Weekly Construction News Analysis
As workplaces across the province fall silent one by one, the busy hum of construction sites has carried on, mostly business as usual. That could be about to change.
With Ontario Premier Doug Ford announcing a province-wide shutdown of non-essential workplaces and Toronto Mayor John Tory declaring a state of emergency on Monday, the construction industry is bracing for closure.
Original Article: Construction Industry Braces For Devastating Shutdown in Toronto
The word unprecedented is beginning to get on my nerves when it comes to this coronavirus outbreak. The article in the Toronto Star does a great job in documenting some of the challenges facing the construction industry in the current global climate.
Industries are closing one by one across the Canada, Ontario and the City of Toronto and the one that has continued to stand firm is the industry of Construction. As the Toronto Star points out “Construction makes up six or seven precent” of the Ontario economy. When you combine that with the real estate industry it totals approximately 20%. In comparison retail and commerce make up 5%.
What this means is that while it may seem like the Coronavirus is having a large impact on the economy as a whole, the retail and hotel sectors are the one primarily suffering with others still in tact. Shutting down the construction sector would have a huge impact on the economy and for Canadians to pay their bills.
Keeping Essential Construction Projects Online
In the article they interview John Mollenhauer the president of the Toronto Construction Association, one of the largest in the country. The Ford government is considering shutting down select project sites deemed non essential. Mollenhauer then goes on to say who’s to determine something is non-essential? Maybe a condo being built is a new home for a family living in a hotel? Maybe a mall being built is the life savings of an investor somewhere.
While it’s easy to point at hospitals and say “yes those are the required projects” closing down the other projects has a much more significant impact.
Beyond just the construction industry there are other more significant factors to consider if the decision is made to shut down construction activity. Suppliers make their livings producting materials that are used for construction sites – this doesn’t just include construction materials but also safety equipment, access equipment, rental equipment. The effects are challenging to even imagine.
Construction Firms Doing Their Part to Fight the Coronavirus (COVID 19)
For the most part construction firms are doing a great job fighting the virus and the effects it is having on the society. The firms I all work with are practicing social distancing by spacing out crews or limiting the number of workers on site in a day. Schedules are also slowing down by reducing the number of overlapping activities. While this has an impact work doesn’t just stop.
The construction sector is unique in the way it operates. Our health and safety programs which are regularly put to the test have programs in place to manage this type of event. A gas leak or asbestos breach are safety challenges that jobsites deal with on a daily basis and are similar in nature to dealing with a virus. Workers are used to dealing with higher risk situations and taking additional precautions unlike other work environments.
My personal opinion is that the government should let the construction industry continue to do what it does best and that is build. Inspections from the Ministry of Labour should be stepped up to ensure that sites that are in violation of social distancing rules are prosecuted and shut down accordingly.
Is your Construction site still up and running? If so how are you helping to manage the spread?
Construction tower cranes are the focal points of jobsites throughout the world. They are the backbone and workhorses of most large construction sites. If they aren’t working; the jobsite isn’t working to it’s full capacity.
Most of the questions I’ve received from people in my life who aren’t in construction tend to focus on the subject of tower cranes. I get asked all of the time how are tower cranes erected? how does the operator get into the cab? How do they make the crane go higher in the building?
Despite their widespread usage people (even the workers on site) know very little about the machines that move us. We are going to answer some of the most basic questions as well as dive deeper.
What Is A Construction Tower Crane?
A construction tower crane is a common piece of lifting equipment found on construction sites. It is called a tower crane because of the large tower like structure the crane pivots around. The tower mast supports the jib and counter jib which in turns supports the cabling, trolley and hook which does the lifting.
Why Are Tower Cranes Used?
Tower cranes are used because they are efficient at lifting and moving heavy materials while having a relatively small footprint on site.
Tower cranes are great at lifting material and moving across long distances. Their reach allows them, in a lot of locations to have unencumbered access to the entire job site.
Why Use a Tower Crane Over A Mobile Crane?
