What Is a Construction Plan?

A construction plan is a detailed document, or series of documents, that organizes and outlines a construction project. The documents include all the details necessary for a construction project team to execute the project and keep it within budget, including:

  • A written document that defines the methodologies and approach
  • Drawings, photographs, and other images that illustrate the design
  • A project schedule

Creating a construction management plan is of crucial importance, given that such projects tend to be large and complex. Proper and thorough planning greatly increases the likelihood of a successful project. The more aligned the plan is with the objective, the less likely it will be that issues arise during the execution phase. Before the ground is broken your construction plan (and your construction schedule) should be as solid as a rock.

Construction project management software that’s complete with online Gantt charts can help you guarantee that all that robust planning won’t go to waste when it comes to the execution phase.

A screenshot of a construction plan laid out on a Gantt chart in ProjectManager.com

ProjectManager.com’s online Gantt charts make constructions plans come to life.

Types of Construction Management Plans

Construction management plans (CMPs) can take multiple forms, depending on the intended audience. Each requires a detailed, but easy to understand, roadmap to keep stakeholders up-to-date.

These stakeholders include clients, contractors and municipalities, and each may require one of three types of construction management plans:

  1. A CMP delivered by the client that maps out the entire project, from inception to completion
  2. A CMP that comes from the contractor which focuses on the construction work and the plan to carry it out
  3. A CMP that puts the project in the context of the surrounding area, primarily concerned with the rules and regulations of the municipality where the project is taking place

Regardless of what type of construction project planning you’re involved in, the best way to start is at the end. You need to know what it is you’re planning for, and where it will stand in the environment in which you’re building it.

What Are the Phases of Construction Planning?

The high-level structure of any construction plan will follow the five phases of project management (initiation, planning, execution, monitor and control, and closure).

  • Initiation: Determine the people, resources and project budget
  • Planning: Create specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals
  • Execution: Assign contractor teams tasks and oversee progress
  • Monitor and Control: Monitor and track progress and performance
  • Control: Close out project and evaluate performance

Who Makes the Construction Plan?

The project manager is usually the person tasked with making the construction plan. However, the creation of a construction plan isn’t done in isolation. Stakeholders need to be included to understand and manage their expectations, and construction crews must be consulted as well to get insights from their skills and experiences in similar jobs.

Because a construction project involves a lot of different phases and teams, it’s important that they’re all part of the planning process. For example, estimators will need the project plan to guide them on procuring materials. Also, the various perspectives will improve the viability of the final construction project plan.

How to Write an Effective Construction Plan

There are quite a few considerations you must make before you start creating your construction plan, most of which are common with general business planning. Questions to ask include:

  • Project description: What is the project and how are you planning to execute it?
  • The business benefits: What is the return on investment of the project?
  • Planning permissions: What must you do to get approval and adhere to building and municipal codes?
  • PM and team: Who is leading the project, and who will make up the teams executing the plan?

After you’ve come up with answers to those, you’ll have to create the following documents for your construction plan.

  • Scope Documentation: The scope is a list of goals, deliverables, features, functions, tasks, deadlines and costs. It’s the overall needs of the project, as well as detailing the benefits among the milestones you’ll track to reach them.
  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): This is the document that visualizes the key project deliverables and organizes the work your team will do when the project is started into manageable sections.
  • Communication Plan: To effectively implement various aspects of your project plan, you must articulate them clearly and deliver them efficiently. You need to define your goals and objectives, then decide on what methods you’ll use to deliver them.
  • Risk Management Plan: All projects have risks, but construction projects have risks on a different level. You’re going to have to provide safety management, which will include a thorough assessment of what might go wrong and how you resolve it.
  • Visual Plans and Renderings: These are construction specifications, project renderings and other drawings that can be shared with stakeholders, local officials, etc.

How to Understand the Scope of the Project

Creating a successful plan requires a thorough understanding of the project scope. While you might not have complete construction plans, there is likely enough information you can study to get a better idea of the project and therefore the plan to deliver it.

This includes looking at project timelines, historic data and even other projects that are being executed nearby that might siphon resources from your project.

Some other data to explore would be any site photos to get a lay of the land, weather patterns to help you determine the scheduling of various project components that would be delayed because of rain, snow, etc.

