Construction Process 101: The 5 Phases of Construction

construction management phases

In our previous post, we explored The 7 Phases of Design, reviewing the steps that design teams take during the life cycle of a construction project. Multiple parties participate in these design phases, but they can take on a different nature among construction partners. Architects, engineers, and other design professionals experience the phases differently from contractors. 

Similarly, contractors, designers, and owners experience differently the phases of construction, today’s topic. 

Construction projects vary in multiple ways: size, scope, budget, complexity, geography, schedule, personnel. The list goes on - no construction project is identical to another. Yet, most construction projects are operated similarly and follow the same basic path. We call this path the five phases of construction: Conception and Pre-Design, Permitting, Pre-Construction, Construction, and Close-Out. Within each of these phases are a diverse series of steps. Let’s dive into each phase.


Conception and Design

Earl Nightengale, a radio host and author during the 1950s, puts the creative process simply: “Everything begins with an idea.” Included in the “everything” is a construction project! 

The first phase of construction is the idea of an owner to build something. Whether a homeowner building a deck in the backyard, a real estate developer building multi-family housing, or a private owner building a multi-million dollar shopping center, every project begins with an idea. 

Following the conception of an idea, the design process is initiated with the owner and architect discussing the owner’s idea and future needs of the building. As the design progresses into Permitting and Pre-Construction, a construction manager is brought on board for the project. The timing of the contract and hiring of a construction manager is dependent on the contract type selected for the project. 


When the design and construction documents are complete and before the commencement of the project, the necessary permits must be obtained for the work. 

Typically, the architect files an overall building permit application with their construction documents, followed by several other trade permits (electrical, plumbing, mechanical, fire alarm, etc) after the issuance of the main building permit. Local, state, and federal authorities, depending on the nature of the project, review the building permit documents for code compliance including zoning, structural engineering, fire/life safety, ADA requirements, and energy code. 

The permitting process can take a substantial amount of time, again depending on the scope of the project, as well as the authorities responsible for issuing the permit. Securing a permit in a large city or a jurisdiction with more stringent reviewers can be significantly more difficult than securing a permit in a small, rural town. Working with an experienced construction manager makes the process smoother, potentially mitigating delays and risks to the project. 



Technically, everything up to this point has been pre-construction - no on-site work has occurred yet. As such, the Conception and Design and Permitting phases are sometimes included in the Pre-Construction phase, with some overlap among the phases. 

During Pre-Construction, the construction manager leads the team in a variety of tasks including cost analyses, scope, and schedules for project execution. These are critical steps for testing project feasibility and setting realistic expectations and timeframes. 

Once the design team, owner, and construction manager have determined the scope, budget, and schedule of the project, procurement of a general contractor takes place. The final step of Pre-Construction is the execution of a contract between the owner and general contractor. CDO Group offers both construction management and general contracting services, making this a smooth process for our clients.



The Construction phase is the culmination of the original idea becoming reality, the phase in which all the pre-design and planning takes shape. A lot of hard work has gotten the project to this point, but a lot of hard work remains! 

The Construction phase entails an almost immeasurable amount of detail. To ensure the project begins well, the construction manager should arrange a pre-construction meeting. This meeting should address:

  • Contract details and expectations
  • Site logistics, layout, and security
  • Communication protocols
  • Quality control
  • Site-specific safety
  • Project schedule
  • Payment procedures
  • Project-specific challenges 

After the pre-construction meeting, the general contractor mobilizes and begins to break ground at the project site. 

Throughout the Construction phase, each party has various roles:

  • The general contractor is responsible for building the project per the contract document requirements, managing subcontractors and material procurement, and communicating with the project team regarding progress, safety, and more. 

  • The architect and design team are also tasked with quality control during construction, ensuring the general contractor implements the design according to the construction documents. They will also review submittals, answer questions from the general contractor, and review change orders and payment applications. 

  • The construction manager plays a critical role in the success of the project, assisting the entire project team in maintaining the schedule, staying within the budget, and risk management. Simply put, the construction manager ensures that construction runs smoothly and avoids unwarranted cost increases or delays.  

As foundations and building slabs are poured, walls framed, interior finishes installed, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems put in place, and final inspections passed, the Construction phase progresses toward the final phase of construction: Closeout. 



The Project Closeout phase, sometimes referred to as Post-Construction, entails the final steps before the building and site are fully handed over to the owner. 

Closeout includes activities such as a punch list of corrections to be made by the general contractor, final change order and payment application, the closing of permits, and submission of operation and maintenance manuals and as-built drawings. 

The construction manager ensures that Closeout requirements are met in a timely fashion so that the owner can occupy the building in good standing with all parties. 


It Starts with an Idea

One of the reasons we at CDO Group love our work is that every project is different from the last. Each project brings new relationships, new designs, and new challenges. At the same time, the phases of construction are relatively congruent from project to project, and CDO Group retains decades of experience in managing each phase to success. 

Whether you need construction management or general construction services, or both, contact us today to learn how we can help you turn your idea into a successful project!

March 31st, 2022 |