11 Preconstruction Tips title graphic

11 Pre-construction Tips for Your Next Food and Beverage Project


Just as it’s an integral production component in the food and beverage industry, preparation is crucial when undertaking a successful construction project.

Whether setting out to improve efficiency, increase your processing capacity, or develop new products through a capital improvement at your food plant, the right amount of preparation goes a long way.

Here are eleven pre-construction tips that will help keep your design or design-build team on schedule and on track.

1. Think big picture.
In the beginning, consider big picture questions like: What do you need and when? What is the purpose of your facility? Of course, this will depend on what you need. Is it a food processing facility? A distribution center? If so, what are its storage and refrigeration requirements? If you’re planning a remodel or renovation project on an existing facility, gather information about your current heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and electrical capabilities.

2. Consider size and location.
Before getting concerned with details, you’ll want to have a good idea of how big your building is going to be. And where. Location is another major decision point that effects cost and schedule. Are you located in the upper Midwest? Harsh winters can impact a construction schedule.

3. Engage everyone who cares.
Who will be involved in the project? The neighborhood? City council? Even employees have a stake in your project. Avoid last minute surprises. When planning, gather input from your stakeholders so you can ensure their interests are aligned with your project.

4. Organize your utilities.
With a little organization, you can make sure your utilities have all the power they need. Utilities involve:

  • Mechanical processes
  • Refrigeration and room temperature settings
  • Electrical usage

A utility matrix can help you and your design team organize your utilities and their operational requirements by identifying important items like electrical load and “cut sheets” on equipment.

5. Consider quantity of quality.
High quality is the goal on every project. Yet the term “high quality” should be understood in relative terms that can vary depending on your specific needs. Consider questions such as:

  • How long will your facility be operational?
  • What are the lifecycle cost considerations?
  • Is this a sustainable facility?

If you only need a facility for a couple years and decide to build, rather than lease, you can avoid unnecessary costs by building only the project you need, to the standards of quality you require.

6. Identify long lead items.
You’re going to want to build your schedule around what takes the most time to get. So identify long lead items early on. These include any customized equipment, utility disruptions, outages, permitting and consensus building.

If you need your project built quickly, you may want to consider different project delivery types, such as design-build or engineer-procured construction management. These delivery approaches are designed to facilitate procurement of long lead items at the earliest possible opportunity.

7. Know your regulations (and employ the right experts).
Various food safety governing bodies — the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Drug Administration, and Food Safety and Inspection Services among others — have similar regulatory policies. However, there are subtle but important differences among them that you must account for before building. Use contract and construction experts, not lawyers, to develop your documents!

8. Secure your craft labor.
The availability of labor is becoming an issue for many contractors throughout the country. Skilled labor is not always readily available. Depending on where you are, your craft labor may require union or non-union labor, or a mix. Know that limited craft labor availability may slow your schedule.

9. Keep in mind the softer side.
Sometimes forgotten, soft costs — which are construction costs not related to labor and materials — can add up. Soft costs include:

  • Communications
  • Furniture
  • Outages
  • Permitting fees
  • Testing and inspection fees
  • Utility connection fees

Soft costs can add anywhere between 10% and 30% to your overall construction budget. Remember them.

10. Have a technology philosophy.
Whether for your security and emergency systems or for a backup power, think about how you want to include IT and redundancy in your project. Are two backups enough for you? Or do you prefer ten?

11. Remember the future.
Hopefully, you have long-range, if somewhat tentative, plans for your facilities’ growth. Always include these plans when looking at what you need short-term. Your design or construction professional can make sure your project will fit in your plans. And you’ll find significant savings when compared to upgrading or retrofitting that infrastructure in the future.


A construction project at a food processing or manufacturing plant requires precise preparation and planning. If you start early and consider the information I’ve shared above, you’re going to have a successful one. Have questions? Reach out to your design and construction management professional. They are best equipped to help you develop a sensible, successful project.