Define Roles, Responsibilities and Involve Team

The size of the construction project will determine, to some extent, how many people are working on the project team. The project plan needs to outline these roles and define their responsibilities in relationship to the project.

For example, there is usually a general manager that oversees the project. Various assistant general managers are responsible for specific aspects of the project (for instance, infrastructure) and report to the general manager. There might be an environmental construction compliance manager to make sure regulations are being satisfied, a program controls and support group manager responsible for scheduling tools and resources, etc.

The best way to define these roles and responsibilities is by including the team in the process. When creating this part of the plan, you’ll have a general idea of the various team members you’ll need to complete the project. However, the details can be more fully fleshed out by using your team, who have the skills and experience to help you make the right choices.

What to Use to Make the Plan

Creating a construction plan is similar to making a plan for any type of project. However, while the basic structure is the same, the nature of construction requires industry-specific software beyond the normal project management tools used to create and control a project.

Visual Design

Computer-aided design (CAD) is used in many construction industries that need to build a model in a virtual space before constructing it in the physical world. It helps to visualize the height, width, distance, materials, color and more all before the actual construction is executed.

CAD helps with visualizing the project, but also adds detail to create a more accurate plan and optimizes the plan by running simulations to test for any issues with the design. CAD is flexible and offers features for almost all types of construction.

Planning and Scheduling

Construction project plans are often very wide in scope and require the juggling of stakeholders, resources, teams, and materials to achieve success. To accomplish this, construction project managers make use of construction planning software to ensure the plan is created and executed properly.

What Is Construction Planning Software?

The use of a dynamic construction planning software is essential to delivering the project on time and within budget.

Construction planning software organizes the tasks of a construction project plan and integrates the construction schedule with features that help with administrative tasks, estimating, resource management, time tracking and more.

Project management training video (njlmop2b6c)

Using online construction planning software gives managers real-time data to make better decisions and gives construction crews a collaborative platform to work more productively. Live data also assists in managing workload to keep teams tasks balanced. Additional benefits include:

  • Creating detailed roadmap, with dependencies and milestones
  • Making assignments, attach CAD, plus other files and images
  • Monitoring and controlling performance, progress, costs, resources and more
  • Connecting teams in real-time for better collaboration
  • Sharing plans, status and other reports with teams and stakeholders
  • Live data for better decision making
  • Controlling costs and track team’s logged hours

Construction projects have lots of requirements, regulations, blueprints, drawings, punchlists and other paperwork, and construction planning software acts as a central hub collecting important documents and images to make them easily accessible. Microsoft Project is one of the most commonly used project management software, but it has major drawbacks that make ProjectManager.com a better alternative for construction projects.

Must-Have Construction Planning Software Features

Cloud-Based for Real Data

Get real-time updates to your schedule and know how tasks are progressing, even when you’re off-site. Save time by providing on-site workers timely updates, without emails and calls. Monitor and track progress and performance as it happens.

Cloud-Based image

Online Gantt Charts for Dynamic Planning

Plan and schedule work and keep everyone working together. Share your construction plan with your crew, contractors and stakeholders. Link dependencies to avoid bottlenecks, break the project into phases with milestones and assign your workers and subcontractors.

Interactive Gantt image

Task Management Keeps Crews Working

Drive progress on-site by assigning and tracking tasks anywhere and at any time. Give your workers a collaborative platform to share files and work better together. Easy onboarding, personal task list and you can filter tasks to see just what you need to know.

Task Management image

Resource Allocation Balances Workload

Plan your resources and associated costs to execute the tasks in your construction plan. Track the availability of your resources to make assigning more efficient. A workload page shows the utilization rate of your crew and lets you reallocate their work to balance the workload.

Resource Tracking image

Timesheets Track Logged Hours

Record and track the time your crew spends on their work with easy-to-use timesheets. Copy last week adds tasks and hours from the previous week and auto-fill will add the team member’s assigned work. Add comments, files and when submitted the timesheet is locked.

Robust Timesheets image

Dashboard & Reports Help Stay the Course

Collect, monitor and track construction data from a high-level with a real-time dashboard. It does the calculations for your and then displays metrics such as cost, project variance and more in easy-to-read graphs and charts. Go deeper with one-click reports on costs, time and more.

