Posts Tagged ‘construction defects’

Risk Management Means Innovating Beyond Checklists

December 21, 2011

A recent report from McGraw-Hill (also discussed here) outlined the results of a survey of owners, architects and general contractors examines the ways in which project teams on $100 million projects handle risk management. The report suggests that formal risk control processes “beyond simple checklists”  are necessary for these projects to sufficiently mitigate their overall project risk.

The costs of risk in these projects are staggering. For example the average size of a post-construction disputes is $3 million dollars. But what’s striking to me is how common it is for these projects to be dealt a blow from risk related issues. Consider these statistics:

  • Almost a quarter of projects are hit with schedule delays.
  • Close to 20% of projects are over budget.
  • About 10% of projects experience disputes.

And these are the big boys. The best-in-class, technology savvy, resource-rich organizations that one would expect to have their act together. But even the best and brightest are subject to the ill effects of overruns, scope creep and safety and site conditions.  As a matter of fact, “unforeseen site conditions” was listed as one of the most difficult risks to quantify. It’s nice of the MH folks to formally recognize something we all know to be true; once you break ground, you never know what can happen next.

Site conditions change, often unpredictably so. However, as I’ve discussed before, unforeseen conditions present a challenge in dealing with the risk of the past where costs pile up as those charged with investigating, analyzing and negotiating a resolution struggle to recreate the conditions on the site at the time in question.  Capturing this critical information doesn’t happen by accident. If the principles of major projects are going to take a dent out of risk-related costs, it’s going to take organization-wide efforts to make recording site conditions a mandatory (and routine) practice.  Current methods rely on individual project managers to establish their own systems for recording information, leading to a different system for every project and predictably inconsistent results.

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Like Aspirin for a Hangover

November 26, 2011

I get the same kinds of questions over and over. Does Geedra prevent construction defects? Does Geedra make litigation go away? Will Geedra keep a project on schedule? And my answers are always the same; Construction risk will never go away, though Geedra can often help mitigate that risk.

There is no single solution that can prevent many of the most vexing problems in construction. However, by enabling project teams to readily research construction conditions at any time, Geedra reduces the time and effort necessary to resolve such problems.  After all, it’s often not the single issue itself, but the countless hours of investigation, forensics, depositions and expert testimony that drive the cost of resolution.

As anyone that has had a hangover will tell you, a couple of aspirin in the morning doesn’t make the hard drinking of the night before go away. It just makes it less painful.

Re-Imagining the Contingency Budget

November 9, 2011

*RP - Risk of the Past


In an earlier post I discussed the risk of the past (RP) and the ways in which it impacts the contingency budget of a construction project. The table above presents a “before and after” scenario, where the effects of the RP are reduced through effective use of media to capture and record events and conditions in real time so that they may be examined later.  By effectively leveraging media to lessen the uncertainty over past conditions, the contingency budget can be reduced in many ways as explained below.

Scope Change

Collateral work is the biggest driver of unanticipated scope change costs. Owners can fail to fully comprehend the impact on construction of what may seem to be a minor change request. While inaccurate or incomplete progress reports by the contractor, may lead an owner to believe that sufficient time exists to implement a change without incurring major rework.

Contractors can use media effectively to clearly convey project progress to owners and then build on that knowledge to illustrate the impact of design change costs. In doing so, both parties know what they are in for when approving a design change.

Coordination

Work that is completed out of sequence harms productivity and can lead to unnecessary charges. Often a single instance of out-of-sequence-work can lead to a pattern that spirals out of control. Contractors can use media to capture and share lessons learned immediately to correct these issues and prevent further loss, rather than waiting until the end of the project when the damage is done.

Design Deficiencies

Let’s face it, the RFI is overkill for many contractor inquiries. How many times does the response to an RFI read something like “See detail D-1”? For example when it comes to process related questions such as window installation, Architects can utilize photos and video to clearly convey to prescribed process for proper installation providing for an easily repeatable process throughout a project.  In the case of a valid RFI request, media provide an effective tool for contractor and architect alike for confirmation of compliance.

Delay Claims

This is an area where the answer is almost never as clear as black and white. Clear evidence of jobsite conditions can allow for a thorough examination of factors contributing to delay claims and often bring to light details that do not survive through recollection and typical documentation alone. For example, even severe weather events are often not the “show stopper” that they might appear to be in hindsight. A jobsite bogged down in mud, might still be quite productive when it comes to interior work, for example. Photos and video can also conclusively settle issues of materiel delivery schedules or access by subcontractors.

Post Construction Legal Expenses

Well, the lawyers are going to get theirs anyway. Aren’t they?

Eliminating the Risk of the Past

November 9, 2011

Why do construction budgets need contingencies?

There are many facets to the answer but they boil down to two; the risk of the future and the risk of the past. While there are many things we can do to mitigate the risk of the future, it is a fact of life. Weather will change, buildings will leak and misunderstandings will continue. However, effectively eliminating the risk of the past is well within our reach.

