How to Prevent Commercial Construction Pitfalls

“If only I had known.”
“I won’t make that mistake again”
Sound familiar? Commercial facilities projects are complex and highly detailed animals. They consume a lot of energy, money and time.

Many of the companies that reach out to us for help managing their next project have tried to go it alone in the past – and don’t want to relive the nightmare again.

Let’s take a look at 10 common pitfalls that can derail any commercial facilities project – and how to prevent them.

Missing the Client’s Primary Goals and Vision

Is the project owner clear and consistent in the project goals? It’s important that all decision-makers agree on the primary vision for the project, and the key markers for success.

TAKE ACTION: All stakeholders should meet to document the project goals, and agree in writing

Not Clearly Defining – and Documenting – the Scope of Work

The project vision and goals (above) will help dictate the scope of work. But the scope is much more detailed. Will this project include renovations? Will any staff be relocated – either to another area or a different building? Every detail of the project – from start to completion – should be documented. This will enable more accurate pricing and budgeting, scheduling, reduce future change orders, and streamline communications.

TAKE ACTION: Document the scope of work in detail, and have the project lead sign-off.

Not Properly Developing the Schedule

Just like the scope of work, the schedule is a detailed and critical document. There are likely many contingencies, milestones, long-lead considerations, and built-in flex time to account for weather-related and other delays. A clearly detailed schedule will keep everyone moving and focused, knowing how their role and deliverables will interact with the rest of the project team.

TAKE ACTION: Develop a detailed project schedule that is shared with the entire project team. It is important to understand what work must be completed before each sub-contractor can start, and the necessary lead notice before they can begin work. Visual formats that clearly show duration and milestones work best.

Insufficient Team Management

Ever heard the saying “It’s like herding cats?” Commercial facilities projects often fall into this category. With many different players – from stakeholders on the project owner side, to sub-contractor, local officials, neighbors and other interested parties – getting everyone on the same page and moving toward the same goal can be challenging, to say the least.

TAKE ACTION: Strong, clear leadership can keep everyone in line by communicating the scope and schedule (see above) during an initial meeting at the time the contract is awarded, defining job rules and expectations, and being prepared to make changes to the team if needed.

Lacking a Comprehensive Understanding of all the Players and Their Impact on the Project

We’ve already talked about all of the players that need to be considered for a project scope and schedule – including a developer, utility companies, zoning board, DOT, permitting departments, and others. All of these players can impact a project, and its successful delivery, in many ways.

TAKE ACTION: Understand these influences and plan outreach, scheduling and communication appropriately throughout the project.

Not Obtaining Proper Licensing

Depending on the kind of project, various licenses will be needed in order to comply with local, federal and state laws, as well as requirements from organizations such as the EPA, OSHA, ICE, or SWPPP.

TAKE ACTION: Know which permits are required for your project, and pull them in a timely schedule.

Improperly Managing Change Orders

Change orders can be the costly bane of any facilities project. However, with a well-thought out scope and schedule, and clear leadership, change orders can be minimized. If change orders do arise, they may be met with resistance by the project owner.

TAKE ACTION: Communicating the need for the change order, how it will benefit the end result, as well as the circumstances that led to the request and why it wasn’t included in the original scope, will help guide approvals.

Not Providing Adequate Supervision

The best project management tools, schedules and scope in the world cannot replace on-site supervision.

TAKE ACTION: Be visible. Visit the site regularly for scheduled and unscheduled visits. Know the crew by name, check-in, and be a resource for help resolving issues or questions that arise.

Not Addressing/Resolving Issues in a Timely Manner

Conflict is inevitable. Expecting disagreements to resolve themselves, or putting off addressing them to a later time will only allow the issues to grow and further impact the project.

TAKE ACTION: Encourage all team members to reach out to you for help managing any conflict that may arise. Address and resolve issues as soon as they come to your attention, so everyone can return their focus to the project.

Not Planning for Close-Out

Everyone’s eyes are on the finish line – but what happens after you cross it? Having a plan for project close-out helps ensure a smooth transition and a positive delivery of the completed project.

TAKE ACTION: Meet with building officials at the time you get the permit to start construction to understand exactly what you will need to get the final Certificate of Occupancy, including scheduling final building inspections. Maintain communications throughout the project, and provide updates on any major changes in scope or schedule.