4 Key Steps to Starting Your Construction Project

This blog was originally published in the February 2024 Edition of the Wisconsin Counties Association Magazine.

Planning a building project can feel daunting when a county needs to build or renovate a facility. Many counties have not ventured into the commercial construction industry before, or they lack the time and resources to ensure all the details are covered and the project remains financially secure. There are many things to be considered, but a vast amount of planning must take place before actual construction begins, including master planning, facility assessments, project financing, and preconstruction services.

Master Planning

Master planning provides a county with a big-picture view of its long-term needs, priorities and objectives, all contained within a single document. It helps set goals and strategies for future growth, ensuring that construction projects align with the overall vision and are implemented in a coordinated manner. Components of a master plan may include new construction, facility maintenance and/or replacement, staffing requirements, efficient land use, infrastructure development, environmental considerations, economic growth, and more.

These plans can range from five to 20 years and are often phased to help minimize operational disruptions and meet financial needs. Without a master plan, an organization could end up just using a “Band-Aid,” or a temporary fix, that ends up causing problems and unplanned costs later down the road. Renovating a particular department or adding several small additions to a building every few years, for example, might alleviate current capacity needs as they arise. However, it could cost more money and be more disruptive over time compared to having a little more foresight and planning for the right-size structure. Beginning a major renovation/addition or working around several small additions will typically be far more difficult than if it was properly considered in the first place.

Developing a master plan involves numerous players, such as the facilities manager and staff, building committee members, key stakeholders, architects, specialty consultants, and a construction manager who helps guide conversations, conduct interviews, and ask the right questions.

Facility Assessments

Facility assessments are often conducted by an architect or construction manager to identify, photograph, and document issues and opportunities with existing facilities. This might include accessibility concerns; structural issues; poorly located entries; exterior building conditions; department layouts; mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; and more. The knowledge gleaned from these assessments helps identify and prioritize trends that need to be addressed.

Project Financing 

Project financing is often determined through a county budgeting process that includes revenue assessment, financial planning, prioritization, cost estimation, budget allocation, and budget approval by the county’s governing body. It is important to note that funds for a project may also come from grants and partnerships or from borrowing by issuing bonds. It is helpful to understand upfront how much funding is available for a project so the design and construction team can right-size it early on, which, ultimately, saves time and money.

Preconstruction Services

Preconstruction services by a construction manager can provide details on estimating, design, scope, and everything in between. A few common preconstruction services include existing condition analysis, constructability analysis and review, cost estimating and budget control, scheduling, logistics, bid packaging, cash flow analysis, material procurement, risk management, and subcontractor prequalification and selection.

Successful construction projects involve much more than providing an attractive and functional facility. There must be a trusted relationship between the county, architect and construction manager to help plan for the future by laying out a foundational strategy that can sustain them for many years to come. 

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