What is the risk of the past?

It’s the decay of knowledge over time. As knowledge decays, uncertainty rises and our ability to make informed decisions suffers. Certain facts blur into vague recollections raising doubts and costs in the process.

How do we eliminate the risk of the past?

By recording the present, of course! Photos, video, sound and written notes are all key components of capturing the existing conditions on a site. The more facts we capture surrounding an event or condition, the more accurately we can examine it at a later date.

How does eliminating the risk of the past effect the construction contingency?

The right photo can eliminate the need for hundreds of hours of discovery, depositions and expert testimony.  Claims about sidewalk damage, impaired access or performance milestone melt away in presence of irrefutable evidence.

In my next post, we’ll take a look at the effects of reduced risk of the past on a contingency budget.

4D 5D Can’t Complete the Picture

July 29, 2010

For all the promise of 4D and 5D BIM technology, users can never capture the reality of jobsite conditions and their impact on a building.  Yes, including the dimensions of time and cost adds a stronger connection between design and construction. But there are many components of “as-built” construction that BIM can never capture. There are certain conditions that can only be accurately and comprehensively recorded in photos and video.

Here’s a partial list of conditions and I welcome you to add others:

  • installation processes
  • access issues
  • sequencing issues
  • use of specified materials
  • fabrication processes
  • water intrusion remediation
  • LEED point qualification

Finally, before you convince yourself that as-built conditions can be completely represented in a BIM model, remember that human beings are the connection between the two.

Rob’s Interview with Blogger Mikhail Surkan

November 25, 2009

I sat down for a chat with Mikhail Surkan to discuss the challenges and opportunities for a starting a company in the middle of The Great Recession.  Speaking of challenges, we also discuss the prospects for Geedra in gaining traction in the construction industry.

A Wishlist for an iPhone Punchlist App

September 23, 2009

From the Software Advice Blog… Bringing Your Punchlist into the 21st century.

I applaud the fresh approach to solving the Punchlist Problem.  However, there are certain functions on Chris’ list that will require some heavy lifting to accomplish. Take a look below and then share your hi-tech dream application for construction.

A couple of taps brings up 3-D floor plans; you manipulate the 3-D model with your fingers until you drill down to your exact location in the room; tap the specific problem area, tag it’s location, take a picture and quickly fill out a form describing the problem.

  • 3D floorplans are a rarity in jobsite trailers, much less on handhelds. A quick browse through iTunes didn’t turn up any existing applications with this capability.
  • location tagging; How? By GPS, grid, room, room type? GPS coverage inside a finished building can be spotty. Are the other locations pre-loaded? If so, by who? If not, you’ll need quite a robust interface to accommodate the various grid/room combinations that can occur on various projects.
  • take a picture – yep, we can do that
  • quickly fill out a form – lots of work to be done here. Ideally, checkboxes and dropdowns can streamline this function, but some original content generation will be required. A voice recording could make this easier, but you better have a high-quality, noise-reducing microphone.

Finding That Critical Project Photo

July 13, 2009

Imagine what it’s like to dig a hole in the sand at the beach. Hand over hand, you dig away and watch as the hole changes constantly with each shift in the sand. Whenever you see anything interesting in the hole (a sea shell, piece of sea glass, etc.) it’s covered over almost as quickly it’s uncovered.

kids-in-the-hole1-600x413

Essentially, this experience provides a summertime analogy for tracking the work on a construction site. No matter what your role on a jobsite, you depend on knowing the condition of your area of interest continuously over the course of the project. The advent of digital photography has made it possible to inexpensively record the physical condition of the project in extreme detail. Unfortunately, recording the digital images are the easy part. After shooting hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of jobsite photos, finding that critical construction image after the fact becomes the ultimate challenge. (Raise your hand if you have a hard drive choked with project photos that are organized by project and date.)

I would like to know what you, as a construction-related professional, do to extract meaningful data from your jobsite photos. Feel free to leave your comments  and exchange ideas with your fellow readers.

Miscommunication Between Owner and Contractor Can be Dangerous

June 5, 2009
The Croc Slot

The "Croc Slot"

Who Let the Smarts Out?

May 26, 2009

The folks at Compendia focus on a serious situation for the construction industry with this post. Their point is that those companies left standing will have made serious staff reductions and suffered a significant loss of tribal knowledge in the process. Gearing up to (hopefully) meet to coming increase in demand means training new employees and building the company’s knowledge base up from scratch.

While the author certainly makes a valid point, I find it a bit ironic. After all, how much tribal knowledge do construction professionals leave behind willingly with every finished project? Yes, construction projects are temporary affairs. But every completed projects has taught scores of valuable lessons to the project team. Unfortunately, without any systems in place to capture and replicate those lessons, many evaporate forcing others to re-learn the same lessons at some time down the road.