The day, my husband and I were walking and talking about a potential building project, and he said something about all the work that needs to go into a foundation, water lines, electric, etc–that “groundwork accounts for half the work.” He then mused as to whether literal groundwork was where the metaphorical groundwork came from.
Short answer: Yep! Of course!
Long answer: Since the mid-14oos, groundwork has been used to refer to the foundation of a building–you know, the part directly on or even under the ground. What surprised me was that by 1550, the symbolic or metaphorical use had come into being and was also used of immaterial things. So people have been laying the groundwork for other plans and projects and ideas for quite a long time!
Have you ever been involved in a new-construction building project? Did the cost and amount of planning for the groundwork take you by surprise?