Cut through the BS during construction…

(A QS Guide)

 

Qandor member and founder of Redshell Consulting, Michelle Lowe shares some insight into avoiding the BS from the start.

 Construction can be risky business. With so much at stake, it’s easy and quite usual for emotions to run high!

There are many parties with a vested financial interest in any development and it is always wise to remember everyone has their own objectives, goals and financial expectations from the project. Not just the obvious funders, developers and clients, but right down to each trade contractor, supplier, consultant and main contractor involved in the build. 

Construction projects bring big gains, and if not managed in a considered way, they can bring the risk of big losses too.

In my years of delivering construction projects I have found myself in many situations where the objectives of either party become a dominating force driven by cost constraints, programme and cost overruns and the inevitable frustrations, finger pointing and dispute situations that can then arise.  This is when the BS really starts.

Now let’s be frank: any and all parts of the puzzle may succumb to the BS tactic when things get difficult.  It’s easy to point the finger with a ‘he said she said’ and respond with the same.  It never ends well.  It’s confusing, time wasting and stressful and without question will lead to further delays, disruption and cost increases. If the project is under pressure, it’s the last thing you want to happen.

Ultimately the clearer, more accurate and more concise the project information is the less scope for BS any party has. BS grows in a feeding ground of uncertainty and confusion. Don’t give it a chance to breed.

Here’s a short guide of how to avoid the BS from the start;

 

1. Contracts, Contracts, Contract 

These are your friend.  Anyone who says they don’t like, use and respect contracts are inviting a whole host of BS into their lives. 

With a contract, you know what you are buying, and the consultant, trade or supplier knows what they are selling. Simple. The important bit here is that they are fully comprehensive and clear. This part is sometimes not so simple. 

Make sure you use the most current contract version available and the appropriate type. A good consultant should advise you and lead the procurement to ensure it is as comprehensive as it can be. They can also advise if there are any risks inherent within the contract such as provisional sums or procurement gaps and how these can be managed. 

 

2.  Pay your bills and pay them on time

Cash-flow is king, and it is king for everyone. If you have appointed parties to deliver a project, the payment terms are binding whether you have been paid yourself or not. Paid when paid scenarios went out of fashion years ago.

Since JCT 2011 versions came into effect, the non-payment of valuations as presented became a tricky business; if certificate for payments are not issued in the correct timeframe, you are liable for it all, whether the contractor has over-claimed or not. Don’t get yourself into this hostage situation. 

The penalties for late payments reach much further than simply interest charges. The disruption to any project is tangible and accountable and if contractors or traders give notice to withdraw as a result of non-payment, you’ve entered into a whole different arena.  Pay attention to the timeframes and pay on time.

 

3. Construction Programmes

Don’t accept an unlikely or hopeful programme, from yourself or your contractors. Keep it real and review it regularly. Understand them and have or produce regular updates. 

Be clear on what is delayed (of course something will be) and who’s responsible at that time. No point trying to unpick it 6 months later where the original event can be masked with other occurrences.

 

4. Record Everything

Keep accurate and detailed records of everything. Site records, contractor reports, minutes of meetings. 

Boring, I know. But these are critical. Without these you don’t have much hope of cutting through or defending anything. If any document is presented to you which is incorrect or inaccurate, then feel free to correct. Get that amendment made, make sure the last word on the document is the right word. At the end of the day, if a dispute arises, the written word is all you’ve got.   

Changes and disputes will always arise on a construction project, with so many moving parts and separate entities involved. But with clear and straight delivery, they can be easily managed, and ideally mitigated when not masked in a cloud of confusion.  Keep it clear and it’ll be smooth sailing.  

 

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