4 common construction problems project management resolves

Justin Palasty
April 14, 2014

The problem with the traditional project team model used in the construction industry is that it lends itself to:

  1. A standard service and lack of promotion of ideas
  2. Inefficient scheduling and programs
  3. A lack of identifying risks
  4. Interval business relationships

Here are four ways to use project management to construct and renovate in a more efficient, effective and value-enhancing way.

1. Value engineering

Value engineering is a management technique that, when used properly, can reduce construction costs, increase building value and help shave time off the building program. It’s a technique that re-defines the goals and the purpose of a building by cutting back a lot of the excessive and un-necessary elements so that the end product is its most efficient.

Buildings and the material and design that goes into them can be very un-resourceful. What do I mean? Well take a simple wall construction, let’s assume any wall, it might be your office wall, the outside of a multi-storey office block or even a wall in your house. There are four main elements and purposes that the wall must do:

  1. It must be structural, able to hold itself up as well as any other building elements that it must provide structural support too. Structural integrity usually means heavy timber, concrete and reinforced steel.
  2. It must be aesthetic. Walls need to have an element of design to them, whether it’s plain or engaging there is a visual element that must exist. This usually involves several other parts as well including skirting boards, cornices, paint and plaster.
  3. It must be a barrier, it might provide separation between your living room and bedroom, or it might stop cyclonic winds from entering the fortieth floor. To achieve this requires a physical barrier that must be able to withstand these elements, glass on a curtain wall can bend, concrete and steel can move depending on the loadings.
  4. It must have malleability, be able to be used around corners, bends and circumferences. New plasterboard can bend around 90 degrees and span up to lengths of three or more metres. It can be cut to size and placed in form. Glass is a little more difficult, it needs to be shaped in moulds and placed in furnaces so that it can fit into place, which needs to be usually within five millimetres. Concrete must be poured in place, but it’s messy and sometimes isn’t as aesthetic as other materials.

Value engineering is a common technique that builders can use in order to win business. If there are better alternatives that achieve the same outcome in a more cost effective way, then that adds value in itself. With reduced costs and timing. At the end of the day it’s going to be a design and project team decision, where the value in staying true to the designer’s intent and overall function required of the building.

2. Reducing the build time

“When can you start and how quickly can you finish?” is very common. Most property construction projects arise from a dormant state when a catalyst has sparked something such as an interest rate change from the Reserve Bank or movement in property valuations. These external forces create an urgency to get a project up and running.

Fast-tracking can solve the delay or process issues because it allows the building to start construction while the design process is underway. Elements of the building can be commenced, lead times (the time it take to manufacture project specific items) can commence so that when they are needed onsite they are ready. Structural steel or architectural designed elements particular to a project are common items that require long lead times.

A good example of fast-tracking is the comparison of concrete versus steel material choice for a multi-storey building. In the latter case high investment costs and the requirement to recoup expenditure through the building’s income, combined with the nature of concrete construction (relatively slow) may require construction to start prior to final design sign-off. Design changes could potentially cause problems in the latter stages of concrete construction.

If you ‘fast-build’ with steel construction, you can afford to wait until final sign off and a frame erected after all design procedures have been completed. Both these styles, for exactly the same building plan and elevation status could potentially be completed at the same time, with steel reducing the risk of design changes affecting overall project success.

3. Identifying risks up front

Using the constructability technique helps clients by identifying obstacles and potential problems at the start of the project. As a risk management tool, it can help provide scenarios and potential outcomes of a building process. In short, the more complicated the build, the more potential there is for problems to arise.

This doesn’t just relate to the building itself, it may be applied to design documentation and other stakeholders to the project who have important information to apply.

4. Longer term business relationships

Partnering is one of the main aspects in the building industry. Partnering allows tradesmen and scores of people to come together and bring a unique set of skills and talents combined allowing them to do much bigger and greater things. Partnerships can allow all teams to thrive not only on an individual level but in greater groups that make each part a lot more powerful than if they were to operate alone.

The main advantage with partnerships is their ability to create win/win scenarios, where all parties involved benefit from the outcomes. But partnerships can’t be formed with anyone; there must be a common ground that you meet on with similar interests and similar values.

The best partnerships are the ones where common goals are shared. Each party realises that their outcomes and vision are united and the same steps can be taken together. In most cases in the building industry there are two types of partnership, project specific in that there is a particular project that the parties are taking part in, and strategic partnerships where the parties are operating together on a broader front for a longer term goal.

In most cases strategic partnerships arise from being involved in a successful project partnering. During the course of an individual project, the outcomes and the values have evolved and the parties can agree on another way of moving forward together.

Justin Palasty is the author of Constructive Ways: A Business and Investor Guide for Building Better Projects (2014)

Author avatar
Justin Palasty
Justin Palasty is a construction project manager and director of Formacon, a specialist construction, design and fitout company. He is the author of Constructive Ways: A Business and Investor Guide for Building Better Projects (2014).
Read more