Traditional mobile cranes require large setups at the ground level. If setup in the middle of a project this would have a large impact on the surrounding construction activities.
While the reach of the crane (jib and hook locations) are large the actual physical space a tower crane takes up on site is relatively small (think how small the tower is relative to the reach).
What Are The Different Types of Construction Tower Cranes?
By driving through a city like Toronto or New York you will quickly realize that tower cranes come in many different shapes and sizes. The different types of tower cranes are:
- Hammerhead Crane (Jib Type)
- Luffing Jib Tower Cranes (Jib Type)
- Derrick Cranes (Jib Type)
- Self Supporting Tower Cranes (Mast Type)
- Travelling Tower Cranes (Mast Type)
- Self Climbing Tower Cranes (Mast Type)
What is a Hammerhead Tower Crane?
A hammerhead tower crane is a common type of tower crane found on construction projects throughout the world. The hammerhead tower crane is recognizable through it’s vertical mast (tower) with a horizontal jib which supports both the cab. A trolley runs along the mast horizontally carrying the cable and hook. This allows the hook position to be in any position along the mast.
Luffing Jib Tower Crane
A luffing jib tower crane, often called just a luffing or luffer crane is another common type of construction tower crane. The crane is recognizable due to its diagonal arm which extends out from the top of the mast (tower) on an angle. Unlike the hammerhead the hook point is located off the end of the jib. The crane counter weights are located closer to the tower, when combined with the angled arm the luffing jib tower crane typically has a higher capacity then the hammerhead crane.
Unlike the hammerhead crane, the diagonal arm can move in and out (from vertical to a 30 degree angle). This movement allows them to fit within tight spaces which is why you often see luffing jib cranes within downtown urban environments.
Similar in nature to the luffing jib type you can think of Derrick cranes as their little brother. These cranes are unique in nature as their size is typically designed to sit on rooftops or small spaces. Derrick cranes are unique in nature because of their outriggers which allow them to sit on a surface.
They are assembled in pieces and are often used to either assemble or disassemble tower cranes. Derrick cranes are unique because often times they do not have a cab for an operator. Instead they are operated by remote control which is either wired or wireless.
Mast Type – Self Supporting Tower Cranes
A self supporting mast type is a typical tower crane that is put to use in shorter structures where tower extensions are not required. Self supporting tower cranes are anchored at the base with a weight or reinforced concrete block. Piles may be required to anchor the base to bed rock.
Self supporting tower cranes are anchored in place, have a tower extending out of the anchor point and they rotate around the tower. Considerations for the tower’s reach need to be made prior to installation as they cannot be moved easily once in place.
Mast Type – Travelling Tower Crane
A travelling tower crane is often used on projects which have a large footprint that require equipment be relocated regularly for lifting. A travelling tower crane is either track mounted or rail mounted. The tracks or rails allow the crane to travel horizontally along a path.
Depending upon the base or track design loads may or may not be able to be carried during the travelling period. If using this type of crane you need to ensure that you leave a path clear enough and flat enough on a project site to allow the crane to travel. If a path is not completely level and clear of debris you could risk the crane tipping over.
Mast Type – Self Climbing Tower Crane
Self climbing tower cranes are one of the most fascinating pieces of equipment that can be found on a construction site. A self climbing tower crane starts it’s life as with a typical self supporting tower crane. A tower is erected and anchored to a concrete reinforcing base.
As the building extends vertically the tower is anchored to the existing structure. When the building reaches a point where the crane will not clear the structure the crane then increases it’s height by inserting a piece of tower within the existing tower and “climbing” upwards.
The below video will help to explain the process of self erecting a tower crane.
What Are The Various Parts Of A Tower Crane?
Tower cranes are incredibly complex machines. When you look back to structures of the past it’s amazing the scale that we as a species were able to achieve without them. Today tower cranes allow us to reach new heights.
