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construction project startup

4 Construction Project Startup Musts

Start Your Project Right with These Winning Strategies

If you, like many of us, took middle school shop class, you’ve heard the oft-repeated adage: “Measure twice, cut once.”

Just because we’re not teenagers anymore doesn’t mean this maxim has lost its power. In fact, many times the dividing line between successful projects and those that flop is just this: the ability to plan ahead, intelligently, from the initial phases of startup right through closeout.

Knowing this and leveraging smart construction project startup techniques for your project are two different propositions, though. If you want to get off on the right foot–essential to success–you need to take the right approach.

In our post, below, we’ll dive beyond the basics of construction startup and discuss the winning strategies needed to set up projects for success.

Understand the Basics of the Construction Project Startup Phase

There exist more and less obvious steps in any construction project startup process.

First, there are the basics: choosing the right location, hiring well-qualified and reliable designers and contractors, settling contracts, performing risk evaluation and so on. Without the due diligence needed to ensure a thorough completion of this checklist, your skyscraper, apartment complex or new university library won’t go far.

That’s not enough, though. True success stems from the second round of planning, this time going beyond the basics to really set your team up for success. Rather than just putting bare-bones plans in motion, you need tactics and strategies that motivate true productivity.

The following construction project startup tips offer just that.

Get Off on the Right Foot: Essential to Profitable Projects

Getting off on the right foot is essential in any construction project startup phase. Key benefits include:

  • Reduced costs, lessening the chance that you will flub through a lack of planning
  • Decreased risk, minimizing the chances that a mistake will result in lost relationships or costly litigation–especially as disputes in construction are taking longer to resolve every year
  • Improved productivity, keeping your task list chugging along, uninterrupted by mistakes or poor planning
  • Enhanced collaboration, giving everyone the tools they need to work together peaceably and cooperatively
  • Improved Operations and Maintenance (O&M), reducing costs associated with redesigning, fixing errors, hiring overtime labor to fix mistakes and more

If your immediate reaction to any of the items on the above list is something along the lines of “I’ll have that, please, and, thank you,” then you are not alone. Next, we’ll dive into how exactly you can accomplish these goals for yourself.

Think Carefully About the Delivery Method

From the outset, it’s critical you think carefully about the method of delivery. To first clarify, project delivery should come primarily from the owner, who must transmit a vision to the rest of the team relating to the collaborative and open-door approach necessary for the fastest, most affordable, most successful construction projects.

“The project delivery discussion is among the most important decisions they’ll make and will drive how the team works together,” says Clint Stancil, managing director of CBRE Project Management’s Global Leadership and Platform, in an interview with Construction Dive.

Stancil continues to explain that “If you’re an owner with a siloed culture and people who are not accustomed to working together and ingrained in the old design-bid-build approach, the process will not work because there’s a mental shift that goes along with the different method of contracting.”

See, the traditional design-bid-build, while the most popular model in construction, has some serious flaws and doesn’t promote collaboration in a modern building environment. Any construction project startup process based on that model is unlikely to succeed the way you hope.

Instead, consider an integrated project delivery (IPD) approach, which creates cohesion and alliance between the various teams and niche contractors, rather than pitting them against one another for resources.

Additionally, design-build can help you build a more successful approach. Research shows that a design-build team working under a single contract with the owner can complete a project 33% faster than other project delivery methods, again according to Construction Dive. Cutting down on the timeline by a third has obvious benefits for contractors of all ilk.

According to FMI consultant Paul Trombitas, “The use of alternative delivery methods, in general, is growing and will continue to do so, particularly design-build, as projects become more complex and need to be delivered in an expedited fashion.” This could explain why design-build is rising rapidly, with a recent FMI study predicting that half of all projects will be delivered using this method by 2021.

One caveat, though: While IPD, design-build and other modern delivery methods open up wonders for collaboration, they only work if there is 100% buy-in/commitment from the owner. Otherwise, your team is like an army without a head–lots of bodies, ideas and skills, but with no one to lead them or encourage on the right path to cooperation.

Select the Right Technology for Maximum Success

In addition to thinking through delivery method, launching a construction project startup right also requires you to choose the appropriate technology.

Wherever possible, aim to get your general contractors, subcontractors and design teams onto the same technology solution up front. Moreover, you should do some recon beforehand to discover how much access team members will have to these systems throughout the process. The more visibility all team members have, the better. Furthermore, if you do need to use multiple types of software or other tools, it’s important to ask questions such as: Do they integrate nicely? If not, what specialty solutions do you need to get them to integrate well?

Whatever solution you choose, aim to digitize, standardize both hardware and software and connect as much as possible with documents, scheduling and other essential construction processes. Only with everyone on the same page will you see optimum success.

One technology that is becoming a must-have for successful project alignment is building information modeling (BIM). When utilized correctly, the technology establishes collaboration early on with project teams and even end users. While hiring teams who can leverage BIM properly does represent a higher upfront cost, it’s a worthwhile investment as it provides a return throughout construction and even in facilities management.

Set Up Project Templates to Leverage Tried-and-True Approaches

While each project is unique, there are certain things you do again and again. Having project administrators and general contractors set up templates and standards during construction project startup saves heaps of time. While it creates more prep work up front, the time saved during execution is massive.

Before you consider launching the construction phase, think through the specific tasks, documents and stakeholders that need to be involved in each step. Work those into your templates as well; while the people who play those roles may change, the positions themselves will do so far less often. It’s worthwhile to plan specific people and roles needed upfront.

If you don’t have a basis for templates, there are plenty of free resources out there. For example, if you’re using technology in the field, you may even find prefabricated templates you can use through your provider.

Define How Data Will Be Collected

No company can find success without accurate and intelligent use of data. The more data you have, the better, especially for owners to manage costs and future renovations and refurbishments down the road. It is essential to track your progress, finding inefficiencies and staying profitable.

Therefore, you must ensure both owners and project contractors prioritize data capture throughout construction. Ideally, you need systems that can help you capture data without adding much additional work so that teams have the proper motivation to do so diligently. That, in turn, means automating whenever possible to reduce errors and increase the chance you’ll actually get the metrics you need on an ongoing basis.

During the same time you have discussions about project technology, open the conversation for exactly how and what data needs to be measured. Establishing processes and tools early on will ensure a relevant and steady stream of data gets captured throughout the project.  

Adhere to These Construction Project Startup Musts Again and Again

As with any other endeavor in life, the best approach to launching a construction project is to know your approach going in. Remember: measure twice, cut once. When you use the right technology, get everyone on the same page, foster an environment of collaboration and non-competition and define parameters for all processes upfront–all before you make that first “cut”–you’re much better situated for maximum success, now and in the future.


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