How Construction Works: An Insider’s Guide to the Commercial Construction Process

In the vast and complex world of commercial construction, understanding the mechanisms behind project bidding, subcontracting, and execution is crucial for both new and seasoned players. This guide delves into the essentials of how construction projects come to life, from the initial bid invitation to the final payment and project completion.

The Bid Invitation Process

Commercial general contractors serve as the intermediaries between building owners and the various trades required to complete a project. Owners typically request bids from 3-5 commercial builders who then draw on their networks and estimating experience to compile comprehensive bids from subcontractors. This aggregated bid is then presented to the owner, who awards the contract to the bidder who offers the best value — typically the most affordable yet responsible option.

Prequalification and Invitation to Bid (ITB)

To even be considered for a bid, subcontractors must first navigate the prequalification process with the construction company, a step that establishes them as preferred vendors. This process can be as brief as a minute or as lengthy as several hours, requiring detailed information about the subcontractor’s capabilities, preferred project sizes, and areas of specialization. See applications here.

Managing ITBs

Once prequalified, subcontractors will receive ITBs either directly from the construction company or through platforms like Building Connected or Plan Hub. Pricing these ITBs correctly is critical; bids that are too low or too high may be dismissed as unrealistic, underscoring the importance of accurate and responsible bidding.

Contract Awarding and Execution

Following a successful bid, the general contractor awards the contract to the chosen subcontractor, who then signs it either physically or electronically. This contract initiation is followed by a series of processes that dictate the project’s financial and operational execution, including a ‘paid when paid’ or net 30 payment term, emphasizing the need for meticulous financial planning and invoicing on the subcontractor’s part.

Importance of Compliance and Safety

The construction site is a web of rigorous safety standards and compliance requirements, overseen by OSHA. Subcontractors must equip their teams with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and adhere to safety regulations to mitigate risks and ensure a secure working environment.

Financial and Insurance Requirements

Entering a construction project requires understanding the financial undertakings, including the essential insurance coverages like general liability, workers’ compensation, and commercial auto insurance. These prerequisites ensure that the subcontractor is adequately protected against the myriad risks inherent in construction projects.

Project Management and Relationships

Effective project management is the linchpin of successful construction projects. From estimators and project managers to superintendents, each plays a vital role in managing the bids, overseeing the trades, and ensuring the project’s smooth execution. Moreover, the construction industry thrives on relationships; delivering quality work can lead to repeat business, making every project an opportunity to solidify one’s reputation and operational efficiency.


The commercial construction industry offers immense opportunities for growth and success. However, navigating it requires a deep understanding of the bidding process, compliance with safety and financial regulations, and the importance of efficient project management and strong professional relationships. Whether you’re looking to expand across states or specialize in local projects, mastering these elements is key to building a thriving construction business.

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