Real-Time Data image

How ProjectManager.com Helps With Your Construction Plan

ProjectManager.com is an award-winning construction plan tool that helps you organize all the components of your build, from initiation to close. Our cloud-based software has the feature you need to plan your project, manage your tasks and build a schedule that will meet your deadline and stay within your budget.

Start your next project off right by signing up for a free 30-day trial of our software and then follow these steps to build your construction plan.

1. Schedule Tasks

Organizing tasks is the first step in a construction plan. Some tasks that are dependent on others, such as painting can’t start until space is built to paint. Milestones mark important dates.

A screenshot of a gantt chart for a construction plan in ProjectManager.com

Import, manually input or use industry-specific templates to get your tasks in a Gantt. Add deadlines and they populate a timeline. Link dependencies to avoid bottlenecks and set milestones to show when one task ends and another begins.

2. Create a Punchlist

Creating a punch list is a simple to-do list to get your through the day. Having a more dynamic to-do list can help you manage that work and be more productive.

A screenshot of a task list for a construction plan in ProjectManager.com

Use a task list to create a personal to-do list, tag them for priority and more. Set up notifications to keep you on schedule. Or use the kanban board to visualize the workflow.

3. Balance Workload

Keep teams productive by managing their workload to make sure no one person is carrying the bulk of the tasks on their back.

A screenshot of a workload page, showing the teams task load for a construction plan in ProjectManager.com

View the workload chart and see exactly how much work is assigned to each member of your team, whether they are in the field or in the back office. The color-coded calendar makes it easy to see who’s overallocated and allows you to reallocate their work right then and there.

4. Track Hours Logged

Knowing how many hours your crew has worked on their tasks is how you calculate payroll. It’s also another tool to measure your progress.

A screenshot of a timesheet that shows hours logged for a construction plan in ProjectManager.com

Submit timesheets securely online as your team completes their assigned tasks in your construction plan. Approve timesheets with just one click. Now you can have your timesheets and your planning tools together in one easy-to-use software.

5. Monitor and Report

Staying on schedule and keeping your stakeholders updates are two reasons why monitoring progress and performance are so important.

A screenshot of a report for a construction plan generated by ProjectManager.com

Get live data with real-time dashboards and make the critical decisions required from construction project managers. See task progress, workload, and more with one live view. Reports go deeper into the detail. They can be filtered and shared as a PDF or printed.

Construction Planning Tips

All construction plans have one thing in common—whether they’re for a commercial or residential build—and that is the desire to complete the job on time and within budget. Here are some tips to make sure you create the best possible construction plan.

1. Assemble the Right Team

Not every construction project is the same; therefore, the team you assemble to execute the project should have the experience and skillset to do the work properly. That includes the engineers, builders, contractors and anyone associated with an aspect of the build. Without the right team, a great plan is destined to fail.

2. Define “Complete”

It sounds obvious, but gather a dozen people and you’ll get two dozen answers on what “complete” means. To avoid this, you need to clearly outline the parameters of a completed task. This must also take into account the project timeline and budget, as well as the opinions of your stakeholders.

3. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

During the planning phase, you’ll want to hear from stakeholders, regulators and even team members to get a full picture of the project’s expectations and constraints. A plan is a way to communicate, but it’s not the only way. Plans change, and those changes need to be clear. Create a communication plan. Stay connected and keep records.

4. Be Aware of Risk

As noted above, change is part of any project. There are always internal and external forces at play that will impact your plan. Create a risk management plan to anticipate potential changes and how they’ll be managed. Include this to give yourself the wiggle room you’ll need to adjust according to unplanned changes.

5. Always Be Planning

The project plan must not only have tasks with slack in case of delays, it should come with an eraser. A construction project plan is not written in stone. It’s a living document, one you not only refer to throughout the life cycle of the project, but continuously adapt to the reality on the site.

How to Submit a Building Permit

Before work can begin, it is required that you obtain a building permit. A building permit is issued by the local building department of the municipality and authorizes the construction team to move forward with the project. Typically, a separate permit is required for each type of work (demolition, plumbing, electrical, mechanical work, etc.).

The permitting process must be included in the construction plan for your project to run smoothly. To get the ball rolling, you must submit a site plan, structural drawings, floor plans and other necessary information to a clerk at the building department.

