Construction is building things in the real world, from designs that were made in engineers offices, in order to achieve the final project goals. Under project management, construction falls under the execution. Construction phase is led by a construction project manager, after all the designs and job planning on paper are “complete”. We put the word “complete” in quotes on purpose, because as construction people will know very well, there are no designs that build themselves, and there will always be issues emerging during construction that the designs will either need to be clarified or modified in order to achieve the project goals. Foreseeing all possible real world issues when designing in the office is just not possible even for the most experienced design engineers.
Construction comes with so many real life variables that could affect how a project proceeds, how things are installed, how and where people work, which equipment is used, what safety precautions are taken, how long do tasks take and in what order and so on…
The variables such as:
- fabrication duration of materials,
- working speed of crews,
- required safety procedures,
- means and methods of installation,
- in what way the design intends the project to be built,
- financial issues,
- material compatibility issues,
- layout and geometric conflicts,
- equipment and manpower availability,
- access to construction site,
- management and coordination issues,
- administrative restrictions,
and many more have a combined effect on every aspect of a construction project and how it proceeds with what schedule or cost efficiency.
Forget all else, only the geometrical coordination of different items that are installed by different people with different specialties with different installation sequence necessitates a great deal of effort… Being an effective construction project manager therefore requires great coordination and management skills.
Having so many real life variables involved, construction is a high risk and stressful business, but done correctly, with qualified people who know what they are doing, with properly established procedures and project management practices, it can also be quite enjoyable and satisfying business with considerable profits. The monies involved in construction is larger than any other industry. For example in the US, a 15 million dollar software project can mean a huge deal for a software firm, but in construction only a small office building can be built with the same amount of money.
Construction can be broadly grouped into following main categories:
- Residential: The projects to build residential buildings, homes. Architectural aspects are also heavily involved in this category.
- Commercial: Offices, Malls, Theaters, Parking Structures, Stadiums, Hospitals, Sports Complexes, and similar buildings where people occcupy but not for the purpose of living there. Architecture plays a significant role in this category.
- Industrial: It is the construction of industrial facilities, such as factories, refineries, power plants and any structure that is built to serve public by its operation of processing or manufacturing of something.
- Civil: It is the consruction of roads, bridges, dams, aquaducts, underground utilities, sitework and basically all of the infrastructure work to serve our civilization. It is also called as “heavy construction”.
So far we have introduced the terms civil engineering and construction, and these are what this post series is about. Everything in the rest of this post series fall under one of these two terms, with the exception of the very last section about project management, which is discussed in general sense on purpose, to introduce clearly the project management theory and distinguish it from its construction aspects. Also, the different structures introduced in the structures page are introduced from both engineering (design) and construction point of view.