By J. Kimon Yiasemides and Zeynep Guven
Critical Path Method (CPM) scheduling was developed as a project-management tool. Most construction projects encounter delays over the course of their duration. These delays often lead to disputes, which may or may not generate a claim. Construction schedule delay analysis typically uses contemporaneous schedules to assess and apportion the effects of delays and other impacts on a project. Substandard or inadequate schedule updates can severely hinder the development of delay claims and resolution of disputes. In order to amplify the power of a schedule as a claims-support tool, there are certain considerations that should be taken into account when developing the baseline and updating the schedule. This article discusses aspects to consider and best practices to implement so that a project schedule can serve as both a claims-support tool and a claims-avoidance tool.
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I. Baseline Creation
There are several best practices that should be employed when creating a baseline schedule to ensure that a schedule can receive input regarding progress, delays, and changes to the scope of work. The information below outlines how to implement best practices and what to keep in mind when developing a schedule, thereby increasing a baseline schedule’s ability to support delay claims.
Level of Detail
In creating a baseline schedule, it is important to take into account the level of detail that might later be required in the event that changes occur. The level of detail required at the time the baseline schedule is created may be less than the level of detail required when changes and/or additional work is encountered. Inserting delay events to existing detailed activities in a schedule provides more credible analysis than one created by dividing long duration activities into parts.
When necessary, however, new activities can be added or a fragmentary network (fragnet) may be used to provide the proper level of detail if existing activities are too broad. A fragnet is a series of activities connected with logic ties that can be inserted into a schedule to show the effect of a change to the way the existing scope of work is performed or additional work is to be performed. Fragnet activities will tie into existing activities; however, existing activities may need to be broken down into additional smaller activities to show what they are impacting. Also, when tying in the fragnet activities to a schedule, minimizing the number of activity relationship changes within the existing activities provides a cleaner and clearer demonstration of an impact from a change.
The developer of a baseline schedule also should be careful to balance the number of activities and logic ties, having enough to show the logic as noted above but not including too much logic to overly complicate the update process. An example of this problem can be demonstrated when scheduling an activity for gypsum wallboard installation over wall framing. While having only a predecessor of wall framing to the gypsum wallboard is likely not enough detail, linking every in-wall mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) activity may be too much. Instead, adding a tie to the in-wall inspection approval (which signals the end of the MEP activities) may prove to be the appropriate level of detail.
Identify Work Responsibilities
Identification of work responsibilities also could be considered a ‘level of detail’ item but warrants a separate point. Project schedulers might create activities that include work for which multiple parties are responsible. Breaking down the activities into those for which separate parties are responsible will help assign and identify delay should it occur. Examples of this may include permitting activities, utility activities, and the like. For instance, when a designer owes a submission of drawings to be sent for permitting by a contractor, there should be separate activities for the design, submission, and review/receipt of the permitted drawings. Thus, the duration for design, submission, and government review are broken into three elements for proper tracking of time should there be a delay to any one of those three elements. Although it typically is not considered a separate work item for payment because there are no materials, equipment, or contractor crews associated with the work, schedulers should resist the tendency to lump submittals and reviews into one activity.
Obtain a True Baseline with Buy-In from All Parties
Too often, a construction project will become substantially under way without an approved baseline that has included subcontractor input. When delays and disputes arise and there is disagreement about activity durations and sequencing -- or even the completion date -- the dispute can become mired in additional conflict that could (and should have) been managed earlier. By obtaining subcontractor input first and owner acceptance (and approval if required) second, all parties at least will be in agreement regarding the baseline, and future disputes can be evaluated from a common starting point.
The full version of this article can be accessed by signing up for a membership to ConstructionPro Network or by registering for WPL Publishing's upcoming webinar on this topic. To sign up for a membership, click here. For more information about the webinar and to register for the program, click here.