Top 5 Things to Consider When Beginning Your Construction Project


Whether your company is growing and running out of space, or the building committee at your church realizes they need that classroom addition –realizing that it’s time to build can be overwhelming. We understand that feeling and want to make whatever construction project you are dealing with go as smoothly as possible. The good thing is, if you need a lot of help, you can always contact your friendly neighborhood Architect (cough cough, Hagersmith) to help guide you through the process.

Through the years, we have built literally thousands of projects, all shapes, and sizes. However, despite the variety, there are a handful of things that start to become common trends. With that said, we have put together the Top 5 Thing to Consider When Beginning Construction. Starting with the ultimate question…


1. Do you have time to do this?

Make sure you are being honest about your time commitment to the project. A lot of owners want to be heavily involved but also have a company to run. Since that is a common circumstance, information bottleneck from an over busy owner happens regularly. To alleviate some of that stress, try assigning or hiring a dedicated representative for the project that can commit the time needed to keep the project on schedule.

Tip: There are many “Owner’s Rep” companies out there that can really provide value to a project if there isn’t anyone from your internal team who can take over. Check out one we recommend here


2. Do you have a plan when there are overages in the construction budget?

“Change Order?  What?  There isn’t supposed to be any change orders!”  If only that was the case.

Let me be blunt here. There will be errors in the drawings and the specifications by the design team. There will be issues that come up in the field that are not foreseen.  The contractor will miss something from the initial pricing.  As the owner, you may want to change some things or add work.  With all of that said, changes will happen and changes cost money.

Since changes are typically inevitable, we recommend discussing a construction contingency amount with your general contractor early on in the project.  Values vary, but 5% of the construction budget construction contingency is a good start.  Also, do not forget about carrying a design contingency to cover any mistakes the design team may make.  Again this value varies, but a 1% to 1 ½% of the construction budget is the norm.

Tip: To aid in your efforts, we suggest putting some additional money aside for new scope items that may arise. This is especially important if you have a large group of folks making decisions.  People change their minds or may want to add things, therefore it is always good to expect the unexpected!


3. What consultants are you responsible for?

This sounds easy, but with some projects, there are many consultants and not all of them are contracted through the architect. To illustrate, we typically see the Audio Visual(AV) and Security consultants being contracted directly through the owner which makes sense since they are experts in what they do and can get you the most current technology.  However, the mistake many owners sometimes make is waiting till late in the design process to involve such consultants with the design team.  This results in scope gap miss between engineers. It also results in the improper coordination of certain items.

Tip: We encourage owners to select all the consultants as early as possible, and have a coordination meeting with all the parties involved to set clear roles and responsibilities.  This seems common sense but often times goes overlooked.


4. How do you keep your General Contractor on schedule?

Discuss your schedule expectations with your General Contractor (GC) early and often.  Encourage your GC to have weekly or bi-weekly meetings with schedule updates.  For exterior construction work, understand that there will be weather delays.  Any days over the monthly average for rain usually are added on to the construction schedule.  Reviewing schedules at construction meetings in any meaningful and timely way can be difficult.

Tip: Use a “Twin Bar” bar chart schedule when trying to keep up with the current status of the project.

A “Twin Bar” can make it much easier to determine where the project actually stands as compared to where it should be.  For example, each activity has not one but two duration bars stacked one atop the other, one “baseline/target” bar and one “current/actual” bar.  When the schedule is first published, the two bars are vertically aligned, both with the same start/finish dates.  The “baseline” bar never moves for the duration of the project.  The “current” bar changes to reflect actual project status.  As activity finish dates get pushed out, there is clear visual evidence that those activities are falling behind.  With critical path activities properly identified, it becomes quite easy to tell when the whole project is falling behind.


5. Do you really want a LEED Certified building?

We love the overall idea of LEED.   Designing environmentally responsible/sustainable buildings is important.  We have completed many buildings with varying levels of LEED certification.  We have acted as the LEED administrator on many of these projects, and we constantly work to achieve LEED points as responsible design. Creating an LEED Certified building has pretty much become the norm.

The good things, it’s possible to achieve the Certified level, without having to do a lot of extra work. However, the documentation takes a lot of time and money from the designers.  Expect to pay for all the fees from the USGBC for submission as well as more fees from all the designers.  We see a trend with owners in designing to the Certified level, but not actually going through the LEED documentation.  Although, some owners find that Certification is an important marketing tool for their business as well as the environmentally responsible thing to do which makes it all well worth it.

Tip: Discuss your sustainability goals with your designers before making the leap to a decision whether to go through with LEED. We like to sit down with owners and a LEED scorecard to educate them on the entire process, including what points we could get easily, and what points not so much.  The resulting scorecard gives a better understanding of what it will take.



there are a lot of parts that go into organizing and implementing a building project. Not all of them are the same either. However, by being aware of these five questions while you are beginning the process, we believe it will help save you some mishaps in the long run. We wish you the best of luck!



HagerSmith Design, PA is an award-winning multi-disciplined architecture firm founded in 1978 that has been a cornerstone in the development of the Triangle since its inception. Located in downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District since 1982, HagerSmith has been witness to the urban revitalization effort of the district over the past 30 years. The top design firm is client-oriented with a diverse group of design professionals that strive to implement innovative and excellent design every day.