Key Components for Preconstruction Success in Cannabis

POSTED Nov. 9, 2020

At Evolution Built, we believe the preconstruction process has broad-reaching impacts on a project’s success.

The Preconstruction Phase for any project is crucial to the final success of the construction effort, whether using a traditional Design–Bid–Build approach or Design–Build delivery method. When it comes to cannabis construction projects, developing solutions based on cost, time and quality are imperative, and can define a successful outcome.

This preliminary, yet key, stage of a project is defined by three individual phases:

  1. Conceptual
  2. Design Development
  3. Construction Documents
Ariel view of large indoor cultivation facility.

The conceptual phase is where the foundational design and initial costs are established along with the project goals, project budget and areas of risk, methods for managing these risks, and where you establish the base schedule. These items are interlinked and dependent upon each other’s proper execution to ensure accuracy through the preconstruction process.

The project budget identifies each of the potential costs establishing quantified and qualified budgets based on known costs through a variety of sources, including, but not limited to historical data, regional fluctuations in materials, labor, and equipment. In the initial budget estimate it is  imperative for the preconstruction team to analyze the entire project, identify areas of risk and assign values to these areas reflective of risk at the time of proposal, during construction and then through closeout. This divides the contingency values into three defined areas for management through the course of the project.

The project schedule, established in the Conceptual stage, not only establishes the time parameters for the construction of the project, but also establishes considerations for design, design review, permitting, and long lead times of specialty projects. But more importantly, it can establish a preliminary cash flow from a cost loaded schedule allowing the owner better financial planning through the course of the project. This cash flow will also establish early, the procurement schedule needed for fast-tracking a project through early site and/or demolition permitting, footing permitting and so forth.

Using the parameters established in the Conceptual phase of the preconstruction process, the team is now fully equipped to move into the Design Development phase. Here valuable input from subcontractors and other industry professionals is also sought for the major building components such as mechanical, electrical, structural, material testing and enclosure elements. The preconstruction team evaluates, defines scope, refines the budget, and compares external input with their own based on a more complete set of design documents. Now identified, are areas of added, deleted, or modified scope along with the risk for each. This further defines both the procurement schedule and the construction schedule. In addition, the cost loaded schedule becomes more defined for financial planning. With a properly executed plan, small portions of risk contingency can be “freed up” to cover scope gaps in other areas or even provide the owner with funds to cover a wish list of items to enhance the building with upgrades or allocated to the Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E) budget for the benefit of employees or tenants.

After the Design Development phase, the Construction Document phase issues a final set of documents. The preconstruction team conducts a further review and refinement of the estimate, risk contingency values, and the schedule, but it is during the Construction Document Phase that the complete and defined “bid packages” are developed for the trades, vendors, and craftspeople supporting the construction process. Bid packages should clearly define the scope of work, safety considerations, clean up, area preparations, and so forth. The bid package will also contain the work sequencing, schedule, change order process, agreed unit costs, and labor rates. The culmination of this third phase results in a final cost of construction within defined parameters of time for the owner. The Construction Document Phase will define a specific portion of the risk contingency allocated for the bidding process. This amount (or a portion of it) will be released back to the owner, where it can be held separately as an owner’s contingency for additional items or design changes.

Preconstruction, by nature of the term, indicates that it is restricted to all activities prior to construction or mobilization on-site. But to be effective, the preconstruction team will continue after the project initiation through the completion and closeout of the project to ensure that pay applications, change directives, owner-driven design changes, schedule impacts, and the like are managed efficiently, properly, and within the best interest of the owner. It is imperative that the preconstruction professionals, although working within the construction delivery team, act independently and without bias for the benefit of the project delivering value at each step of the process.

At Evolution Built, we believe the preconstruction process has broad-reaching impacts on a project’s success. It is the foundation of the construction process; it is the bedrock of the principles for effective cost control within the project team, and it is the root system from which all other activities stem.

We have learned over the years how to seamlessly deliver turnkey cannabis projects that exceed the needs of our clients more efficiently than ever before. Our cannabis-specific knowledge of how equipment, technology, and systems are interwoven into the construction process is a key differentiator in the value we provide our clients. If you are embarking on a new cannabis project, let us help ensure your project is delivered on time and under budget. Learn more at


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