How to Get Major Commercial Construction Completed Without Disrupting Day-to-Day Operations
Whether your building is undergoing significant repairs or a much-needed upgrade, commercial construction is a necessary inconvenience.
Most businesses will experience commercial development during the life of their buildings. However, major construction can be incredibly disruptive for your employees, and it can last for months at a time. How does a company carry on with normal, day-to-day operations when surrounded by loud and distracting construction?
If your company is experiencing major commercial construction, it’s possible to remain productive and efficient. In this guide, we walk through various ways to streamline the construction process, so that it is as smooth and disruption-free as possible.
Construction Project Management
Regardless of its size and scope, any construction project requires a highly skilled project manager.
Construction project management takes the expertise and skill of a traditional project manager and applies it to the construction and development industry. Experienced managers can navigate the shifting demands of construction and direct the material and human resources involved in a project. A construction project manager uses modern management techniques to handle the planning and execution of a construction project. Their goal is to realize the client’s objectives of cost, scope, time and quality.
A construction project manager must have strong communication skills, a deep knowledge of the construction process and industry and the ability to problem-solve quickly and efficiently. Beyond construction, a project manager understands areas of finance, law, mediation and business. In essence, a construction manager is the link between you and the project, and they are responsible for communicating with you and overseeing the project details.
As you work with a construction project manager, keep in mind their key responsibilities:
- Planning: A construction manager works with you to plan the project, helping you divide the ultimate goal into smaller steps. Often, project managers also determine the details of the timeline, budget and hiring on-site workers and subcontractors.
- Goal-setting: The project manager keeps construction moving forward according to plan. Their goal is to finish the project on schedule and within budget.
- Supervising: After hiring a team of skilled and competent on-site workers, a construction manager helps define each person’s role in the project and communicate their individual responsibilities. A project manager is the boss of the job site, and they serve as an intermediary between you and their team.
- Risk management: A construction manager is familiar with the risks involved with a project. An experienced project manager identifies potential setbacks and develops strategies for dealing with external and internal delays.
Project managers have complex and vital roles in the construction process, and they are essential in reducing the disruptions of a construction project.
Define Your Goals and What Cannot Be Disrupted
Before you begin construction, meet with the construction manager and come up with a set of goals for the project. What are the parts of your day-to-day business that cannot be disrupted during construction?
For example, if you run a medical center or a hospital, one of the non-negotiable elements could be patient comfort. For the well-being of your patients, you might choose slower or quieter construction methods. The overall timeline and budget of your project might shift, but the comfort of your patients will not be compromised.
In an office environment, employees can tolerate a degree of noise without losing focus or productivity. However, you might be unwilling to compromise the parking needs of your company for months on end. When meeting with your project manager, see if you can develop alternative parking strategies for either your employees or the on-site workers. Securing parking spaces for your employees will help the construction feel less intrusive.
Before you begin, understand that you will have to bend on some things — by definition, major construction is disruptive. Once you have determined your top goals and non-negotiable elements, work with your project manager to find the best solutions for your company’s specific needs.
Creating Realistic Expectations and Timelines
Establishing realistic expectations and timelines is a crucial step for a successful project.
To develop accurate and realistic expectations, focus on the project’s scope, budget, timeline and resources, along with developing strategies for minimizing risk.
The scope of a project encompasses more than the final result. It also takes into account the steps required to reach your end goal — for example, acquiring building permits, pouring a foundation and raising the frame. Efficiently managing a project’s scope is all about maximizing the budgeted resources, time and money for each step of the construction process.
When considering your project’s scope, make sure that all involved parties and stakeholders agree on the ultimate goal as well as the details. Account for every step of the process so that your budget and timeline remain accurate.
Building a realistic budget begins with a meticulously detailed forecast of the total anticipated costs.
When creating a budget, account for every aspect of the construction project, even the small steps. To allow for unexpected changes or delays, develop a contingency fund to use in an emergency. A realistic goal for a budget is to complete the construction at or below the estimated costs, without breaking into the contingency fund.
A detailed and realistic schedule is essential to completing your project on time.
It’s crucial to accurately calculate the length of each step in the scope of the project. Talk with your project manager to determine which of the steps depend on the completion of others — not every step can start at the same time. Establish checkpoints throughout the project to verify that the construction schedule and budget are on track. All it takes is one setback to delay the whole project, so leave some flexibility in your project timeline.
The resources of your project are the equipment, materials and people required to complete construction. To build realistic expectations about the scope, budget and timeline of your project, it’s essential to know how many resources are required. Also note where in the construction process they will be needed — if two steps of the project require the same equipment, try to complete those steps close together to maximize efficiency.
5. Risk Management
A risk is any event outside of the scope that affects your project’s schedule or budget.
Planning and preparing for risks is vital for building a realistic timeline. No matter how carefully or accurately planned, a project will always experience some unexpected changes. Work with a project manager to identify potential risks and plan for them — this will help mitigate any negative effects.
