Construction is the process of constructing a building or infrastructure. Construction differs from manufacturing in that manufacturing typically involves mass production of similar items without a designated purchaser, while construction typically takes place on location for a known client. Construction as an industry comprises six to nine percent of the gross domestic product of developed countries. Construction starts with planning, design, and financing; and continues until the project is built and ready for use.
Large-scale construction requires collaboration across multiple disciplines. An architect normally manages the job, and a construction manager, design engineer, construction engineer or project manager supervises it. For the successful execution of a project, effective planning is essential. Those involved with the design and execution of the infrastructure in question must consider zoning requirements, the environmental impact of the job, the successful scheduling, budgeting, construction-site safety, availability and transportation of building materials, logistics, inconvenience to the public caused by construction delays and bidding, etc. The largest construction projects are referred to as megaprojects.
Construction is a general term meaning the art and science to form objects, systems, or organizations, and comes from Latin constructionem (from com- "together" and struere "to pile up") and Old French construction. Construction is used as a verb: the act of building, and a noun: how a building was built, the nature of its structure.
Types of construction
In general, there are three sectors of construction: buildings, infrastructure and industrial. Building construction is usually further divided into residential and non-residential (commercial/institutional). Infrastructure is often called heavy/highway, heavy civil or heavy engineering. It includes large public works, dams, bridges, highways, water/wastewater and utility distribution. Industrial includes refineries, process chemical, power generation, mills and manufacturing plants. There are additional ways to break the industry into sectors or markets.
Engineering News-Record (ENR) is a trade magazine for the construction industry. Each year, ENR compiles and reports on data about the size of design and construction companies. They publish a list of the largest companies in the United States (Top-40) and additionally a list the largest global firms (Top-250, by amount of work they're doing outside their home country). In 2014, ENR compiled the data in nine market segments. It was divided as transportation, petroleum, buildings, power, industrial, water, manufacturing, sewer/waste, telecom, hazardous waste plus a tenth category for additional projects. In their reporting on the Top 400, they used data on transportation, sewer, hazardous waste and water to rank firms as heavy contractors.
The Standard Industrial Classification and the newer North American Industry Classification System have a classification system for companies that perform or otherwise engage in construction. To recognise the differences of companies in this sector, it is divided into three subsectors: building construction, heavy and civil engineering construction, and specialty trade contractors. There are additionally categories for construction service firms (e.g., engineering, architecture) and construction managers (firms engaged in managing construction projects without assuming direct financial responsibility for completion of the construction project).
Building construction is the process of adding structure to real property or construction of buildings. The majority of building construction jobs 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. Although building construction projects typically include various common elements, such as design, financial, estimating and legal considerations, a large number of projects of varying sizes reach undesirable end results, such as structural collapse, cost overruns, and/or litigation. For this reason, those with experience in the field make detailed plans and maintain careful oversight throughout the project to ensure a positive outcome.
Commercial building construction is procured privately or publicly utilising various delivery methodologies, including cost estimating, hard bid, negotiated price, traditional, management contracting, construction management-at-risk, design & build and design-build bridging.
Residential construction practices, technologies, and resources must conform to local building authority regulations and codes of practice. Materials readily available in the area generally dictate the construction materials used (e.g. brick versus stone, versus timber). Cost of construction on a per square metre (or per square foot) basis for houses can vary dramatically based on site conditions, local regulations, economies of scale (custom designed homes are often more expensive to build) and the availability of skilled tradespeople. As residential construction (as well as all additional types of construction) can generate a lot of waste, careful planning again is needed here.
The most popular method of residential construction in North America is wood-framed construction. Typical construction steps for a single-family or small multi-family house are:
- Develop floor plans and obtain a materials list for estimations (more recently performed with estimating software)
- Obtain government building approval if necessary
- Clear the building site
- Survey to stake out for the foundation
- Excavate the foundation and dig footers.
