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Commercial Building Construction Process in 6 Steps

industrial building project part way through the construction process, man walking through second level steel framing

When people think about the process involved in construction many jump right into explaining how the foundation comes first, then the supporting structure, roof, building envelope, mechanical and electrical rough-in. Then the windows, doors, and other finishes and landscaping. Although they are not wrong that foundation work is often near the beginning of the physical construction process, the physical construction is not anywhere near where the process starts or ends.

At Baribeau Construction, for most of our projects we look at the construction process through a series of 6 steps. In this post, we will look at those steps and provide a brief overview of each step. In other posts, we will break them down further and explain how there are several ways to complete these steps but they all follow this same flow.

1) Conception

2) Team & Delivery Model Selection

3) Design

4) Pre-construction / Procurement

5) Construction

6) Post-construction

Step 1 of the Construction Process:


The conception of a project is the first and often overlooked step in the process. For construction professionals, this step often takes place, in part, without their involvement because it is almost entirely a client driven process. Generally, this process is initiated when a need, opportunity, or dream presents itself to a decision maker or visionary. It can come from a moment of inspiration or after years of struggling to find a solution to a difficult problem. Once that initial idea of “maybe we need to build something” happens, the floodgates open and a vision is born.

Once that vision is born, the process of analysis can begin. For some projects, (such as an industrial warehouse), the analysis is straightforward and is determined by size, location, timing, cost, and risk. However, for other projects, (such as a private school) the analysis can be more complicated. As a general rule of thumb, the more people a project impacts, the more in depth the analysis should be. Some tools to assist with this part of the process include feasibility studies, impact surveys, SWOT analysis, zoning analysis, risk analysis and pricing analysis.

Step 2 of the Construction Process:

Selecting your Team and Delivery Model

As the vision of the project develops and continues to pass various feasibility tests, there comes a time when the visionary needs to bring on the assistance of others to push the project forward. This is the point where an Architect, Project Manager, General Contractor, Engineer, or Planner may be brought onto the team. The tricky part of this step is knowing who to bring on first. That is where understanding and selecting the best delivery model for your project is essential.

The delivery model sets the tone for a project; it determines where responsibility falls and how stakeholders work together during the planning, design, and construction phases. There are many different delivery models such as Design-Bid-Build, Design-Build, Construction Management, Public-Private Partnerships, Integrated Project

Delivery…etc. The difference between these is a full topic of its own as each delivery model has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Step 3 of the Construction Process:

Project Design

Step #3 is the design phase and it cannot be overstated how important a good design is. The age old saying “a job well planned is a job half done” gets increasingly more accurate as construction becomes more integrated and complicated. The design of a building is no longer just the permit drawings. It involves first the Master Site Planning which may initiate all sorts of studies and consultations that may or may not have been flagged in the initial feasibility study. Many municipalities have instigated a pre-consultation process to help designers understand all the areas that a project may impact. This is a very helpful process as the list of potential issues for any given project will vary.

Once the Site Plan is established, the building permit drawings can be completed. Most ICI projects (Industrial, Commercial, Institutional) require at least the following drawing sets: architectural, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, landscape, photometric, traffic management. It is typical that other speciality engineering is required at some point. All these drawings require careful coordination so they are not in conflict. The design of a project can take anywhere from a few months for a simple build to a few years for a hospital or university. Owners should be careful to understand who is ultimately responsible for the quality of the final design. (See step #2)

Step 4 of the Construction Process:

Pre-Construction / Procurement

Pre-Construction and Procurement may take place in parallel. They have their own unique processes and they are typically the responsibility of the Construction Manager, project architect and engineer. Some of the processes include design review, budgeting, scheduling, specifications, tendering, sub-contracting, shop drawings, and procurement. If schedule is a driving factor, finding ways to order long-lead time items can save a project many months. Today, components like custom switch gears, custom

HVAC units, OWSJ, and Pre-Engineered metal buildings all have 6–12-month lead times.

Step 5 of the Construction Process:


Once the design is complete, permits approved, and sub-contracts signed, the physical construction can begin. I like to describe everything up to this point as a race to the starting line. Mobilization is the first activity to take place. This may include site safety and environmental control systems. Next come site works and excavation or demolition. Then foundation, framing and exterior building envelope. Once the

building is closed in, contractors would continue with the interior walls as well as mechanical, electrical, plumbing. Lastly all of the room finishes, glass, flooring, painting and trims get installed. Exterior landscaping and final asphalt are typically the final items to be completed depending on the season.

Building inspectors will require site visits as will the engineers and architects. A quantity surveyor may be required if the financing bank requires it.

Step 6 of the Construction Process:

Post-Construction upon Substantial Completion

Substantial completion is the milestone that converts a project from the construction phase to the post construction phase. Substantial completion is a legal term often described in privately-owned construction as the point when the contractual conditions for completion of the construction obligations have been met and the owner is able to take possession or assume beneficial use and occupancy of the


During post construction, processes such as Final Inspections, Deficiency Punch Lists, Release of Hold Backs, Document Hand over, and Warranty are all completed.

As an owner or stakeholder of a construction project, becoming familiar with the construction process is a critical first step to evaluating the risks involved in projects. You then can implement risk management measures to ensure you are properly protected and thus increase the probability of a successful project.

*Note, this blog is intended to provide general information on various construction related topics. Contact your local construction professional for advice related to your own projects. Should you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us at


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