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Construction on the North Bytown Bridge in , . A crane is readied to lower a into the . This barge will be placed under any cutting work on the to lessen the environmental impact. Note the concrete and in place to protect the public and workers.
Construction on the North Bytown Bridge in Ottawa, Canada. A crane is readied to lower a barge into the water. This barge will be placed under any cutting work on the bridge to lessen the environmental impact. Note the concrete barricades and snow fencing in place to protect the public and workers.

In project architecture and civil engineering, construction is the building or assembly of any infrastructure. Although this may be thought of as a single activity, in fact construction is a feat of multitasking. Normally the job is managed by the construction manager , supervised by the project manager, design engineer or project architect.

For the successful execution of a project effective planning is often essential. Those involved with the design and execution of the infrastructure in question must consider the environmental impact of the job, the successful scheduling, budgeting, site safety, inconvenience to the public caused by construction delays, preparing tender documents, etc...


Building construction


Building construction is the process of adding structure to real property. The vast majority of building construction projects are small renovations, such as addition of a room, or renovation of a bathroom. Often, the owner of the property acts as laborer, paymaster, and design team for the entire project. However, all building construction projects include some elements in common - design, financial, and legal considerations. Many projects of varying sizes reach undesirable end results, such as structural collapse, cost overruns, and/or litigation, as a result of insufficent planning. For this reason, those with experience in the field make detailed plans and maintain careful oversight during the project to ensure a good outcome.

For projects of large size and/or unusual type, the owner will likely establish a team of workers and advisors to create an overall plan. This ensures that the project will proceed in an orderly way to a desirable end. While no set list would establish what is needed or advisable for a particular project, frequently used advisors include mortgage bankers, accountants, lawyers, insurance brokers, architects, and engineers. While their roles overlap, each area of expertise addresses an element of what will be affected by the building construction project.

Design team

In the modern industrialized world, building construction usually involves the translation of paper or computer based designs into reality. A formal design team may be assembled to plan the physical proceedings, and to integrate those proceedings with the other parts. The design usually consists of drawings and specifications, usually prepared by a design team including architects, civil engineers, cost engineers (or quantity surveyors) and structural engineers. The design team is most commonly employed by (i.e. in contract with) the property owner. Under this system, once the design is completed by the design team, a number of construction companies or construction management companies may then be asked to make a bid for the work, either based directly on the design, or on the basis of drawings and a bill of quantities provided by a surveyor. Following evaluation of bids, the owner will typically award a contract to the lowest responsible bidder.

The modern trend in design is toward integration of previously separated specialties, especially among large firms. In the past, architects, engineers, developers, construction managers, and general contractors were more likely to be entirely separate companies, even in the larger firms. Presently, a firm that is nominally an "architecture" or "construction management" firm is likely to have experts from all related fields as employees, or to have an associated company that provides each necessary skill. Thus, each such firm may offer itself as "one-stop shopping" for a building construction project, from beginning to end.

Construction management companies in particular are the newest and fastest-growing form of the integrated building construction process, offering an architecture department for initial design, coupled with relationships with reliable general contractors, and followed by inspection and monitoring throughout the project. In response to competition from construction managers, large modern architecture firms are growing beyond offering design services alone, and are placing more emphasis on establishing relationships with other necessary participants, and monitoring the progress of construction after presenting the design.

Financial advisors

Many construction projects suffer from preventable financial problems. Underbids ask for too little money to complete the project. Cash flow problems exist when the present amount of funding cannot cover the current costs for labor and materials, and because they are a matter of having sufficient funds at a specific time, can arise even when the overall total is enough. Fraud is a problem in many fields, but is notoriously prevalent in the construction field. Financial planning for the project is intended to ensure that a solid plan, with adequate safeguards and contingency plans, is in place before the project is started, and is required to ensure that the plan is properly executed over the life of the project.

Mortgage bankers, accountants, and cost engineers are likely participants in creating an overall plan for the financial management of the building construction project. The presence of the mortgage banker is highly likely even in relatively small projects, since the owner's equity in the property is the most obvious source of funding for a building project. Accountants act to study the expected monetary flow over the life of the project, and to monitor the payouts throughout the process. Cost engineers apply expertise to relate the work and materials involved to a proper valuation.

Large projects can involve highly complex financial plans. As portions of a project are completed, they may be sold, supplanting one lender or owner for another, while the logistical requirements of having the right trades and materials available for each stage of the building construction project carries forward.

Legal considerations

A building construction project must fit into the legal framework governing the real property. These include governmental regulations on the use of property, and private obligations that are created in the process of building construction.

A building must adhere to zoning and building code requirements. Constructing a building that fails to adhere to building codes will not result in a benefit to the property owner, if it cannot be used due to fire code violations. Some legal requirements come from malum in se considerations, or the desire to prevent things that are indisputably bad - bridge collapses or explosions. Other legal requirements come from malum prohibitum considerations, or things that are a matter of custom or expectation, such as isolating businesses to a business district and residences to a residential district. An attorney may seek changes or exemptions in the law governing the land where the building will be built, either by arguing that a rule is inapplicable (the bridge design won't collapse), or that the custom is no longer needed (acceptance of live-work spaces has grown in the community).

Also, a building construction project is a complex net of contracts and other legal obligations, each of which must be carefully considered. A contract is the exchange of a set of obligations between two or more parties, but it is not so simple a matter as trying to get the other side to agree to as much as possible in exchange for as little as possible. The time element in construction means that a delay costs money, and in cases of bottlenecks, the delay can be extremely expensive. Thus, the contracts must be designed to ensure that each side is capable of performing the obligations set out. Contracts that set out clear expectations and clear paths to accomplishing those expectations are far more likely to result in the project flowing smoothly, whereas poorly drafted contracts lead to confusion and collapse.

Legal advisors in the beginning of a building construction project seek to identify ambiguities and other potential sources of trouble in the contract structure, and to present options for preventing problems. Throughout the process of the project, they work to avoid and resolve conflicts that arise. In each case, the lawyer facilitates an exchange of obligations that matches the reality of the project.

Interaction of expertise

Design, finance, and legal aspects overlap and interrelate. The design must be not only structurally sound and appropriate for the use and location, but must also be financially possible to build, and legal to use. The financial structure must accommodate the need for building the design provided, and must pay amounts that are legally owed. The legal structure must integrate the design into the surrounding legal framework, and enforces the financial consequences of the building construction process.

Construction trades

Temporary works

Construction materials

Structural elements

Outside links

  • Cost overruns

Chicago's Millennium Park Small Home Projects Boston's Big Dig

  • Legal considerations

Chicago Building Code Illinois Mechanics Liens

See also

Last updated: 10-19-2005 13:08:15
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