How to deliver your next project with fewer delays: We asked the experts
Construction Administration (CA) is often the most neglected phase of a building project. It may come years after the initial design, but CA is what brings projects to life. It deserves attention and you’ve worked too hard to drop the ball this late in the game.
CA can make up between 5% and 40% of an architect's fees. If you're on the higher end, your client is likely expecting a tonne of value. So, it’s imperative you justify the revenue by being an effective leader. If you're on the lower end of that scale, CA is about sticking to a low budget by being efficient and fast. Unexpected problems or delays can destroy your chances of staying profitable throughout construction.
To find out how to make construction administration efficient and fast we spoke to the industry experts, including our Part3 Co-Founder Jess Luczycki, who is a former Construction Administration Manager and General Contractor. Here are the five key steps that can make all the difference with your next project.
1. Get everyone on board from the start
Construction is a high-touch process, with tonnes of moving parts, problems to solve, and schedules to hit. The teams are cross-functional, with owners, contractors, subs, architects, engineers and consultants working together under the unifying goal of building the right thing on time, and on budget.
As Terry Dopp, Director of Construction Admin at Dwell Design Studio put it, ‘The ability to know what you don’t know’ is important, throughout a project you’ll need to ‘continually educate yourself, step out of your comfort zone and work on projects/issues you are not comfortable with’. In fact, the human nature of being a key focal point amongst so many players, and juggling so many different perspectives, is often cited as the most challenging aspect of CA. Having good relationships with your team will allow you to be open, and tackle problems collaboratively.
‘At the end of the day contract administration is connecting with people. A good construction administrator, in my opinion above all else, will try to bridge gaps and a little fun can be had along the way too’. Brad Augustine, Associate at Raimondo + Associates
2. Develop processes that make teamwork easy
An RFI is submitted, consultants lose track of who has and has not responded, so time is spent chasing down everyone separately and, after the construction manager realizes they can’t wait any longer for a response, they go ahead and a costly decision is made on site. Sound familiar?
An efficient process holds people accountable. When work is transparent and visible, fewer mistakes are made, less rework is needed, fewer disputes arise on site, and millions of dollars are saved!
‘The sheer volume of paperwork that happens on a project can be monumental, and there is an immense time pressure to get answers before they’re needed on site. The entire team needs to know where things are, and whose ball-in-court it is. Getting a simple but efficient process in place will speed things up and cut out the waste’ - Jess Luczycki, Co-Founder at Part3.
3. Share files and keep the flow
A major cause of tension during construction is derived from working with out-of-date information or data. That could mean building to an outdated drawing set, reviewing a shop drawing late or not having access to recent site images. Basically, if you’re sharing excel files via email, or sending over attachments without version control, you’re running toward an expensive miscommunication.
Ross Kaplan, Associate and Director of IT at Neumann/Smith Architecture knows this all too well, and suggests choosing ‘easy technology to collaborate and share files’, including the simplification ‘of sharing field observations with photos and descriptions’.
On the flip side, when this is working well, it can feel effortless. ‘Having project information at your fingertips allows you to flow between different disciplines seamlessly and provide direction efficiently.’ Brad Augustine, Raimondo + Associates.
The key here is to recognize when your process isn’t working and to target the areas that can be improved. Do you need a more structured process to keep people looking at up-to-date logs? Do your team members constantly reference outdated drawings? Would it help if you could track the time being spent on shop drawings for each discipline? When you know the issues, you can put the tools and processes in place to keep information and data moving freely amongst the team.
4. Be ready to problem-solve at the drop of a hat (because there will always be problems!)
As Jess, Co-Founder at Part3 says, ‘No matter how many projects you’ve worked on, there is always something new that comes up, and it’s up to you to find a solution’.
The range of potential problems that crop up during construction is incredible. Not all of them can be known during design, so the construction team needs to act. As a consultant or CA, you need to know the drawings, be comfortable solving complex problems, and be decisive. Sharu Rajgiri, Construction Administrator at Dwell Design Studio, says ‘as a CA you’re always ‘honing your skills to be able to switch “hats”. Issues coming in from the field are dynamic, and may involve trades you are less familiar with’.
Maintain project momentum by being decisive, and holding disciplines accountable. With enough technical understanding, you can speed things up by quickly bringing the right people together and getting their perspectives.
5. Set yourself up with the right tools
Ultimately, technology can align everything. Collaborative software has proven to strengthen human relationships and drive efficiencies with faster response times and real-time data sharing. Efficient digital processes will keep information moving, and promote accountability. Implementing the right tools will remove the tension between team members, and give you the insights you need to make the right decision, fast.
'Collaboration with Consultants is essential during CA since rarely do problems on-site require only one discipline to solve them. Any tools that facilitate this collaboration, such as cloud-based software, can ensure that Team members are always aware of what input they need to give in order for the rest of the team to proceed.’ Matt Lamers, MJMA.
Everyone involved in this survey highlighted the joy and satisfaction involved in collaboratively bringing the designs to life. With these shared insights, we hope your team can make incremental improvements towards a better way of working.
If you found this useful, share it with someone else, you might help them in the process!