Construction Phases: The Lifecycle of a Commercial Construction Project

Project Managers generally break down commercial construction timelines into phases. Depending on who you ask, the number of specific construction phases varies from four to seven. The names of the stages of a construction project include “planning” or “initiation” and “post-construction” or “closure.” No matter what names you give to construction project phases or what method of project management in construction you choose, the general lifecycle remains the same: planning, design, administrative work, construction, and completion. ETI Construction takes these general construction phases and breaks them down even further into our 12-step ETI Process for project management in construction. 

construction phases

Planning and Development 

Initial project planning, also known as the development or conception phase, includes defining the project’s scope, budget, and schedule expectations. This planning phase should also involve discussing the client’s goals, determining whether the chosen contractor has the necessary availability or skillset, and recognizing the required building permits or approvals. 

ETI Steps

  • Preliminary Call 

The preliminary call between ETI and prospective clients lets us learn your needs and give you some perspective on how we work. We ask questions to determine if the project is appropriate for our firm

  • On-site Meeting

This brainstorming session includes broad outlines and tiny details. After this session, ETI and the client have a working idea of goals, budget, and timeline. This meeting takes place with all decision-makers present. Depending on the project, we may ask for authorization of a feasibility agreement to determine if your concept and budget are aligned.

  • The Design/Remodel Agreement

The general ETI design agreement states that we will design your project for a fee and is a reminder that ETI is not an architectural firm. We offer our design strictly as a pre-construction service. Once this design/remodel agreement is authorized, we take measurements, assign an architect or designer, and begin formal conceptualization and planning. 


The second construction phase is the design phase, when architects, engineers, and the general contractor develop the concept, floor plans, aesthetics, and structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Blueprints, drawings, and 3D models give the client a visual representation of the final project’s appearance. 

ETI Steps 

  • Design Process Underway

The ETI team creates a detailed visual package with written specifications, work timelines, payment schedules, and material samples to move the project from the concept to reality. ETI uses Co-Construct to provide a client portal with 24/7 access. This simplifies project management in construction with accessible communication, documents, and approvals and generally streamlines projects.

  • Design Review and Feedback

Design can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity and scope of your project. Expect several meetings with members of our design team during this time. The ETI team encourages communicating concerns and questions via the portal. During the entire design process, we provide budgetary feedback, letting you know the impact of your decisions. 

  • Design Approval and Final Selections

Once the design team and client have agreed on a finalized design and selected materials and products, it’s time to finalize the project’s budgetary numbers. ETI may also ask for an authorized letter of intent and to provide financing methods so we can hold your schedule slot and begin ordering any “long-lead” products or materials, such as lumber. 

project management in construction

Administrative Work

This construction phase features paperwork and number crunching. After the design is approved, conversations about cost become more concrete. They will likely draw up a formal contract agreement with a finalized budget if dealing directly with a single construction company. The timeline, complete with initial groundbreaking and completion date, is finalized, with the note that any construction timeline is subject to change based on weather, supply chain, or factors outside of the contractor’s control, is agreed upon. 

In some instances where commercial bids are required, this is the stage of the construction project when contractors submit bids, and the client negotiates with the selected contractor. If necessary, subcontractors may also be selected and contracted with during this administrative construction project phase. 

ETI Steps 

  • Construction Agreement

Once the Construction Agreement is signed, we collect an initial payment or have an escrow account with the funds in place. ETI and the client review scheduled progress payments and discuss the project completion procedure.

  • Scheduling

Through the client portal, we provide a detailed schedule showing all trades involved in your project and a road map of your project.

  • Pre-Construction Conference

Before the first swing of a hammer, ETI’s team meets with clients to discuss all the details as needed. We’ll let you know what to expect from regular work hours, the sequence of

tasks, and any particularly disruptive times. We establish signage and security alarm locations and a schedule for regular meetings with our project manager. 


The active stage of a construction project includes everything from site excavation to laying a foundation, constructing the roof, and everything in between. Construction also includes interior work and the installation of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. This phase also includes exterior work such as finishes and landscaping. 

ETI Steps 

  • Construction Underway

ETI’s reputable and personable crews get to work. Unforeseen conditions, delays, or decisions that need to be made are brought up at the weekly meeting with the PM unless immediate action is required. We communicate any situations that affect your budget with a potential change order (PCO) detailing the credit or cost.

  • Completion

Even after everything appears complete, ETI works with our clients to compile a “completion list,” or “punch list,” of remaining tasks and assigns a value. Aside from this small retainer, we’ll collect the final payment, and the client can begin using the new space even as we finish the items on the list. When we complete the list, we collect the rest of the final payment and determine if the project is complete. 

stages of construction project


Construction projects do not simply end once the physical work is done. In addition to the remaining items on a punch list, the contractor will test the MEP and HVAC systems and complete a final inspection to ensure everything is in working order. Post-construction includes final paperwork, payments, providing as-built drawings to the client, and discussing any warranties on the work, systems, and appliances. Before everything is said and done, contractors clean up the site, dispose of any construction materials, and remove any temporary fences and other structures.

ETI Steps 

  • Follow-up

The final step of the ETI’s process is the follow-up. We’ll schedule an exit interview to discuss our work and allow clients to provide feedback. Within a year of project completion, ETI contacts our clients to check on any warranty issues that may need our attention.

ETI Construction knows the commercial construction landscape in Chicago well. We provide complete general contractor services for industries ranging from office work to food service and healthcare. We’re committed to our clients and the community. Step one of any commercial construction project is contacting a potential contractor, so start with us.