- Pour a foundation and footers with concrete
- Build the main load-bearing structure out of thick pieces of wood and possibly metal I-beams for large spans with few supports. See framing (construction)
- Add floor and ceiling joists and instal subfloor panels
- Cover outer walls and roof in OSB or plywood and a water-resistive barrier.
- Install roof shingles or additional covering for flat roof
- Cover the walls with siding, typically vinyl, wood, or brick veneer but possibly stone or additional materials
- Install windows
- Frame interior walls with wooden 2x4s
- Add internal plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and natural gas utilities
- Building inspector visits if necessary to approve utilities and framing
- Install insulation and interior drywall panels (cementboard for wet areas) and to complete walls and ceilings
- Install bathroom fixtures
- Spackle, prime, and paint interior walls and ceilings
- Additional tiling on top of cementboard for wet areas, such as the bathroom and kitchen backsplash
- Install final floor covering, such as floor tile, carpet, or wood flooring
- Install major appliances
- Unless the original owners are building the house, at this point it is typically sold or rented.
New construction techniques and sustainability
As efficiency codes have come into effect in recent years, new construction technologies and methods have emerged. University Construction Management departments are on the cutting edge of the newest methods of construction intended to improve efficiency, performance and reduce construction waste.
New techniques of building construction are being researched, made possible by advances in 3D printing technology. In a form of additive building construction, similar to the additive manufacturing techniques for manufactured parts, building printing is making it possible to flexibly construct small commercial buildings and private habitations in around 20 hours, with built-in plumbing and electrical facilities, in one continuous build, using large 3D printers. Working versions of 3D-printing building technology are already printing 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) of building material per hour as of January 2013, with the next-generation printers capable of 3.5 metres (11 ft) per hour, sufficient to complete a building in a week. Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars's performative architecture 3D-printed building is scheduled to be built in 2014.
In the current trend of sustainable construction, the recent movements of New Urbanism and New Classical Architecture promote a sustainable approach towards construction, that appreciates and develops smart growth, architectural tradition and classical design. This is in contrast to modernist and short-lived globally uniform architecture, as well as opposing solitary housing estates and suburban sprawl. Both trends started in the 1980s.
The construction site might be shut down due to bad weather. Erecting scaffolded tents over the site might reduce the number of lost work days, increasing productivity.
In the modern industrialised world, construction usually involves the translation of designs into reality. A formal design team might be assembled to plan the physical proceedings, and to integrate those proceedings with the additional parts. The design usually consists of drawings and specifications, usually prepared by a design team including Architect, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, structural engineers, fire protection engineers, planning consultants, architectural consultants, and archaeological consultants. 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 might 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 quantity surveyor. Following evaluation of bids, the owner typically awards a contract to the most cost efficient bidder.
the best modern trend in design is toward integration of previously separated specialties, especially among large firms. In the past, architects, interior designers, engineers, developers, construction managers, and general contractors were more likely to be entirely separate companies, even in the larger firms. Presently, a firm that's nominally an "architecture" or "construction management" firm might have experts from all related fields as employees, or to have an associated company that provides each necessary skill. Thus, each such firm might offer itself as "one-stop shopping" for a construction project, from beginning to end. This is designated as a "design build" contract where the contractor is given a performance specification and must undertake the project from design to construction, while adhering to the performance specifications.
Several project structures can assist the owner in this integration, including design-build, partnering and construction management. In general, each of these project structures allows the owner to integrate the services of architects, interior designers, engineers and constructors throughout design and construction. In response, a large number of companies are growing beyond traditional offerings of design or construction services alone and are placing more emphasis on establishing relationships with additional necessary participants through the design-build process.
The increasing complexity of construction projects creates the need for design professionals trained in all phases of the project's life-cycle and develop an appreciation of the building as an advanced technological system requiring close integration of a large number of sub-systems and their individual components, including sustainability. Building engineering is an emerging discipline that attempts to meet this new challenge.
