Cost Overruns. Schedule Breaches. Normal Costs of Doing Business? They Don’t Have To Be…

By: Tiffany Hosey, Esquire, CEO/Founder CTBIM & Keith Lashley, HKS Architects, Inc., Principal, Construction Administration, AIA, NCARB
(CTBIM is patented in Japan, patent-pending in the US)

The world has always been data driven. From banking to the automotive industry, computers and the digitization of information have transformed global economies. The construction industry lags behind most industries in its embrace of digital data. Before the introduction of Building Information Modeling (BIM), architects and engineers for years worked in silos and were not consistently successful in sharing material information. BIM has exponentially improved the design process. However, historically, GCs relied on architectural and engineering contract documents that were often in various stages of completion, some better than others.

The incompleteness of contract documents also has been a recurring source of conflict. GCs bid on them with knowledge that future change orders will be necessary because of potential errors and omissions in the design documents. The need for GCs to competently vet project drawings and contracts therefore is critical. When project documents have not been vetted for implications to constructability, the failure to fully evaluate the design impacts can lead to a crisis of escalating costs and schedule delays that result in an explosion of change orders. Often an atmosphere of animosity and distrust amongst the owners, architects, GCs and construction managers is also created. These practices provide a window into why for centuries, since the days of Vitruvius1 in 24 BC, the construction industry has embraced cost and schedule overruns as normal business costs.

Lean Integrated Project Management

Today’s new delivery mechanisms have the promise of becoming more mainstream. For example, Lean Integrated Project Management (Lean) is a collaborative effort that engages contractors early in the design process to ensure that they understand the design team’s intent. In this case, GCs and CMs are tasked with finding solutions to inherent problems that the design team may not see. The design team’s focus on design and, at times, its inability to have a complete understanding or appreciation for the relationship between the subtleties of the design and the actual construction process can be a hindrance.

What is innovative about the lean delivery method is a mandate that the design team, GCs/CMs work together to create solutions that incorporate their respective subject matter expertise at the very beginning of the design process. This process prioritizes the owners’ goals first and significantly mitigates numerous change orders that usually manifest during other traditional delivery methods.

In addition to the early involvement of GCs in lean projects, real-time data created and collected during the pre-construction and construction phases, makes it possible to identify potential budget sticking points before the need for change orders becomes apparent. Utilizing real time data that is accessible to all project stakeholders is far superior to using traditional delivery methods. This recognition provides a reasonable basis to view lean as the best project delivery method for most complex projects. Lean integrates design and construction expertise along with real time budget and schedule constraints/confirmations and opportunities for improvement. Since subcontractors, with more frequency, are brought into the construction process at the earliest design stages as well, they are tasked with providing “design assist” services. The injection of early subcontractor involvement helps them understand the original design intent and gives them an opportunity to foresee and stave off issues regarding constructability, aesthetics and cost.

Data Driven Decision-Making

A turnkey construction software solution like CTBIM is designed to augment more efficient delivery methods. It closes the traditional great divide between the owner, design team, construction management/GC team and subcontractors. CTBIM, which is industry agnostic, allows parties to take advantage of real time and historical data. It is a tool to help further clarify and integrate design intent with the construction process on a specific project or client’s portfolio of projects. The granular, historical data captured from the use of the software allows owners to realize success on future projects, protects the profit margins of all stakeholders from the owner/developer to the subcontractors, reduces risks associated with lack of information and better enables construction managers/GCs to foresee and understand ongoing personnel needs. Further, the captured data can be used to make proactive decisions that avoid schedule and budget creep, a deep concern of all parties. Forward thinking owners who embrace cutting edge 21st Century collaborative delivery methods combined with software tools, like CTBIM, which provide easily digestible real-time data will see an overdue increase in the unacceptably stagnated 20-year labor productivity growth rate of 1%.

1 "The Historical Emergence of Construction Law" by Philip L. Bruner, William Mitchell Law Review, Vol. 34: Iss. 1-3, Article 6;