Tower cranes are broken into several different parts, each of which is crucial to the operation of the machine. There are hundreds of parts on a tower crane but the major parts on a tower crane can be broken down into the following:
- Base Support
- Tower (Mast)
- Operator’s Cab
- Jib and Counter Jib
- Trolley and Hook Block
The below is an illustration on the various parts of a tower crane.
Image illustrating parts of a tower crane.
The base support is the part of the tower crane that attaches the tower to the ground or surrounding structure. When a crane is attached to the ground this is typically done with reinforced concrete as well as piles to extend the support to bedrock. It’s important to engage an engineer to design this component of the tower.
The tower or mast of a tower crane is the vertical portion of the crane that extends upward from the ground. It’s purpose is to support the cab, mast, hook and counter weights as they rotate around it. Towers or masts are typically fabricated using a square lattice work of steel similar to an open web steel joist.
Tower Crane Operators Cab
The operators cab is where the crane operator sits in order to make the crane function. It is recognizable as a glass box on the side or underside of the mast. The cab is typically attached to a computer which feeds information to the operator and allows them to operate the crane with a pair of joysticks.
The tower crane turntable is the part of the crane that allows the jib and counter jib to spin on top of the mast. The mast is made up of two plates which insert inside of one another and rotates with bearings. The actual circular component that rotates is called a slewing bear ring – it’s a technology which is in use in windmills.
When a crane lifts a heavy object it needs a counter weight to balance the load of the lift. Without the counter weight in place the tower crane’s capacity would be significantly reduced. The counter weight is located on the opposite end of the jib as the hook. Counterweights are made from a variety of materials including reinforced concrete, steel and other heavy materials. Their weight is calculated based on what the capacity of the crane will be during it’s final use.
Jib and Counter Jib
The jib and counter jib are the most recognizable part of a tower crane. The jib and counter jib are the lattice work of steel that you see extending out horizontally from the top of the tower or mast. The purpose of the jib is to carry the trolley, cabling hook and load of the crane. The purpose of the counter jib is to offset the weight of the jib and hold the counter weights in place.
Trolley and Hook Block
The trolley and hook block to alot of the work on the crane. The trolley moves back and forth across the mast extending as needed to place the hook overtop of whatever load requires lifting. The hook block acts as a pulley system to go up and down depending upon how much cabling is released or pulled back into the spool. The hook block supports the hook which allows loads to be attached to the crane.
With all of the above components being made up of hundreds of parts it’s not hard to see why there are companies that are dedicated to crane installation. Maintenance on the tower cranes is crucial.
How Are Construction Tower Cranes Erected?
One of the most common questions I get asked by family members is how are tower cranes erected. When a crane is in place it’s a massive machine so it can be hard to comprehend how this piece of equipment made it into place.
Like a jigsaw puzzle a tower crane is erected in pieces. The various components are delivered on transport trucks one at a time and assembled utilizing a mobile crane. The tower is first constructed, followed by the turn table and cab, then the jib and counter jib are hoisted and attached. Lastly the counterweights and cables are installed to complete the erection.
The process of erecting a tower crane can take many hours and sometimes days depending upon the location and size. For this reason the erection of a tower crane typically requires shutting down adjacent streets if in a tight urban environment.
Below is a video which shows how a typical tower crane is erected:
How Are Tower Cranes Dismantled?
More then how are tower cranes erected, I get asked how these monster machines get removed? Seeing a tower crane on top of a 50 floor tower it’s hard to imagine how someone would begin to safely remove one. Yet, the construction industry has come up with some incredibly creative ways to remove a tower crane.
Tower cranes are traditionally removed by other cranes. Component are taken apart one piece at a time starting with the hook, cables and counterweight which is followed closely by the jib, cab and tower. In general there are two types of cranes used for removal of a tower crane:
- Mobile Crane
- Derrick cranes
Mobile Crane Tower Crane Removal
If your site allows a mobile crane can be utilized to remove a tower crane from your site. In this situation a mobile crane is brought in and set up close to the base of the crane. The mobile crane takes the crane apart one piece at a time. The mobile crane hooks onto a piece and workers remove the fasteners allowing it to be freed and lowered to the ground.
