Schedule delays and disputes over time extensions or impact costs are a major source of claims on a construction project, often because the contractor did not prepare a comprehensive or accurate baseline schedule or did not properly update the schedule as work progressed. The owner’s failure to detail the required information in the project’s scheduling specification or to timely review schedule updates can also contribute to scheduling failures.
Purposes of Project Scheduling
Scheduling requirements on a construction project help ensure that all activities required by the contract documents to be performed by the contractor to complete the work are properly planned, adequately staffed, appropriately coordinated and executed in an orderly and expeditious manner. Depending on the nature and scope of the project, a construction schedule can be as simple as a list of activities that are organized in a logical, time-scaled sequence. However, on large construction projects such simple schedules are likely not adequate to meet their intended purpose.
There is, however, a perceived risk involved in an owner requiring the contractor to submit schedules which the owner then reviews and accepts. An owner-approved or accepted schedule takes on a certain legal significance that can later be used by a contractor as the basis of a claim.
The downside of not requiring a schedule is that the contractor’s plan is not communicated to the owner. In that instance, the owner is unable to effectively measure the progress of the work, confirm that the work is being properly coordinated to avoid delay and verify the timing for performing its own responsibilities required to complete the work.
The owner and contractor should endeavor to agree on a schedule that meets the intent of the contract documents and outlines a logical path for completing the work. In the absence of a clearly articulated scheduling specification in the contract documents proper project scheduling may be eliminated by the contractor as a cost-saving measure.
Most experienced owners recognize that the risk of not requiring comprehensive project schedules far outweighs the risk of requiring, reviewing and accepting a contractor’s project schedules and incurring the potential increased costs carried in the project’s budget.
During the design phase, the owner and its engineer should devote the time necessary to draft a scheduling specification that is commensurate with the amount of detail, involvement and control the owner wants exercised on the project. It should be aligned with the complexity of the project and modified on a project-by-project basis. A balance must be struck to prevent the requirements from becoming so burdensome that the schedule becomes unmanageable and disconnected from the contractor’s actual project management.
The time and effort spent on developing an appropriate scheduling specification during the design phase is usually rewarded by the planning and coordination benefits provided throughout the life of the project.
Most standard industry form contracts are silent on the key aspects of project scheduling. Without mandating the scheduling detail, adequate project schedules likely will not be developed nor the multiple benefits of creating them achieved. When planning the project, the owner must determine the information and level of detail required to meet its objectives for project controls.
Timing of Construction Scheduling
While scheduling should start early, the development of a detailed construction plan often requires input from subcontractors, some of which may not yet be selected or are just getting involved at the earliest stages of the project. One way to manage this challenge is by requiring a startup or preliminary schedule covering the first 90 days, followed by a detailed construction schedule.
The scheduling specification should also require regular schedule updates with an accompanying schedule narrative. While the updates are typically provided on a monthly basis, they can be required more frequently depending on the duration and complexity of the project.
While a detailed scheduling specification sets the groundwork for a comprehensive construction schedule, attention to the schedule must continue throughout the project duration. Both the contractor and the owner must show commitment to respecting and documenting the schedule through project completion.
Opportunity to Learn More about Scheduling Best Practices
If you would like to review scheduling best practices to learn keys to success on your construction projects, register for Scheduling Best Practices to be presented on November 12th with Emily Federico and Kelly Heuer from Navigant Consulting. Click here for more information.