Understanding the Project Life Cycle in Construction Management

Category: Construction | By Cristina Johnson | 15 minute read | Updated Jan 17, 2023
Understanding the Project Life Cycle in Construction Management

Construction projects have many steps and phases and, regardless of the project size and scope, these phases will be the same. So whether you’re building a deck for a swimming pool, or a multi-million-dollar facility, project life cycle in construction management will be the same.

Construction Management Vs. Project Management

Construction managers and project managers are both instrumental parts of any construction project, but their roles within the projects are different.

Project managers are responsible for overseeing the project from start to finish, including the planning, coordinating, and control of the project. They interact with different stakeholders such as contractors, subcontractors, builders, architects, vendors, and clients. 

Project managers are also responsible for construction site management and ensuring the things organized by the construction manager are done the way they’re supposed to be done. They are in charge of anything construction-related whereas the construction manager is responsible for the project within the organization.

Project managers have to stay on top of the supply chain for their projects and ensure all assets are properly used. They often use construction project management software to keep their projects organized and to keep everyone updated on the status of the project.

Construction managers are responsible for managing construction projects from within the organization, rather than on-site. They are in charge of things project managers don’t do, such as keeping records organized and ensuring the project manager has everything they need to get their jobs done efficiently and within budget.

What is the Construction Project Life Cycle?

The project life cycle in construction is the logical order of steps taken from the beginning to the end of a construction project. While the length of the project will vary depending on the size and scope, the life cycle will be the same, with the same stages involved.

Without a proper and solid understanding of a construction project life cycle, project managers will not be able to adequately perform their jobs on time and within budget. A construction project lifecycle helps construction and project managers stay organized and informed and helps ensure they have the people, materials, equipment, and supplies they need at the right times throughout the project.

Key Phases of the Project Life Cycle in Construction Management

With construction projects broken up into these logical phases, it makes it easier for project managers to do their jobs more efficiently.

Phases of the Project Life Cycle in Construction Management

1. Initiation

The initiation stage of construction projects involves putting together a team of trusted individuals who can determine if the project is worth doing. This is done either via a feasibility study or a business case document.

A feasibility study is used to determine if the project is viable. It analyzes information such as the market demand, cost, scope, financials, and other aspects of the project, so the team can decide if it’s worthwhile to move forward with it. Experts suggest a feasibility study has these sections:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of product or service
  • Technology considerations
  • Product or service marketplace
  • Identification of specific market
  • Marketing strategy
  • Organization structure
  • Schedule
  • Financial projections

Feasibility studies will be unique based on the project and the organizations and individuals involved in it.

A business case document is a formal document that essentially presents a case for the project. It will include several components that explain how the project will benefit the decision-makers of it. It has an executive summary and provides problems that might occur and solutions to those problems. The key elements of a business case include:

  • Executive summary
  • Mission statement
  • Project definition
  • Goals and objectives
  • Project scope
  • Background information
  • Success criteria
  • Project plan
  • Project budget
  • Project schedule
  • Project governance
  • Communication plans
  • Milestones
  • Financial appraisal
  • Market assessment
  • Competitor analysis
  • SWOT analysis
  • Marketing strategy
  • Risk assessment

These documents help stakeholders make informed decisions about whether the project will be in their best interests.

2. Planning 

No project can be completed without a solid plan, and the planning stage is when this happens. The Project manager will meet with key players such as architects and subcontractors, and develop a plan for how the project will proceed and be accomplished.

The project manager will usually use project management software to provide cost estimates for things like materials, equipment, labor, etc., and coordinate activities, tasks, and the budget for the project. 

They will provide documentation that shows the plan, provides quality targets, assurances, and control measures, as well as an acceptance plan, listing the criteria for customer acceptance. Once accepted, the project moves to the next phase.

3. Execution 

This is when the implementation of the project planning begins. This is where the project manager will spend most of his time on the project site, ensuring things are being done properly and within budget and reporting regularly to stakeholders. Milestones are monitored and reported, and communication is critical during this phase.

Status reports are provided based on the project plan, and every step should be inspected for quality and to ensure it measures up to the expectations as outlined in the acceptance criteria.

Once the project is completed based on the plan, the next phase begins.

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4. Performance and Monitoring

While this is considered the fourth phase of a project life cycle in construction, it actually happens throughout the execution phase, as well. Just as each milestone is reviewed for quality and approval, the overall project will now be monitored for performance and quality.

5. Closure

The final phase in the construction project life cycle is very important because it allows everyone to evaluate, document, and learn from the project. They can determine the challenges they experienced and the ways they can use what they learned to improve in the future.

The project manager may hold a meeting to go over project successes and failures and to announce the closing of the project. From there, they will create a final project budget and report to close out the project officially.

Project managers, stakeholders, and workers can use the information from the project to take into future projects. For example, having all the data on labor hours and costs, makes it easier to make more accurate bids on similar projects in the future.

Manage Your Project Life Cycle in Construction More Easily

Clearly, construction projects have a lot going on, and it is challenging to keep track of every aspect of one, even if it’s not a large project. However, having a clear understanding of the project life cycle will help contractors stay organized and informed. To help you start getting organized on the worksite, we have created a Construction Project Checklist That Will Help You Succeed, that you can download for free, to use on your next construction project.

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