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How does construction work?

How does construction work? Read our guide to an introduction of the process of a construction project.

Construction isn’t just about what you see on a site. It’s what happens behind the scenes too, including planning, marketing, and designing. We’ll go through the process below, but it’s important to know that there are a lot of jobs available to you at every stage of a construction project’s journey.  

How does construction work? | 01:05

How do construction sites work? 

A construction site is primarily where the project is being built, be that a commercial building, housing estate or piece of infrastructure. However, there may also be other locations where materials are designed, or parts of the project are pre-made and fitted together, to then travel to the final site. 

A typical construction site will have a range of workers onsite at any one time. They could be manual labourers who are building, as well as scaffolders, crane drivers, and electricians, safety managers who complete risk assessments and ensure people onsite follow health and safety policies, architects making sure their designs are understood and followed… essentially, anyone involved in the project could be onsite at one time. 

Because construction sites can be busy places, people must follow strict health and safety protocol. Everyone onsite must have the relevant training or experience and be able to prove this. There  are security checks to ensure that people onsite have valid ID cards, they are where they need to be, and everyone is accounted for. 


What is the construction process? 

Every construction project has a process, although these may differ depending on what is being built or on the client who has commissioned the build. Let’s take a look at a general and most common process. 

The construction process starts with the client 

Before the very first brick is laid (sometimes years before this) a client has the idea behind the construction project.

The client hires consultants 

The client will hire consultants to advise on the design and planning of their project. People like architects, town planners, and even lawyers are often involved as there may be a lot to consider. 

Costs must be calculated and resources and materials all agreed. With many projects aiming to be as sustainable as possible, there is likely to be input from ecologists and environmental engineers

Consultants then take over on the design of the construction project, working out how much the design will cost to build and after a tender process, will award a construction contractor to do the work.  

The consultant gets contractors to carry out the work 

Contractors have to ‘bid’ for the work in something called ‘a tender’. It’s essentially them putting forward a case for why they are the best choice to complete the project.

They may include examples of similar projects or skills they possess which would help make the project run smoothly, or be completed to the highest standard and on budget. 

Contractors may get help from subcontractors 

Contractors may need help on more specialist parts of the project. They may bring in subcontractors with expert skills and knowledge on things like plumbing and electrics or foundation work. There may also be certain technologies to be considered that traditional contractors cannot complete without advice or assistance.  


How many phases are there in construction? 

We’re going to outline the nine phases of a construction project below. They are in order to show you how a project develops. 

1) Project concept and initiation 

A client has an idea and calls in consultants to see what’s possible. 

2) Design and planning 

The consultants begin designing and planning the structure, selecting materials and estimating costs. This may even include a 3D Visualisation of the design. These consultants award the project to the best contractors for the job, following a tender process. 

3) Geo technical and earthworks 

This is when soil mechanics and rock mechanics investigate the conditions of the grounds where the structure will be placed to make sure it is safe and suitable. Find out more about becoming a geotechnician

4) Demolition and deconstruction 

Sometimes, before construction can begin, demolition of a previous structure or something inhibiting the work must be carried out. This work is completed by trained demolition operatives

5) Substructure and superstructure 

The substructure is the part of the building under the ground, while the superstructure is everything above ground. The substructure must be able to support the superstructure, so engineers will calculate stress loads and work out how best to incorporate materials like support beams or foundations to provide adequate support. 

6) Drainage & utilities 

These must be considered to ensure the building is safe for its intended purpose and the surrounding environment. Drainage engineers are responsible for designing the systems which drain away water and sewage correctly and safely. 

7) Construction 

This is when building work can begin, after all of the above matters have been signed off and the project has been confirmed to be as safe and efficient as possible. It can include brickwork, electrics, and cladding. 

8) Fixings & finish 

Once the outside structure is complete, painting and decorating, plus any interior design work can begin. For housing estates this would include all the bathrooms and kitchens being fitted. 

9) Operation, repair, maintenance & management 

The building’s operation will be tested to make sure it is fit for purpose. Any repairs will be made. Once the structure is complete, maintenance and management are ongoing to keep the building operating efficiently and safely.  


What are means and methods of construction? 

The means and methods of a construction project refers to the techniques and tactics used to take the project from an idea and design, to a completed structure or piece of infrastructure.  

Because many projects are completed by different contractors, there will be numerous means and methods which make up a single project. Contractors develop individual style and flair in their work, which is what makes the industry so exciting and each construction project unique. 

Find out more about different construction careers 

Want to get started in construction? Explore the different roles on our site, or take a look at apprenticeships, a great way to get into to industry. 

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