Construction projects can suffer from preventable financial problems. Underbids happen when builders ask for too little money to complete the project. Cash flow problems exist when the present amount of funding can't cover the current costs for labour and materials, and because they're a matter of having sufficient funds at a specific time, can arise even when the overall total is enough. Fraud is a problem in a large number of 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 are 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 after 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 and estimators apply expertise to relate the work and materials involved to a proper valuation. Cost overruns with government projects have occurred when the contractor identified change orders or project changes that increased costs, which aren't subject to competition from additional firms as they have already been eliminated from consideration after the initial bid.
Large projects can involve highly complex financial plans and often start with a conceptual estimate performed by a building estimator. As portions of a project are completed, they might 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. In a large number of English-speaking countries, but not the United States, projects typically use quantity surveyors.
A construction project must fit into the legal framework governing the property. These include governmental regulations on the use of property, and obligations that are created in the process of construction.
The project must adhere to zoning and building code requirements. Constructing a project that fails to adhere to codes doesn't benefit the owner. 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 might seek changes or exemptions in the law that governs the land where the building will be built, either by arguing that a rule is inapplicable (the bridge design won't cause a collapse), or that the custom is no longer needed (acceptance of live-work spaces has grown in the community).
A construction project is a complex net of contracts and additional legal obligations, each of which all parties must carefully consider. A contract is the exchange of a set of obligations between two or more parties, but it isn't so simple a matter as trying to get the additional 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 construction project seek to identify ambiguities and additional 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 solicitor 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 additionally 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 enforce the financial consequences of the construction process.
Procurement describes the merging of activities undertaken by the client to obtain a building. There are a large number of different methods of construction procurement; however the three most common types of procurement are traditional (design-bid-build), design-build and management contracting.
There is additionally a growing number of new forms of procurement that involve relationship contracting where the emphasis is on a co-operative relationship between the principal and contractor and additional stakeholders within a construction project. New forms include partnering such as Public-Private Partnering (PPPs) aka private finance initiatives (PFIs) and alliances such as "pure" or "project" alliances and "impure" or "strategic" alliances. The focus on co-operation is to ameliorate the a large number of problems that arise from the often highly competitive and adversarial practises within the construction industry.
This is the most common method of construction procurement and is well established and recognized. In this arrangement, the architect or engineer acts as the project coordinator. His or her role is to design the works, prepare the specifications and produce construction drawings, administer the contract, tender the works, and manage the works from inception to completion. There are direct contractual links between the architect's client and the main contractor. Any subcontractor has a direct contractual relationship with the main contractor. The procedure continues until the building is ready to occupy.
This approach has become more common in recent years, and involves the client contracting a single entity to both provide a design and to build that design. In a few cases, the design-build package can additionally include finding the site, arranging funding and applying for all necessary statutory consents.
The owner produces a list of requirements for a project, giving an overall view of the project's goals. Several D&B contractors present different ideas about how to achieve these goals. The owner selects the ideas he or she likes best and hires the appropriate contractor. Often, it isn't just one contractor, but a consortium of several contractors working together. Once these have been hired, they begin building the first phase of the project. As they build phase 1, they design phase 2. This is in contrast to a design-bid-build contract, where the project is completely designed by the owner, then bid on, then completed.
Kent Hansen pointed out that state departments of transportation usually use design build contracts as a way of progressing projects when states lack the skills-resources. In such departments, design build contracts are usually employed for quite large projects.
Management procurement systems
In this arrangement the client plays an active role in the procurement system by entering into separate contracts with the designer (architect or engineer), the construction manager, and individual trade contractors. The client takes on the contractual role, while the construction or project manager provides the active role of managing the separate trade contracts, and ensuring that they complete all work smoothly and effectively together.
Management procurement systems are often used to speed up the procurement processes, allow the client greater flexibility in design variation throughout the contract, give the ability to appoint individual work contractors, separate contractual responsibility on each individual throughout the contract, and to provide greater client control.