This technique is typically used in low or mid-rise construction though some mobile cranes have a reach of hundreds of feet and can be used on lower high rise construction.
If a tower crane is out of reach from mobile cranes then Derrick cranes need to be utilized in order to remove it. Because some derrick cranes are too large to be brought up in an elevator typically a progressively small set of derrick cranes are used with the largest being used to remove the tower crane. The next smallest then removes the large derrick, and another smaller one removes that derrick. This goes on until the parts can be lowered to the ground using either an elevator or electric hoist.
While this method can take longer it also has less impact on the surrounding site as a large mobile crane does not need to be brought in. This method is fascinating to watch. Below is a video showing the progressive removal of a tower crane using derricks:
In areas where flight paths are not a concerned another method that can be used to take apart a tower crane are helicopters. These represent a challenge in high rise settings as a result they are rare to see.
Things To Consider When Deciding On A Tower Crane
If you’re planning a tower crane on your project site it’s important to take a number of key factors into consideration. The key considerations to take into account when planning for a tower crane are:
- Capacity Required
- Space availability (Surrounding structures and infrastructure)
- Pick Locations
- Flight Paths
- Installation and Removal
Depending upon what your tower crane will be used for you may require a different model or design. If your crane will be lifting things like formwork and buckets of concrete your crane will be a relatively light model. However, if you need your crane to lift equipment such as a generator or large steel members you may need to reconsider.
Cranes have typical lifts and lifts that are designed as critical. Critical lifts are typically those that are within 10% of the cranes total capacity. These lifts require special engineering. If you only have one heavy lift on the project it may be worthwhile to engineer your crane to accommodate all other loads except the one and have it engineered as a critical lift. Your other alternative could be to bring in a mobile crane to complete the lift.
This one is critical. Noone wants to put up a tower crane only to find out that it can’t travel where they wanted it to. It’s important when planning your tower crane location that it’s not being impacted by surrounding buildings. If it is and there’s not much you can do about it having procedures in place to ensure it doesn’t hit them is equally important.
Try to plan your crane location away from structures and critical infrastructure such as overhead power lines.
If your tower crane is located near sidewalks or a public roadway be aware that overhead protection or special procedures may be required to protect the public.
In instancing where more then one tower crane is on site the swing radius of each crane should be considered. Optimizing the area of each lift to provide the most coverage while not hitting the other cranes towers while rotating.
Why put up a tower crane if it’s lowest capacity is at your loading dock? Planning your pick locations around your tower crane OR planning your tower crane around your pick locations is important. Loading docks are important – they help material come into and out of your jobsite. Cranes get weaker the further the load is from the mast – plan your crane close to these locations to maximize the capacity of your crane.
While most people wouldn’t be concerned about planes flying into tower cranes aviation authorities typically are. If your crane is located within a certain distance to an airport it may require a special permit and restrictions on it’s operating time / height. Review with your local flight authority to ensure that you take out the proper paper work prior to erecting your crane.
Installation and Removal
As I noted above, the installation and removal can be a very intensive process requiring large pieces of equipment. While planning out your crane location it’s important to consider this. You don’t want to put your crane in a location that will make it challenging to get off the site. This could delay your finishing phases.
If you have more then one tower crane on site, it may be worth sequencing the removal and installation to allow one or two of the cranes to remove or install the others. This will save time and allow areas of your building to be finished in advance of the complete crane removal.
Who Operates A Tower Crane?
A tower cranes operation is not just a one man job. Picking materials is a team job which requires both an operator, a swamper or lift director and a rigging crew.
The operator’s job is to run the crane from the cab. They are responsible for the movement and lifting operations of the crane. When lifting loads are typically out of vision from the operators direct line of sight. Cameras are used but they must also rely on their swamper or lift director.
