What Is a Construction Plan?

A construction plan is a set of documents that defines the requirements for a construction project, such as the activities, resources, schedule and budget. A construction plan is created during the construction planning process and includes the following:

  • A written document that defines the methodologies and approach
  • Blueprints, computer-aided designs, photographs, and other images that illustrate the design
  • A work breakdown structure that identifies all the activities that make up the project
  • A construction project schedule that organizes all the project activities on a timeline
  • The construction project participants and stakeholders such as contractors, sponsors, crews, etc.

Creating a construction plan is of crucial importance in construction management, given that such projects tend to be large and complex. Proper and thorough construction planning greatly increases the likelihood of a successful project.

The more information the construction plan has about your project, 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 construction planning won’t go to waste when it comes to the execution phase.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart, showing the schedule of a construction management project

ProjectManager’s online Gantt charts make construction 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 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 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 5 Phases of a Construction Project?

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 stakeholders, resources and project budget
  • Planning: Create specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals. Define the work activities and create a schedule
  • Execution: Assign contractor teams tasks and oversee progress
  • Monitor and Control: Monitor and track progress and performance
  • Control: Close out the project and evaluate the 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 construction planning process. For example, estimators will need the project plan to guide them in procuring materials. Also, the various perspectives will improve the viability of the final construction project plan.

Free Construction Plan Template

Need help getting started with your construction plan? Try ProjectManager’s free construction plan template and practice adding tasks, construction phases, dependencies, resource costs and more in a live Gantt environment.

ProjectManager's free construction plan template

On the left-hand side the various phases of the construction project are outlined. These can be color-coded to make it easier to distinguish one phase from another. Under each phase are the tasks associated with it, including assignees, due dates and other resources needed to deliver the construction project on time.

The visual timeline to the right is where things get interesting. You can see the entire project in one place, dependent tasks can be linked and milestones added to indicate important dates. Plus, you can easily print out the Gantt and bring your construction plan with you to the job site for reference.

How to Make a Construction Plan

To make a construction plan, you need to identify all the different aspects of your project including the project management team, stakeholders, activities, resources requirements, scheduling and budget. Start with the following construction planning steps.

Construction Planning Steps

Step 1. Define the Project

What are the purpose and objectives of the construction project? Who are the stakeholders? How are you planning to execute it?

Step 2. Determine the Business Benefits

What is the return on investment of the project?

Step 3. Estimate the Project Activities

Use a work breakdown structure to visualize your project scope and define all the activities needed to produce the deliverables and reach the milestones of your construction project.

Step 4. Define the Resource Requirements

Allocate resources for each activity. What materials and equipment will be needed? What are the labor requirements?

Step 5. Do a Material Takeoff (MTO)

A material takeoff consists in itemizing every construction material that will be needed. This is done by using measurement scales of length, area and volume.

Step 6. Prepare a Construction Estimate

Once you’ve defined your material takeoff, you can prepare a construction estimate. This is done by assigning costs to the itemized construction materials that were previously identified in the Material takeoff (MTO).

Step 7. Create a Budget

To create a budget, add all the construction costs. This includes materials, labor, equipment and overhead costs.

Step 8. Create a Schedule

Now that you know the activities and resources needed for your project, you need to create a timeline to procure the resources and execute the activities.

Step 9. Identify Construction Permissions

What must you do to get approval and adhere to building and municipal codes?

Step 10. Select the Team

Define Who is leading the project, and who will make up the teams executing the plan? Who are the contractors?

Practice Building a Construction Schedule with this Free Template

Creating a schedule is a major step in building your construction plan. Practice making your own with ProjectManager’s free construction schedule template.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart showing a construction plan

The construction schedule template opens in the Gantt project view. You can see that the feature has a spreadsheet to the left and a timeline on the right. The spreadsheet captures the tasks, costs, resources, dates, etc. The timeline shows the whole project in one place.

The phases of your construction schedule can be color-coded to make it easier to see where one starts and ends. The task bar in the timeline shows the duration of the task. If a task is dependent on another, there’s a dotted line linking them. The diamond icons symbolized milestones or important dates. Open the template and try for yourself!

Related: 8 Free Excel Construction Templates

Construction Planning Documents

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 of a construction project 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 all the work activities 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 Construction Project

Creating a successful plan requires a thorough understanding of the project scope. The scope of your construction project refers to all the activities that will be completed and the deliverables and milestones that will be achieved with that work.

Defining your project scope is essential for the construction planning process. Once you’ve defined what will be done, you can think about everything you need to execute the work including the resources, budget, activity durations, scheduling, the team, etc.

To help you determine your scope, examine 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 the 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 relation 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. Team participation is important in construction planning, as 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.

construction management ebook ad

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 during the construction planning process 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 construction software features for almost all types of construction projects.

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 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 (t8k47kt3r5)

Using online construction scheduling 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 the project workload to keep teams’ tasks balanced. Additional benefits include:

  • Creating a detailed roadmap with activity dependencies and milestones
  • Making assignments, attach CAD, plus other files and images
  • Monitoring and controlling performance, productivity, 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 tracking 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 for 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 a better alternative for construction projects.

Must-Have Construction Planning Software Features

Cloud-Based for Real Data

Get real-time updates to your construction project 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 your team 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 team 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

Workload View for Resources

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 project 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 to keep track of costs, activities, time and more.

Real-Time Data image

How ProjectManager Helps With Your Construction Plan

ProjectManager 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.

ProejctManager's Gantt chart, showing the phases of a construction plan

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.

ProjectManager's team collaboration user interface, ideal for developing construction plans

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.

ProjectManager's workload dashboard, ideal to manage your construction crew and contractors

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.

ProjectManager's task management tool, ideal to manage your construction plan

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.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

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 construction planning 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.)

Types of Construction Projects

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: A 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