What is it? During this phase, the project design starts to take shape, and eventually there’s enough information that bidding can begin. This is where construction management teams get more involved. They might work as a go-between for clients and other contractors, such as architects.
Whether you’re managing the project for the client or you’re a project manager for a construction company, this is often where the work really begins.
Potential challenges: One of the biggest challenges in this part of the process in 2021 may be the need to conduct business remotely as often as possible. In the past, teams and clients could easily crowd around tables to consider designs. But today’s teams often work remotely due to both to a need to maximize resources and draw on talent outside of the regional pool as well as to prioritize the health and safety of everyone involved.
What is it? The winning bid is chosen, and the construction company goes to work putting together a team. This unit is composed of those in leadership roles, such as a contract administrator, project manager, and field engineer, as well as subcontractors and professionals who handle each part of the job.
Potential challenges: Resource management may be an obstacle in the near future. First, as businesses and investors move out of cautious growth modes, demands on construction resources may rise steeply. This transition can lead to teams and companies fighting over the same resources. At the same time, construction professionals may have made moves to other sectors during slowdowns, leaving fewer skilled workers and leaders available for new projects.
What is it? Once bids, teams, and plans are set, it’s time to obtain what’s required to get the job done. That can range from raw materials and equipment to laborers and the appropriate permits.
Potential challenges: Again, post-COVID resourcing challenges may create obstacles for procurement processes well into 2021. You may find that materials that were readily available pre-COVID are harder to come by or have wait times.
What is it? The visible work on the project gets done during this stage. Foundations are laid, walls are raised — and everything else that goes into completing the infrastructure or building is handled.
Potential challenges: Construction always comes with challenges. From managing the workforce to dealing with weather delays to keeping costs down, construction managers have their work cut out for them. One of the biggest challenges stepping into these processes in 2021 is the need to comply with all COVID-19 safety practices. You can follow our free guide for more info.
What is it? Construction projects wrap up with final inspections, owner occupancy, and closure in the form of invoices and payment.
Potential challenges: Possible future challenges for this phase of construction projects could include the need to comply with increasing and ever-changing regulations, particularly with respect to the environment.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our 2021 Guide to Construction Management for a closer look at best business practices for safety during the COVID-19 era.