The swamper or lift directors job is to supervise the lifting from the ground. They typically have direct communication with the operator via radio. They’re role is to ensure the load is safely attached and within the capacity of the crane. They are also responsible to ensure that the path of travel is clear for the operator.
The rigging crew are the team that actually attaches the load to the hook of the crane. They are responsible for safely tethering the load and ensuring it is safely attached to the crane.
Together this group of individuals is essential to the operation of the construction site.
Tower Cranes Future In Construction
Tower cranes have and will continue to be the work horses of the construction industry. They have allowed us to reach new heights building higher and faster then we ever dreamed. Construction companies will continue to rely on them due to the minimal space required on a construction site and their versatility when it comes to lifting things.
Have you used a tower crane on your construction site? Let me know below in the comments and share some of the success stories or tips you have.
Weekly Construction News Analysis
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Construction is something that everyone will come across atleast once in their life. Whether it’s a house renovation, a deck addition, or a much larger project like a hospital or new office. They range in scope and value. One of the most common issues on construction projects is that they go over budget.
So why do construction projects go over budget? According to a statistical analysis performed on construction projects, the following are the leading causes for projects to go over budget:
- Estimating Errors
- Delay in Permitting
- Incomplete Design leading to changes
- Unforeseen Conditions
- Owner Interference or Lack of Interference
- Delay in Payment
For your reference here is a link to the original research paper – published in the Journal of Sustainable Construction Engineering and Technology.
If construction is such a common activity in our day to day life how can the same mistakes be made over and over again and what can you do to avoid going over budget on your construction project?
The best bet is to avoid the items I listed above, by doing so you’ll stand a better chance of keeping your project under budget. I’m going to walk you through the best approaches on all of these!
Over Budget Due To Errors In The Estimating Process
It’s always a joke amongst construction teams that it’s always the estimator’s fault whenever something is missing in the project budget. The truth, is estimators have a challenging job. Their timelines to prepare a construction estimate or bid a job are often very short and information is typically not fully complete.
Because of this the estimating process is prone to errors. Unfortunately, missing a 0 or forgetting to carry a scope can have serious impacts on the profitability of a job for both the owner and the contractors involved.
For this reason it’s important for estimators to ensure their numbers are correct. While no estimate will ever be perfect you can take some of the following steps to help ensure it’s more accurate:
Take Your Time On The Estimate
Seriously, spending extra time on an estimate. By doing so you’ll give yourself the opportunity to review what you’ve completed for errors and omissions.
If you don’t have time due to a limited submission period – start researching the project before the bid is released, or, ask for an extension. What’s the say – asking never hurt anyone?
By spending extra time on your estimate you can help to avoid the construction project going over budget.
Sub trade and Supplier Coverage
After having worked on the owners side for a while now I understand that contractors love to rely on “their trades”. People build relationships naturally and learn to trust certain people. By developing these relationships a lot of people will have a trade or supplier that they always go to for pricing.
Unfortunately, trades and suppliers are just as prone to making errors as the general contractor.
By having more than one trade or supplier per division provide you with numbers you can more easily identify mistakes and often receive more competitive numbers from people who have less work.
Peer Review Your Construction Estimate
A common way of eliminating errors within the estimating process is through peer review. Prior to submission pull together a group of the most experienced individuals and have them peer review the estimate.
This benefits the team in two ways – the first is that multiple people will all build differently. By incorporating multiple people one of them may come up with a better way to do something giving you the competitive edge.
The second reason is simply catching errors. Each set of eyes means more opportunity to catch mistakes.
Interested in more ways to eliminate errors in the estimating process. Make sure to check out our article on Ways to Eliminate Errors In An Estimate.
Permitting Delays In Construction
Another reason that many construction projects go over budget is due to permit delays. Permits are one of the most common delays found on construction sites. Since owners are typically responsible for obtaining permits – the contractor is typically a fan as it represents an owners delay.
In order to address what can be done to prevent permitting delays, we first need to understand the process and players. Including what is a construction permit?
