Preparatory Pre-Construction Meetings on Federal Projects Set the Framework
Federal projects, specifically those managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), require preparatory meetings for each definable feature of work. Setting a precedent for preparatory meetings on the job site can help avoid conflict, establish expectations, prevent rework and save money.
As published on LetsBuild, “The construction site is a dynamic workplace with project players changing every so often. This is why a pre-construction meeting is needed for every new project. The main purpose of a pre-construction meeting is to communicate to everyone in the project team the plans and expectations before any job is executed on-site”.
Federal projects have several layers of inspections conducted by final users, VIPs and multiple government entities. On construction sites, there are several trades coming and going as work is available. Holding the preparatory meeting with all the key players, including the QC, QA, subcontractors, safety representative and the facilities, as necessary, will keep the team on a cohesive path forward.
With several different groups of people reviewing the specification requirements, there is the opportunity for the requirements to be misinterpreted or unclear. Duane Craig stated it best in the article “Preconstruction Meetings: Everything You Need to Know” when he wrote, “Poorly scoped projects with unclear specifications and quality requirements won’t get any clearer once construction starts. The missing information on subcontractor building plans will become reworked if they aren’t resolved before the sub starts the work”.
Large features of work such as a curtain walls or HVAC systems are made up of several intricate parts. Reviewing the specifications and project drawings as a team will alleviate the possibility of misinterpretation.
This blog will walk you through some of the steps to take when preparing your project for preparatory meetings.
1. Create a Preparatory Meeting Matrix and Shared Folder
A meeting matrix is a great tool for organizations looking to improve their meeting attending rate. A meeting matrix is a graphical representation of the layout of a meeting that shows a meeting’s purpose, goal, agenda and structure.
Preparing a preparatory meeting matrix at the beginning of a project is a great way to improve the organization of meetings as well as combat missing a preparatory meeting for a feature of work. A few examples of important items to include on the preparatory meeting matrix include:
The specification section
The feature of work
Important dates such as the tentative date of the preparatory meeting and the date the preparatory meeting was held
Additional items that could be included on this matrix are the initial inspection date, final inspection date, competent person and a checklist for the safety documents, approved submittals and agenda. Creating a matrix will keep the team organized and can be easily referenced if the client asks when a preparatory meeting was held. The image below provides an example of a preparatory meeting matrix.
If you want to further customize your meeting matrix, you can use these free meeting matrix templates.
2. Scheduling the Meeting
The government frequently requires advance notice for these meetings to prepare questions and topics of concern. It is also important to ensure the subcontractor’s competent person is available and present for the preparatory meeting.
Sending a calendar invite to both the client and subcontractor in advance and confirming availability will prevent meetings from needing to be rescheduled, which could cause delayed work. Additionally, it may be beneficial to send automated email and text reminders to participants using something like Calendly.
To send text reminders using Calendly, you can use their automated workflows that come with their paid professional plan (starting at $12 a month).
Once you sign up:
Create a new event, making sure to add an option for phone number
Go to the workflows option on your home screen
Click “+ New Workflow”
Scroll down until you see “Text booking confirmation to invitee”
Click “Use workflow”
Under “Which event types will this apply to?” select the event you just created and hit apply
Under “Do this” you can edit the text invitees will receive
After this, simply open your Calendly booking page and add the email(s) and the cell phone number(s) of the person(s) you will be meeting with. Now they will receive text reminders for the meeting.
It is also commonly required per the specifications for each preparatory meeting to be included in the Three Week Lookahead Schedule.
3. Prepare the Required Documentation
Required documents include safety documents such as the signed Activity Hazard Analysis (AHA), relevant submittals and RFIs, drawings and the corresponding specification section.
4. Follow a Structured Meeting Agenda
Items to include on the preparatory meeting agenda are project name, date, specification section, feature of work, subcontractors involved, list of emergency contact numbers, administrative items, safety requirements, submittals, materials, review of technical specs/drawings/amendments, tests and manpower. It is also beneficial to include attachments of the signed AHA, specification section, relevant drawings and relevant submittals/RFIs.
Having the agenda prepped prior to the meeting and including all relevant documents will promote a structured preparatory meeting, and maintaining this structure will keep the confidence of the client and subcontractors. Once the meeting is complete, have the client and subcontractors sign off on the meeting minutes for future documentation and a final confirmation that all parties agree. The below sample preparatory meeting checklist is provided by USACE.
It may also be beneficial to do an onsite walk-through during the preparatory meeting with the team to identify the location of work, current utilities, potential hazards on site, etc.
5. Re-Prep if Needed.
When reviewing a feature of work that did not go as planned, the team can reflect on the preparatory meeting minutes to identify who participated in the meeting and what was discussed.
Was a topic missed? Was the competent person not in attendance? Was the preparatory meeting held months before this feature of work started? Re-prepping can save time in the long run if the meeting did not meet the necessary criteria.
In conclusion, setting your project team up for success early on can lead to clear expectations on the job site and help mediate the rework cost. Preparing a meeting matrix and folder, scheduling meetings in advance, gathering and reviewing necessary documentation, creating a meeting agenda, being prepared for discussion topics during the meeting and re-prepping if needed are steps that can be taken to set the framework of the project.
McClain is a highly motivated Assistant Project Manager with experience in general construction management on federal projects. She has advanced knowledge in mechanical design and commissioning from her mechanical engineering background and is passionate about maximizing project efficiency and profitability.