Pre-construction meetings save contractors time and money. Even experienced contractors with experienced foreman and crew members will benefit from a pre-construction meeting.
Pre-construction meetings create an understanding of expectations from all parties to perform a contract (owner, contractor and related subcontractors). In doing so, they help eliminate surprises and costly errors on jobs, and facilitate communication throughout a project. Are pre-construction meetings only for commercial jobs? No, pre-construction meetings are a must for any contractor, big or small, and for any project regardless of size.
Pre-construction meetings for residential projects
Residential paver installation projects have their own unique set of considerations. The following is a discussion checklist for contractors and homeowners for an interlocking concrete pavement pre-construction meeting for residential projects:
• Discuss who will contact the local utility service to mark underground utilities. This is typically the responsibility of the contractor. If it is not part of your typical contract, make sure that is clearly understood by both parties.
• Who has the responsibility for locating and marking underground lawn and sprinkler lines? The utility service will generally not locate lawn irrigation pipes, so this is the time to work together to identify sprinkler lines that others have installed.
• Identify a location for the delivery of materials before the project starts. The contactor should work with the homeowner to identify an accessible area for the delivered pavers, crushed stone (aggregate) and bedding sand. Does the homeowner want to be present when materials are delivered to ensure access during construction? What is the most convenient access for the contractor’s equipment?
• Discuss the local municipality’s regulations regarding temporary street storage of pavement materials and who is responsible to obtain permits (if needed).
• Confirm paver patterns and colors with samples prior to installation so there are no surprises. Leaving agreed-upon paver samples is a great way to avoid problems.
• Confirm anticipated cuts and border applications in advance of the installation so that the overall look is clearly understood.
• If there are changes required that need a change order, ask who approves this (from both parties) and tell the homeowner what forms need to be completed.
• Discuss end-of-day clean-up after each work day.
• Ask the homeowner to keep all doors and windows closed during construction.
• Ask the homeowner to keep all pets and children away from the construction area.
• Discuss and set up a time, upon completion, to walk the job site for final project inspection, and tell the customer that is when the final payment is expected.
Make sure a pre-construction meeting takes place no less than two weeks before construction begins and be sure the following people are in attendance:
• The homeowner
• The person who sold the job (a salesperson, or company owner, as the case may be)
• The project superintendent or foreman
All decision makers should be present for every project-related meeting. Every pre-construction meeting serves two functions. First, review the scope of work and construction schedule portions of your contract to get questions answered. Second, discussing and arriving at a set of ground rules that balance the homeowner’s day-to-day quality-of-life requirements with the contractor’s need for access and freedom when working on a customer’s property. Take the time to discuss ground rules thoroughly. Your construction contract will address some of these issues under the General Conditions of Construction, but it is good to review exactly what the language in the contract means to both parties.
More than likely you have conflicting assumptions and expectations, so it’s much better to expose these now; otherwise, they will pop up unexpectedly, cause tempers to rise and slow construction. Talk about the following ground rules in your pre-construction management meeting and decide on as many as possible:
Ground Rules Agreement
1. What time will daily work begin and end?
2. Can work be scheduled on weekends?
3. If weekend work is an option, are there any special restrictions?
4. If there is an after-hours emergency, who does the homeowner call?
5. Who will you or the homeowner talk to about change orders? What is the best number to call?
6. To whom does the homeowner take day-to-day comments and suggestions?
7. When do you want the weekly homeowner meeting to occur? (Homeowners’ meetings bring the builder and homeowners together at regular intervals to address questions and review progress.)
8. Will any work areas need to be completely cleared by the homeowner? (Note: Most contractors will state in their contracts that they shall not be responsible for any valuables left in any area under construction. The possibility of accidents is too great.) Specify.
9. Where will workers store tools, equipment and materials?
10. Which outside area(s) will bear the brunt of construction activities and what protective measures can be taken?
11. Does any landscaping need to be moved or protected?
12. Is there any way to lessen the impact of construction?
13. If there are pets, where will they be kept during construction?
14. If there are children, what rules apply to them around the work site during working hours?
15. What dust-containment procedures will the contractor employ?
16. Is it okay to use outside power outlets and water spigots?
17. What kind of cleanup will take place at the end of each day?
18. What restrictions, if any, are there on you or your use of the homeowner’s bathroom?
19. Will there be a designated eating or smoking area?
20. Are there any parking restrictions for the contractor to follow?
21. If necessary, review the location of the dumpster and portable toilet.
The questions above are just a start. Develop your own questions that reflect your particular concerns, needs, and the nature of your project. This is important. Think about it before the meeting. Don’t be afraid to bring up anything, no matter how small. Pre-construction management is all about saving construction headaches during and after the project.
Remember, reaching agreement on ground rules is the basis for a good, cooperative relationship later on, and generally gets things off to a smooth start. By having both parties in agreement on the initial ground rules, you have both agreed to key concerns regarding the day-to-day management of your project.
Pre-construction meetings for commercial projects
Commercial projects differ significantly from residential projects, but there are a wide range of types of commercial projects and each has its own set of topics that should be discussed at a pre-construction meeting. Dan Williams, Earth Shelter Developers, a California contractor (and ICPI Construction Committee chairman) views commercial projects in three distinct categories:
Type 1: This is the least complicated, where the contractor installer is working directly for an owner and meets with the key principals to discuss the job ahead. That usually includes the owner or owner’s representative, possibly the architect, landscape architect or engineer. Also in attendance might be other contractors who will be working on the project who are also working directly for the owner.
Type 2: This is the “typical” commercial project where the contractor installer is one of a team of subcontractors working for a general contractor who will answer to the owner. These guidelines usually are set by the individual general contractor company policy.
Type 3: These are the large municipal/government projects where most likely a union contractor installer is one of a team of union subcontractors working for a general contractor who will answer to an agency or construction management company representing the interests of the owner/agency.
Williams applies the following list of topics for pre-construction meetings for each type of commercial project:
Project Type Topic
1 2 3 Work hours or restrictions
1 2 3 Noise restrictions
1 2 3 Safety and emergency procedures
1 2 3 Traffic control
1 2 3 Parking for workers
1 2 3 Inspections and verifications as work proceeds
1 2 3 Change order considerations and procedures
1 2 3 Allowed staging and storage areas
1 2 3 Allowed smoking and eating areas
1 2 3 Billing procedures and progress billing periods and cut off dates
2 3 Safety meetings coordinated by the general contractor
2 3 Union verses non-union access to the project site (two gates)
3 Project labor agreement issues
3 Special security access issues (ports and airports)
3 Government agency “local hire” requirements
3 Project closeout documentation
Whether a residential or commercial project, pre-construction meetings promote planning and communication that results in less wasted time and money. Relationships improve, as do the chances for a successful construction project. Contractors should view pre-construction meetings as good business practice and an opportunity to iron out all aspects of a job so that there are no surprises to the client.
Article provided by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI)
Interlocking concrete pavements have unique discussion topics (specific to pavers) that also need to be included in the pre-construction meeting. A list of additional items that should be included in these discussions can be found with the online version of this article at www.landscape-business.com in the “Articles and Archives” section.