A construction permit is any document that is granted from an authority that allows the builder to perform a specific action. An example of permits includes:
- Building Permit
- Road Occupation Permit
- Sidewalk Occupation Permit
- Electrical Permit
- HVAC permit
- Underground plumbing permit
There can be many permits on a single construction project so the first step in eliminating delay due to permits is understanding which apply to your project.
A good way of doing this is with a construction permit log. A log lists all of the permits which will apply to your project and identifies who is responsible for obtaining each.
The start of the project should include a permit review meeting where all parties sit down together to prepare this list and assign who is responsible. Creating a permit tracking log is always a good idea.
Give Yourself Time To Obtain Permits
The number one thing you can do when planning your project is to leave sufficient time to get your permits. I see too many schedules where people enter a new market and assume that they can get their permit in two months (with the reality being closer to six).
Be smart about your permit timing and give yourself suitable time. Do research on the market your in and the permit timing. Ask City staff or survey other team members on historical timing to get permits.
Incomplete Design – Every Contractors Dream
Incomplete design. Chances are you have been on a project where the design has been less than stellar. We all have and it’s not a fun experience. Having an incomplete design can lead to costly change orders.
When you have a complete design leading up to the start of the project it has several added benefits.
- Faster tender period due to less questions
- Contractors can be more concise on their number
- Contractors can carry less money for contingency due to less risk in the design documents
- More contractors interested in the project due to less complication
By having a complete design you will reduce the overall cost of your project at the start and reduce the time it takes for procurement.
So how can you improve the overall quality of design documents in order to avoid going over budget?
Hire Quality Consultants: do your homework on the consultants you’re hiring. Make sure that they can provide you with a complete set of documents and the industry. What do I mean by that? Don’t higher a consultant who typically designs houses to build a heavy industrial building. Hiring people with professional, relevant experience.
Plan For Design – have your consultants provide you with a detailed design schedule up front. Don’t force them into artificial deadlines – it will compromise design.
Peer Review – yes I know I’ve mentioned this process before but by having a contractor or another designer complete a peer review on the documents you can catch many errors. Contractors are used to dealing with consultant’s mistakes and can point out discrepancies in the drawings.
But the primary reason that a project will go over budget due to incomplete design is the process that occurs after the award to your contractor.
Changes Orders 🙁
Change orders are by their nature a very inefficient part of the a construction project. There are many reasons that they can cause a construction project to go over budget. Change orders are a profit center for contractors.
By the time you get to the change order process you are no longer in a competitive tendering environment. Because of this some of your leverage on pricing goes away. Contractors will mark up quotations with overhead and profit, and, quite often pricing won’t be legitimate.
To protect yourself from bad pricing it’s best to take a few steps:
- Have your consultants review pricing to confirm if it’s fair.
- Request detailed labour and material breakdowns for all work
- During tendering outline the overhead and profit amounts contractors are allowed to charge
If you combine these three items you can protect yourself from price gouging during the change order process and avoid going over budget on your construction project.
Going Over Budget On Your Construction Project Due To Existing Conditions
When you start a project, whether it is a new building, or a renovation of an existing property there will come a time when you are forced to deal with existing conditions. These instances, have the potential to be some of the most impactful situations on your project. But why are existing conditions a cause for going over budget and how can you more effectively manage them?
Existing conditions are a primary reason construction projects go over budget because they are typically a risk that someone hasn’t accounted for. There are many clauses within most modern contracts to protect contractors from these risks.
When pricing a project there are things that the contractor is aware of, and depending upon your contract type things they can make allowances for to better manage the risk. Unfortunately, not every risk will be accounted for.
Unfortunately existing conditions tend to be one of those risks that many people don’t see coming. As a result they tend to be larger in both the cost and time that they take up on a construction project.
An example of some existing conditions include:
- Unknown ground conditions such as contaminated soils or soft patches
- Mechanical or Electrical Services that you didn’t know were where they are
- Structure that doesn’t match the as-built drawings
- Building structure being weaker than expected
- Underground concealed items
These conditions can have major impacts on both the budget and schedule. As a result it’s worth mitigating the risk related to these as soon as possible to avoid going over budget.
