How Your Builder
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Understanding Pre-Construction Services with Colorado Builder Darren Mann
meeting at conference table

Image of Builders Meeting with Clients

When it comes to project planning, there are serious advantages to getting a builder or contractor involved early. Darren Mann says a builder can be an extremely valuable asset in the project planning phase by approaching the design through a constructability lens. With their experience, they can analyze and establish the needs of a project based on the desired function and overall budget. In addition, they can provide cost savings solutions during the design phase. This will improve the overall construction process and help keep the design within budget. When a client engages with their contractor or builder for planning purposes prior to construction, these services are referred to as preconstruction services.

Not every project requires pre-construction services, but it is definitely a good option for more complex or complicated projects. Or, in the words of Darren Mann, “if you’re looking to design to a budget instead of budget to a design then preconstruction services are worthwhile.” Here are some things a client can expect when pursuing preconstruction services.

1. Guidance, Knowledge, and Leadership – Starting any construction project is a big undertaking. Having an experienced representative to help guide the project is proven to save time and money during the construction phase. Each project will start with an initial meeting where the contractor will evaluate the client’s goals, budget, and assess the feasibility of the project. Together the contractor and client will come up with a concept for the building and establish the expectations for the project. After the initial meeting, the contractor will schedule regular follow-ups to review the progress of the plan and provide written reports as well as offer feedback, knowledge, and leadership every step of the way.

2. Engineering Assessment and Site Analysis – If the project is going into a pre-existing space, the contractor will assess the current conditions of the space. They will review plumbing, electrical, and HVAC to determine if they will work properly for the new project as well as determine any other changes that will need to be made to meet the goals for the new space. If the project calls for ground-up construction, the contractor will evaluate the location and property from every angle to determine if it is the right fit for the project and the budget. This includes a review in areas such as the foundation, parking, traffic circulation, landscaping, infrastructure capacity, and ease of access to the property.

3. Schematic Design – This is a visual of what the project may look like when completed. Because this is an initial design, it is meant to be thoroughly revised and refined along the way but helps to lay the foundation for the project by defining the space. This initial layout ensures that there is sufficient space for all the needs of the building including accesses, equipment, and furnishings. The contractor will spend hours with this set of documents to make sure it is what the client is asking for and is on budget!

man working on blueprints on laptop

Builder Reviewing Initial Designs

4. Initial Budget for Construction – A lot of different variables go into the budget for a construction project and in most cases, it is a constantly evolving metric. Some items that will contribute to a project’s overall budget include materials, subcontractors, suppliers, equipment, and more. The contractor will provide this initial estimate based on the initial design concept. As this number evolves, it should constantly be rated against the original project budget. Darren Mann also suggests that contractors identity the costs for potential issues and factor that into the budget as well.

5. Value Engineering – In addition to providing an initial estimate for construction, the contractor will also look for potential savings to keep the project under or within budget. Darren Mann says this is one of the major benefits of the preconstruction process. The contractor’s experience and knowledge can provide cost-saving alternatives for materials, design, labor, and more. This is where is it really beneficial to hire a contractor that has a lot of experience with projects of similar nature.

6. Material Selections – Selecting materials will play into the budget as well as the construction schedule. Evaluating material choices during this part of the planning process can be extremely beneficial in taking advantage of savings opportunities and ensuring that the lead times match up with the needs of the construction timeline.

material samples for countertops and flooring

Image of Material Selections

7. Responsibility Matrix – This helps to paint a clear picture of who is responsible for what and when. As the project moves into the construction phase there are a lot of variables at play and many of these are dependant upon one another. This matrix lays out which parties are providing what materials and who is installing them. This helps to improve communication between parties and ensure a smooth construction phase.

8. Construction Schedule – This is another vital part of the preconstruction phase and builds upon the Responsibility Matrix by identifying lead times and the sequence of construction. Each construction task will be defined by a start date and approval milestones. This will guide the progress of the project.

Most of these services will be presented in written reports that the client can reference and use throughout the remainder of the project. This is typically a contract-based service that the client can choose to extend into the construction phase or, should they choose to go another direction, they can approach other contractors/builders for a bid. This is another advantage of the preconstruction phase. It allows the client to test the waters,  gather information, and establish a relationship with the builder prior to committing to any construction.

Why would choose the preconstruction method over the design-bid-build method?

As mentioned above, preconstruction services may not be appropriate for every project, but it is a modern approach that works for many construction projects. As Darren Mann has said, it is truly a more cost-effective option to the design-bid-build method. You design to your budget in a way that will ensure construction flows more smoothly. Darren Mann says you will not regret having a contractor’s perspective during the planning phase. They can identify potential problems, cost savings, energy savings, and more. This will save time and money but can also prevent the need to redo any parts of the build to better fit the design, budget, timeline, or materials.

Another huge benefit to the pre-construction phase is being able to evaluate the working relationship with the contractor. As mentioned before, in most cases the client is not committed to using the preconstruction contractor for construction services. If the contractor fails to meet expectations, then the client is able to take the information and plans they gathered during this preconstruction process to another contractor or builder of their choosing.

Darren Mann says this is a huge benefit for both the client and the builder. Both parties want to know that they are beginning a project with a good relationship founded on strong communication and aligned goals and expectations. If there are any shortcomings during this phase, those should be strongly considered and discussed before entering into the next phase of the project.

construction hat on table with blueprints

Image of Construction Hat and Blueprints


How are you feeling about preconstruction services? Do they seem like a good fit for your project? We hope this gives you a better understanding of alternatives to that traditional design-bid-build method that will help to save you time and money on your next project. A big thank you to Darren Mann for his knowledge of this industry and input on this topic.

Darren Mann is a seasoned builder with over 40 years of experience in the commercial and residential construction industry. He is currently located in Colorado and is a huge advocate for this method of planning. He has worked on several big projects around the country in both the commercial and residential realms. He feels this approach is excellent in either capacity.