Construction phase

Managing the construction phase of a school building project involves you, as the project manager, working with the board, the school representative, the supplier, the main building contractor and other parties as needed. You have responsibilities for health and safety, managing project changes, and dealing with disputes and defects in relation to the project. There are Ministry requirements for signs about the project being installed on the school site.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • Boards
  • Proprietors
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Project Managers
  • School Representatives
  • Project Control Group

Managing construction meetings

As soon as the contractors are engaged, organise a construction meeting.

First construction meeting

At the first meeting:

  • introduce contractors to each other and the project control group
  • familiarise contractors with the site, including break, access, parking and out-of-bounds areas
  • confirm health and safety arrangements using a Site Specific Safety Plan

Contractor health and safety

  • explain the project brief, including expected milestones
  • discuss reporting lines and who to talk to if issues arise
  • advise on administrative processes, such as invoicing, record-keeping, and notification of health and safety incidents
  • explain special school requirements, such as how to deal with students
  • advise what to do if anyone discovers toxic building materials during construction
  • respond to issues and questions.

Get as many contractors as possible to this meeting, including those whose work doesn’t start immediately. Use this opportunity to:

  • break the ice
  • help everyone involved become a team
  • encourage good communication.

Site meetings

Organise weekly site meetings while construction is going on. At these meetings:

  • you report on contractors’ availability and any new issues
  • contractors report on any delays due to weather or building supplies problems
  • school representatives discuss any problems with contractors, such as vehicles blocking access, or problems with paperwork for the Ministry
  • the engineering consultant reports on progress or problems with site works.

Monitoring the project’s progress

Monitor the progress of the project during the construction phase to check that everything goes to the plan in the project brief.

Monitoring includes the following tasks.

Project administration

In administering the project, ensure:

  • everyone has the information they need
  • the project is adequately staffed
  • each building stage moves quickly on to the next stage
  • the project control group is informed
  • the board understands the progress, risks and issues.

Scope control

Work with the project control group to limit the project to the scope defined in the designs and specifications. Without this control, costs may increase and the project may fall behind schedule.

Schedule control

Provide the schedule and make sure that everyone involved understands the time frames and works to meet them. To control the schedule:

  • understand the complex working relationships within the project
  • keep track of progress according to the Gantt chart prepared for the project brief — some work will be completed simultaneously, some will overlap and some cannot start until other work is finished
  • bring actual building progress in line with the contract’s schedule, budget or standards
  • have simple alternative approaches to follow if the project is delayed
  • review the schedule at project meetings and make adjustments as needed.

Managing variations

During the construction phase of your building project, either the board or a contractor may want to make changes to the original project brief.

Substantial changes may lead to:

  • the need for a new building consent — potentially, the council could stop the project
  • an impact on fire design requirements
  • extra design fees
  • higher costs for contractors’ work as they don't have to compete to price extra work under a variation.

Changes by the board

If the board wishes to change something part way through a project, the school representative must raise this with you and the design consultant.

You will have to follow the variation process. Advise the board if the change is possible and within budget. Get at least a written estimate before the board decides whether to go ahead with it.

Changes by the contractor

The project’s specifications include detailed instructions on the products the contractor will use.

The construction contract must include a condition forbidding the contractor to make any variations to the project without the designer’s written instruction because, if the contractor:

  • substitutes a product without permission, the substituted materials may not be fit for purpose
  • does extra work without written permission (for example, adding power points because a teacher has asked for them), they may not be paid for the extra work and materials.

However, a variation may be needed if the contractor has a genuine reason for substituting a specified product, for instance, the specified product may be unavailable.

Getting approval for a variation

Approval for a variation depends on the size of the change.

For a minor variation, such as changing the location of a power point, the designer usually decides whether to go ahead.

A substantial variation needs the approval of both the board and Ministry. Contact the school’s property advisor to find out how to do this.

If the variation takes the project over budget, the project may need to be re-scoped. In some cases, the project might be deferred or stopped entirely.

A variation is a change to the contract; all parties to the contract must sign and date any changes.

Variation records

Where a change is made to the project, keep records of:

  • the itemised claim detailing the required variations
  • the council’s agreement to the variation, if it affects the building consent
  • any discussions or negotiations between you, the board and the project control group member, and what was agreed
  • any payments made
  • a summary of the adjustment against the original contract sum
  • authorisation to carry out the variation – this will be in the contract.

Contracts for construction works and professional services

Managing risk

To manage risk, you should have a risk and issues register (if one wasn't created during the design phase, you'll have to create one).

Project managers are responsible for following risk management good practise throughout the construction phase.

Risks and issues should be discussed at the regular Project Control Group and site meetings.

Depending on the risk, you may have to:

  • Adjust timelines to accommodate delays and other tasks
  • Adjust the budget so costs stays within budget (including making changes to specifications).

Project budgets

If there's no risk or issues data, hold a risk-identifying workshop with the Delivery Team and relevant stakeholders.

Risks and issues register

The risk and issues registers should record as a minimum:

  • identification date
  • ihe person managing the risk/issue
  • a description of the risk/issue
  • potential impact on the project (risk)
  • actual impact on the project (issue)
  • responses to the risk/issue
  • the date by which you need to resolve the risk/issue.

Managing health and safety on the construction site

During the construction phase of a project, you need to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in the project, and those at the school.

Health and safety management

Dealing with disputes on the project

During projects, disputes can occasionally arise, for example, about the contractor’s quality of work and getting defective work fixed.

Dispute resolution will be provided for in our standard contracts.

Contracts for construction work and professional services

Installing signs advertising the project

You or one of the consultants or contractors working on the project may want to put a sign on the school grounds displaying:

  • the aim and details of the project
  • architectural images
  • project progress.

Costs for signs are part of the school’s project budget.

We have developed some requirements for installing signs. These requirements apply whether the Ministry or the board is managing the project. In both cases, meeting the requirements is likely to be shared among:

  • the project manager
  • the Ministry case manager for the school project
  • a Ministry staff member, as appropriate.

Requirements for producing and installing signs

  1. Check with the local authority on how large the sign can be without requiring consent.
  2. In the architect’s contract, include the requirement to produce images for signs.
  3. Procure printing and installation services. You should include these in the construction company’s contract. If not, use a single supplier for printing and installation.
  4. Discuss the sign and its specifications with the sign designer. Provide them with wording and the architect’s images of the project. Ask them to provide a draft sign as early as possible.
  5. Circulate the draft sign for comment and approval to the board and a senior Ministry manager.
  6. The sign may require sign-off from the Ministry’s legal division and sign-off by the Minister — contact your property advisor for advice.
  7. Discuss the location of the sign with the board.
  8. Send the approved sign design to the printer (or construction company) and tell them where it should be installed.
  9. Make sure the school knows when and where the sign is to be installed so the supplier can access that part of the school site.
  10. Sometimes there is an official unveiling of a project sign. If so, we'll manage this event, including any media releases. You cannot install the sign until the date of the unveiling.

Size, materials and installation of signs

  • Include protective laminate to increase durability and prevent vandalism.
  • Consider height to optimise visibility and deter vandalism.
  • Angle the sign towards oncoming traffic.
  • Consider larger fonts and smaller images to make the sign more readable for passing traffic.
  • Ask the architects to provide images as early as possible as part of their contract.

Pictures and text on signs


  • human figures (culturally diverse if possible), such as images of teachers and students, with their consent or their parents’ consent
  • inside and outside views of buildings
  • start and finish dates
  • Ministry of Education logo
  • New Zealand Government logo for Ministry-managed projects
  • school logo.

Don't include supplier logos on your signs.

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