How To Mitigate Risk Related To Existing Conditions To Avoid Going Over Budget
There are a few key strategies to this – we’ve done a very detailed article on renovations but here’s a few ideas you can follow to minimize risk:
- Investigation – this is the simplest way to minimize risk related to existing conditions. By spending time at the start of the project with your contractor or consultants and investigating areas that interact with existing conditions you’ll better understand them.
- Contingency – review historical projects and identify issues they ran into. Assign contingency to those items that relate to your project. Fool me once!
- Simplify Design – avoid complex designs around existing conditions. By simplifying your design and using materials you know will work with most conditions you minimize risk and help your construction project stay on track.
By using each of the above methods together you can help your construction project to avoid going over budget.
Owner Interference Or Lack of Interference
When many people remember bad projects they immediately think of those times when they had a hard ass owner, or an owner who didn’t make decisions on time. There may be light in a dark tunnel however, a study performed by Arcadis showed that construction claims against owners had dropped for five straight years leading up to 2018.
Owner interference in a project can be a challenging issue that is hard for project teams to overcome. Your initial thoughts may be it’s always inexperienced owners that cause this issue. But surprisingly experienced owners can also cause problems. Experienced owners may feel that they know better than the contractors and consultants they hire.
Owner interference can cause projects to go over budget through a few reasons:
- Additional changes to the design as a result of decision or indecision
- Delays in construction due to changes or lack of direction
- Mistakes or errors being made in construction due to owner making incorrect decisions
So what can be done to avoid owner interference on a project? Here are three tips for you as an owner or a team member.
Respect People’s Expertise
On every construction project each company and person has their assigned roles. Each knows their respective specialty better than others. Project teams should rely on experts to make recommendations. It’s okay to challenge people on their opinions when necessary but be careful about stepping on them too much.
Make Decisions When They Are Needed and Empower Others To Make Decisions For Themselves
People in general want to feel recognized for doing a good job. You can help recognize them by giving people the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. There are many coaching sessions online about decision making – but the important part is to allows others to do it.
As an owner or contractor watch the companies and people that work for you. If you see a decision that’s been made that you disagree with address it with the other person or people in private – by disagreeing with someone in public you may be discrediting them the next time they need to stand up for you.
There are many clients who feel that they know best and want to know everything that is happening on a project site. Whether you’re a client, a contractor or a designer there will be people under you. You don’t need to know every detail on what
Delay In Payment
The construction industry is known as a challenging industry to work in. One of the main reasons for the negative stigma surrounding it is because of payment. There are stories everywhere about a contractor getting stiffed on payment or a supplier not getting paid. Maybe an owner doesn’t want to pay because something has gone wrong?
The reason for such feelings is that construction is creating something. It is highly personal to people, and because of that emotions can get involved.
Paying a contractor or supplier should never include the word emotion (unless your company name is emotion. When reviewing payment it should be per the terms of the contract. Period.
When I first started in construction, we had a subcontractor go bankrupt. As a result we found that they weren’t paying their workers or suppliers. Insurance ultimately ended covering the situation but this created a huge amount of extra effort by everyone involved to ensure everyone was paid who was owed.
But how can late payment cause your project to go over budget?
Late payment can cause a project to go over budget in a few different ways.
Delaying Work On Site – if someone doesn’t pay for work performed, further work may be held up as a result. As with everything on a construction site this can have a trickle down effect delaying work from other trades. They then have a claim against the project.
Putting Others At Risk – if someone goes bankrupt or someone isn’t paying Liens can be put on the property. These are costly notices that prevent occupancy of a building until it get’s paid. By having to pay the people for work that may have already been paid, expensive legal costs or by preventing you from opening on time not paying people can cost way more money.