Common Commercial Construction Delays
Every project will encounter unexpected delays. Before the construction begins, make sure you have allowed flexibility in your timeline and goals to account for setbacks. Consider these sources of construction delays as you plan your project:
1. Inclement Weather
Rainy days can cost you more than just time — rain can also cause damage to materials and new construction. If your region experiences a massive storm, excess rain may cause rivers or streams to overflow, flooding excavations and worksites. It can take days to pump out flooded areas, and while insurance can cover some of the rain-caused damages, it often doesn’t account for the resulting project delays.
Other hazardous weather conditions include high winds, which can be especially dangerous if your project requires cranes. Some climates are prone to developing tornadoes, which can rip through job sites and wreck existing construction. Extreme heat or cold can hinder your on-site workers and cause delays, and a lightning strike can damage equipment or injure workers.
To mitigate the damage of inclement weather, make allowances for weather disruptions in your schedule. Research the average weather conditions of your area. If possible, schedule activities that would be impacted by rain outside typically rainy or windy seasons. Modify working hours to avoid dangerously hot summers — begin work early in the morning when the air is cool, and stop by early to mid-afternoon when the temperatures peak. Keep adequate water pumps on-site, and design a way to remove water from the construction site when needed.
Ultimately, the weather is unpredictable and difficult to anticipate. For a realistic timeline, leave a margin in your schedule to account for weather delays.
2. Resource and Budget Shortages
If you are in the middle of a commercial construction project, one of the worst scenarios is overextending your resources or budget.
Budget shortages can cause long delays in a project, ranging from a few weeks to several years. The longer the project, the longer the daily operations of your business will be disrupted. Keeping on-budget is difficult, especially in an economy with continuously rising construction costs. But with realistic planning, you can keep your construction project progressing on-time and within your resources.
Ask if your construction project manager uses an accounting software specifically designed for construction companies — these help managers accurately price projects and stay within budget. Software can also help a construction manager maximize operational efficiency, monitor performance and uphold contract compliance throughout the project, keeping costs down.
3. Exhausted or Unreliable Crews
Often, construction companies will assume more projects than they can handle, overbooking their crews and overextending their equipment.
Alternatively, a team of subcontractors may be unreliable, lacking the experience, training or methodology required to finish a job with timeliness. During the course of a project, a crew may grow exhausted or inefficient, creating costly delays in construction.
To combat this, some managers choose to hire additional workers during the middle of a project. While hiring fresh employees is not necessary for every project, discuss the possibility with your contractor and develop a strategy in case it is needed.
4. Sudden Changes
When developing a timeline for your project, always leave flexibility for sudden, unexpected changes.
The list of potential setbacks is endless. Sometimes equipment breaks down, and it takes longer than expected to find a replacement machine. A project design error might take weeks of additional work to correct, or illness might sweep through your crew. It’s impossible to predict every possible delay — again, leave a margin in your timeline for the unexpected.
By planning flexibility for potential delays, you will build a realistic timeline and keep your project on track — even when faced with sudden changes.
Selecting the Right Contractor
The right contractor will make or break your commercial construction project. But in a growing industry, the options are numerous — choosing a contractor can be an overwhelming task. As you search for the right team to work with you and your company’s needs, walk through these steps to simplify the process.
- Ask for recommendations: Check with other local business or building inspectors to get recommendations for high-quality contractors. Getting a personal recommendation helps you know that you are selecting a contractor with a solid reputation for completing projects on time and under budget.
- Conduct phone interviews: Contact the company to see if they take on projects like yours. Ask for a list of former clients, as well as how long they have been operating.
- Investigate claims: Call previous clients and ask them about their experience with the contractor. If you can, visit the finished project and examine the quality of work. Check out one of the contractor’s current worksite — is it safe and organized?
- Quality over price: You might be tempted to choose the lowest bidding company. However, if a contractor is offering significantly lower prices than competitors, they are most likely cutting corners at some point in the construction process. Instead of going with the lowest bidder, choose a contractor that communicates well and is dedicated to providing a high-quality product.
The best contractors will have a stellar track record of service and communication, as well as content clients and strong recommendations.
Communicating Throughout the Project
A successful and smooth construction project hinges on effective communication.
As you and your project manager plan the scope and details of the construction, establish a clear chain of communication for the project. Who is responsible for communicating with suppliers, workers and subcontractors? If a problem arises, who do you contact for answers?
In most instances, the construction project manager will be your point of contact for any questions or concerns. They will handle communication between you and the rest of the construction team. Ensure that every person who contributes to the construction knows their responsibilities and roles within the project — keeping every member of the process informed is vital to a project with few setbacks and disruptions.
To make the construction as non-intrusive as possible, begin communication with your employees long before the project starts. Let them know when the project will begin and why, as well as any potential inconveniences. The key to few complaints and disruptions is plenty of forewarning — if a specific phase of construction will be louder than others, send out an email to your employees recommending they bring headphones to work on those days.
Effective communication is key to a non-disruptive and efficient construction project, so it is vital to choose a project manager and contractor who makes it a priority.
The Team That Prioritizes Safety, Quality and Performance
The ideal construction partner possesses professional knowledge, expert skill and varied experience with a range of diverse projects.
At Houck, our team of expert technicians provides the highest quality service and craftsmanship. We take pride in our work and are dedicated to realizing your project goals. Contact us today to plan your next major construction project.