Authority having jurisdiction
In construction, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) is the governmental agency or sub-agency that regulates the construction process. In most cases, this is the municipality where the building is located. Notwithstanding construction performed for supra-municipal authorities are usually regulated directly by the owning authority, which becomes the AHJ.
Before the foundation can be dug, contractors are typically required to verify and have existing utility lines marked, either by the utilities themselves or through a company specialising in such services. This lessens the likelihood of damage to the existing electrical, water, sewage, phone, and cable facilities, which could cause outages and potentially hazardous situations. During the construction of a building, the municipal building inspector inspects the building periodically to ensure that the construction adheres to the approved plans and the local building code. Once construction is complete and a final inspection has been passed, an occupancy permit might be issued.
An operating building must remain in compliance with the fire code. The fire code is enforced by the local fire department or a municipal code enforcement office.
Changes made to a building that affect safety, including its use, expansion, structural integrity, and fire protection items, usually require approval of the AHJ for review concerning the building code.
In the United States, the industry in 2014 has around $960 billion in annual revenue according to statistics tracked by the Census Bureau, of which $680 billion is private (split evenly between residential and nonresidential) and the remainder is government. As of 2005, there were about 667,000 firms employing 1 million contractors (200,000 general contractors, 38,000 heavy, and 432,000 specialty); the average contractor employed fewer than 10 employees. As a whole, the industry employed an estimated 5.8 million as of April 2013, with a 13.2% unemployment rate. In the United States, approximately 828,000 women were employed in the construction industry as of 2011.
There are a large number of routes to the different careers within the construction industry. These three main tiers are based on educational background and training, which vary by country:
- Unskilled and semi-skilled – General site labour with little or no construction qualifications.
- Skilled – Tradesmen who've served apprenticeships, typically in labor unions, and on-site managers who possess extensive knowledge and experience in their craft or profession.
- Technical and management – Personnel with the greatest educational qualifications, usually graduate degrees, trained to design, manage and instruct the construction process.
Skilled occupations include carpenters, electricians, plumbers, ironworkers, masons, and a large number of additional manual crafts, as well as those involved in project management. In the UK these require further education qualifications, often in vocational subject areas. These qualifications are either obtained directly after the completion of compulsory education or through "on the job" apprenticeship training. In the UK, 8500 construction-related apprenticeships were commenced in 2007.
Technical and specialised occupations require more training as a greater technical knowledge is required. These professions additionally hold more legal responsibility. A short list of the main careers with an outline of the educational requirements are given below:
- Architect – Typically holds 1, undergraduate 3 year degree in architecture + 1, post-graduate 2 year degree (DipArch or BArch) in architecture plus 24 months experience within the industry. To use the title "architect" the individual must be registered on the Architects Registration Board register of Architects.
- Civil engineer – Typically holds a degree in a related subject. The Chartered Engineer qualification is controlled by the Engineering Council, and is often achieved through membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers. A new university graduate must hold a master's degree to become chartered; persons with bachelor's degrees might become an Incorporated Engineer.
- Building services engineer – Often referred to as an "M&E Engineer" typically holds a degree in mechanical or electrical engineering. Chartered Engineer status is governed by the Engineering Council, mainly through the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.
- Project manager – Typically holds a 4-year or greater higher education qualification, but are often additionally qualified in another field such as architecture, civil engineering or quantity surveying.
- Structural engineer – Typically holds a bachelor's or master's degree in structural engineering. A P.ENG is required from the Professional Engineers Ontario (Canada). New university graduates must hold a master's degree to gain chartered status from the Engineering Council, mainly through the Institution of Structural Engineers (UK).
- Quantity surveyor – Typically holds a bachelor's degree in quantity surveying. Chartered status is gained from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
- Civil estimators are professionals who typically have a background in civil engineering, construction project management, or construction supervision.