Stick To The Contract – Black and White
As I noted above, paying people or receiving payment should always be done per the terms of the construction contract. It’s important when starting your project to have payment terms clearly defined. Some key things that should be addressed in your agreement:
- Process of payment
- Timeliness of payment
- Disputes and how they are resolved
- Payment in the event of disputes
- Holdback requirements
By defining the above issues within your contract you can protect both the payer and the payee. Once you both understand that you have legal protections in the event of issues on site – you can both relax when payment is handed over.
Weather Delays Causing Budget Issues in Construction
“This is the worst winter we’ve ever had” should be made into a sticker that all construction people should wear.
Weather is an inevitable factor of construction and one that is nearly unavoidable. Weather can cause a construction project to go over budget for the following reasons:
- Delay In Construction – depending upon your contract setup the owner or the contractor may be at risk for delays due to weather.
- Damages to Materials – rain, wind and other major weather events can have an impact to an unfinished building.
- Morale – multiple days of rain can have serious consequences to productivity and morale on site. Especially if the project is outside.
- Productivity – some activities are better performed in good weather. For example excavation can be performed much easier in summer months than winter depending upon your location.
What can you do to avoid weather issues?
There are a number of ways to better manage risk related to weather on a construction site:
Eliminate the Weather
Plan temporary facilities on your project to eliminate the weather. For example, in Vancouver it’s widely recognized that rain is a common occurrence on construction sites. Because of this many projects install temporary tent structures over areas requiring waterproofing.
Plan temporary ways to avoid weather – this could mean completing the roof as soon as the top floor is up to keep water out of the lower floors.
Plan For Weather
This should go without saying but plan your project around the weather. A perfect example of this that I see all too often is starting in the winter in colder months. Plan activities that are the most susceptible to certain weather patterns in time periods when it’s least likely to occur.
Start excavation in the spring time. Pour concrete in summer months. Activities such as interior finishes can happen anytime so long as the building is enclosed so take advantage of that.
Make Allowances For Weather
There are many instances where weather cannot be avoided. Where those instances occur make allowances within your budget to plan for it.
If you’re pouring concrete in winter, allow for winter heat and winter mix in the concrete. If you’re doing roofing in the rainy season consider temporary waterproofing to hold over until the summer.
Provide your project team with contingencies incase they get into trouble and need to take emergency actions.
Weather related incidents are almost a given on any construction project. Because of this it’s important that you take out insurance against them. Understand who owns what insurance and how each company is covered.
By protecting yourself with insurance, if issues arise due to weather on a construction site you can deal with them without concern over personal loss.
BONUS – Going Over Budget By Poor Performance
It’s always the contractors fault. The drawings are so terrible on this project. The subcontractors just aren’t performing!
We’ve all been there where the blame game starts to get played because a party isn’t holding up their end of the deal. In most cases someone is underperforming and others have to make up for them. This can lead to an area of a project lacking and causing delays.
This doesn’t necessarily happen on every project, though it does happen on some.
Below I’m going to run through a wide variety of issues that you can run into on a construction project as a result of poor performance and ways you can manage them to avoid issues.
Poor Performance By Designers and Engineers
Contract documents are not fully developed meaning that during construction many issues are coming forward.
Perform a detailed review of the contract documents by a third party or contractor ahead of time.
Slow responses to contract admin such as RFI’s and Submittals
Hold weekly meetings to keep track of document return.
Poor Performance By Contractors
Progress is not what is reflected on schedules
Track progress daily and hold regular update meetings to understand where things are falling behind. Ask for recovery plans.
Inexperience causing issues on site
Request replacement or supplementary staff. Ensure all contractors are reviewed for competency and capabilities before selection.
Avoiding Going Over Budget – The Silver Bullet
With all of the above reasons and methods to avoid going over budget there is still on fundamental way projects can avoid going over budget. That method is team work.
Buildings weren’t built by a single person and the more your group works together and understands one another the better the project will be.
What’s a reason your project has gone over budget and how do you think it could have been avoided? Let me know in the comments below.