Common Mistakes Made When Planning a Construction Project

August 14, 2023

Planning any construction project takes an enormous amount of organization and coordination between all stakeholders. These typically include the engineers, architects, contractors/ subcontractors, owner(s) and/ or investors, and in some cases, an owner’s representative also known as a construction manager.

Planning a construction project is a complex and demanding process that requires meticulous attention to detail. This starts at the very beginning with a feasibility analysis and pre-bid estimating.

Unfortunately, there are common mistakes that often occur during the planning phase, which can lead to costly delays and errors throughout the course of the project.  It is important to understand these common mistakes in order to raise awareness and help project teams avoid them.

Reviewing Drawings

One of the first mistakes that can occur during the planning phase is not reviewing available drawings and submittals prior to design work. When available, as-built data of any kind must be studied and understood to help prevent issues during construction. This information can provide valuable insights and lessons learned that can inform the designers to help avoid creating new conflicts as well as repeating past mistakes.

Additionally, it is important to review as-built drawings from previous projects to understand any modifications or changes that were made during construction that deviate from the originally approved designs.

Satellite Data & Drones

Failure to consider satellite and drone imaging resources means you are possibly overlooking available up-to-date information.  Google Earth, NearMap, drones, LIDAR, and laser scanning have revolutionized construction projects, providing unprecedented advantages to the industry. With Google Earth's vast satellite imagery and 3D mapping capabilities, construction teams can perform virtual site inspections, plan routes, and optimize resources efficiently.

NearMap offers high-resolution aerial imagery, enabling real-time updates and precise measurements for better decision-making. Drones have also become invaluable tools for site surveys, monitoring progress, and capturing data from inaccessible areas.

NearMap provides more up to date conditions vs. older, potentially outdated drawings – often google maps can be outdated as they are typically updated every few years vs. NearMap which is updated more frequently and even by request for larger projects.

Lidar and laser scanning technologies enable accurate topographic mapping and 3D imaging, aiding in terrain modeling and identifying potential hazards and obstructions. Together, these advancements streamline construction processes, enhance safety, and drive productivity to new heights.

Site Visits

Another misstep would include not conducting site visits as sites and areas are constantly changing.

Although we have the technology to perform most of the pre-planning for design and construction from our computers, projects in congested areas or with outdated digital data still require site visits.

When there is insufficient data available or the required accuracy only allows for a very small deviation, it is crucial to confirm dimensions and information on the drawings by physically visiting the site. This allows project teams to take accurate field measurements and identify any potential issues or constraints that may not be evident on paper. By conducting site visits, the project team can gain a better understanding of the site conditions and make informed decisions during each phase of the project.

Ground Penetrating Radar/ Test Pits

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is a great tool for identifying underground utilities and conditions but can be unreliable in urban areas as there can be too many items under the surface and unforeseen conditions. 

When underground utilities are suspected, it is important to perform ground-penetrating radar (GPR) or utility locating services to identify existing underground items. This information should be used in conjunction with any available drawings. This includes utilities such as water lines, gas lines, electrical conduits, sewer, and transportation structures.

Contacting utility companies for information and coordinating with them to mark out the locations of these utilities can help prevent costly damages and disruptions during construction. If excavation or equipment loading on surface elements is planned, it is essential to call 811 for mark out to ensure the safety of the project. Whenever as-built data is insufficient, GPR is inconclusive, or there is little to no room for error, test pits should be performed using water jet and/ or vacuum excavation. 


Furthermore, not utilizing 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) tools to develop plans can be a significant oversight. CAD software allows project teams to create detailed and to-scale plans, which can help identify potential conflicts and clashes between different building systems, and construction sequencing and activities. By utilizing CAD, engineers, architects, and other stakeholders can visualize the project in a virtual environment, making it easier to detect and resolve design issues before construction begins.

By avoiding these common mistakes, project teams can enhance the effectiveness of their planning efforts and minimize the risk of costly errors and delays. Taking the time to review available drawings, using available digital resources, performing site visits, conducting GPR or utility locating services, and utilizing CAD tools can greatly improve the accuracy and efficiency of the deisgn and planning process.

Planning a construction project requires careful attention to detail and thorough coordination among the various stakeholders involved. By avoiding common mistakes such as not reviewing available drawings, neglecting site visits, failing to perform utility locating services, and not utilizing CAD tools, project teams can enhance the quality of their plans and increase the likelihood of a successful and smooth construction process. Investing time and effort into comprehensive planning is crucial for minimizing risks and ensuring project success.

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