The clerk will then forward your request to an official, who will review your paperwork and possibly do an on-site inspection to make sure your plan is up to code. Local codes change every few years, so it’s crucial to stay updated on the requirements associated with the type of construction you’re working on.

There are other issues that may need addressing when submitting your plan depending on local regulations, and you’ll likely need approval from agencies including police, public works, department of water and power, air quality management district, and so on.

Maintain Your Construction Project Plan

Making a construction project plan is only the beginning—you also need to maintain it! Here are some ways to manage your construction management plan.

Create a Roadmap

Construction projects must coordinate a variety of smaller projects to reach the final deliverable (digging the foundation, laying concrete, electrical and so forth.) Each of these phases has to work together to save time and money. Orchestrating that is complex, which is why a roadmap is essential. A roadmap is a visual tool like a Gantt chart; only it can show several projects together on a single timeline to help you work more efficiently.

Meet Regularly With Stakeholders

The stakeholder has a vested interest in the construction project. You share the plan with them, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the picture until the project is complete. They might not want to go into great detail as you would with your team, however, a broad strokes approach to updates is crucial to manage their expectations. It’s likely that during the execution stage they will have change requests that will directly impact the plan. Figure out how and when to meet, as well as the frequency of those meetings.

Keep an Eye on Quality

The triple constraint helps you keep you plan on track by balancing cost, scope and time. But there’s a silent forth partner to this classic project management term, and that is quality. Getting the project built on time and within budget is important, but if that’s done at the expense of the integrity of the structure the project is a failure—and likely a lawsuit! To avoid these dire consequences, quality must be on the radar. To manage the quality of your project, your project plan must identify benchmarks and measure these throughout the execution of the construction project plan.

What Does a Construction Project Manager Do?

A construction project manager typically creates and executes the construction plan. As they do so, they need to stay aware of the following things:

  • What are the project objectives when planning, including scope, budget, schedule, performance requirements and participants?
  • Maximizing the efficiency of their resources by getting the best labor, materials and equipment available
  • Coordinating and controlling the planning, designing, estimating, contracting and construction of the whole project
  • Having effective communications and developing techniques to resolve conflicts.

The responsibilities of a construction manager, according to the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), can be boiled down to these seven categories:

  1. Project Management Planning
  2. Cost Management
  3. Time Management
  4. Quality Management
  5. Contract Administration
  6. Safety Management
  7. CM Professional Practice (defining responsibilities and structure of team, communications, etc.)

There are seven types of construction projects that construction project managers might lead:

  1. Agricultural: buildings for agricultural purposes, such as barns, animal sheds, fencing, silos, grain elevators, water supply and drainage, among others
  2. Residential: homes, apartment buildings, townhouses, etc.
  3. Commercial: relating to commerce, trade and services, such as office buildings, shopping centers, warehouses, banks, theaters, hotels, golf courses, etc.
  4. Institutional: governmental structures and other public buildings, such as schools, fire and police stations, power plans, pipelines, etc.
  5. Industrial: structures used for storage and product production, such as chemical and power plants, steel mills, oil refineries and platforms, seaports, etc.
  6. Heavy Civil: transportation infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, railroads, tunnels, airports, military facilities, etc.
  7. Environmental: this had been a subsection of heavy civil, but has recently broken out as its own category covering projects that improve the environment, such as water and wastewater treatment, sewers, air pollution control, etc.

Construction Planning: Glossary of Terms

The following is a mini-glossary of construction planning terms that have been used in this guide.

  • Assignable Square Footage (ASF): Usable footage from finished to finished wall
  • Blueprint: Drawing detailing architectural design of building
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM): Used to create computer model of building
  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD): Architectural modeling software
  • Cross Section: Shows what building would look like if vertically sliced to show layers
  • CSI Master Format: System for organizing construction information
  • Feasibility Study: Determines project budget, schedule and requirements
  • Group I Equipment: Structural building elements
  • Group II Equipment: Movable elements, such as furnishings
  • Gross Square Footage (GSF): Includes unusable space in the building
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED): Sustainable design
  • Performance Specifications: Minimum acceptable standards
  • Permits: Authorization from municipality required for construction
  • Preliminary Design: Plan showing physical spaces of building
  • Schematic Design: Conceptual plan of building
  • Zoning: Government regulations restricting property use


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