In 2010 a salary survey revealed the differences in remuneration between different roles, sectors and locations in the construction and built environment industry. The results showed that areas of particularly strong growth in the construction industry, such as the Middle East, yield higher average salaries than in the UK for example. The average earning for a professional in the construction industry in the Middle East, across all sectors, job types and levels of experience, is £42,090, compared to £26,719 in the UK. This trend isn't necessarily due to the fact that more affluent roles are available, however, as architects with 14 or more years experience working in the Middle East earn on average £43,389 per annum, compared to £40,000 in the UK. Some construction workers in the US/Canada have made more than $100,000 annually, depending on their trade.
Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world, incurring more occupational fatalities than any additional sector in both the United States and in the European Union. In 2009, the fatal occupational injury rate among construction workers in the United States was nearly three times that for all workers. Falls are one of the most common causes of fatal and non-fatal injuries among construction workers. Proper safety equipment such as harnesses and guardrails and procedures such as securing ladders and inspecting scaffolding can curtail the risk of occupational injuries in the construction industry. Other major causes of fatalities in the construction industry include electrocution, transportation accidents, and trench cave-ins.
The first huts and shelters were constructed by hand or with simple tools. As cities grew throughout the Bronze Age, a class of professional craftsmen, like bricklayers and carpenters, appeared. Occasionally, slaves were used for construction work. In the Middle Ages, these were organised into guilds. In the nineteenth century, steam-powered machinery appeared, and later diesel- and electric powered vehicles such as cranes, excavators and bulldozers.
Fast-track construction has been increasingly popular in the twenty-first century. Some estimates suggest that forty percent of construction projects are now fast-track construction.
- Vision/fantasy/idea - a concept never intended to be built, might be an aesthetic or structural design exercise
- Proposed - a building concept that's under review by the building owner and by government
- Approved - a building concept that will be constructed in the near future. If the proposed building isn't approved then the proposal might be amended and resubmitted, or it might be deferred or cancelled.
- Design - the specification of what's to be built in sufficient detail to be used as the basis as a contract between the owner and a contractor
- Procurement - the selection of the contractor or contractors to carry out the construction. This might be by competitive tendering.
- Diversions - before construction can start any services on the site which must be kept operational to serve additional adjacent sites must be diverted so they run outside the footprint of the new building. This can include drainage, water and gas piped services and power and communication cables.
- Under-construction - a fully designed building currently being built
- Ground works - construction work below ground level including the construction of basements and foundations
- Topped-out - a fully designed building where construction has reached the highest point of the building
- Fitting out - installation of the decorative, non-structural elements once the building main structure is complete. This includes painting, ceilings, light fittings etc.
- Commissioning or setting to work - Once the building Mechanical, electrical, plumbing, communications, and building control systems are installed they then need to be tested and adjusted so they deliver the required performance. In modern buildings this can take a few time throughout which little seems to be going on but if this isn't done properly then these systems won't deliver their design performance leading to hot and cold spots, spurious alarms, higher energy bills, and systems failing throughout emergencies
- Substantial Completion / Beneficial Occupancy - a point when the work is sufficiently complete so that the Owner can occupy (Items noted throughout inspection 'punch list' or 'snag list' might still be corrected)
- Complete/built - a fully designed building that has been fully built, excluding future expansions (punch list items all completed)
- Building Operation - All those day-to-day activities need to ensure the building can be used. In simple buildings this means little more than cleaning but in more complicated buildings this is a large scale operation employing a large team of staff. If they do their job right then you hardly notice them.
- Maintenance - works to ensure the building continues to operate in accordance with its design, including replacing elements which are approaching the end of their useful life
- Repair - replacing building elements which have been damaged or which have failed to restore the building to its as-built state
- Renovation - modification to the building. This can be minor modifications that are carried out while the building is occupied or major works where only the structural elements are kept and the building is out of use for years
- Demolition - destruction of the building which might include the salvage of a few elements for reuse elsewhere.
List of countries by the largest output in construction
Construction output in 2015 (billions in USD)
|(02) United States|
|(07) United Kingdom|
|(16) South Korea|
|(18) United Arab Emirates|
|(23) Saudi Arabia|
The twenty-five largest countries in the world by construction output (2012)