ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 4 - Issue: 17 - 05/01/2015

Why Risk Using Obsolete Site Data?

By Bruce Jervis


Bidders on construction contracts frequently must rely on physical site condition information provided by the project owner. Lack of time, access and money prevents bidders from conducting individual investigations. The law does not require it. All that is required is reasonable pre-bid observation.


Given the importance of site information, one might assume project owners put considerable thought and effort into its assembly. Not necessarily. It is cheaper and easier to pull some “historical” data from the files and include it with the bid solicitation. This can produce unfortunate consequences.


On a recent federal project, the owner used boring logs from test drilling that had been performed nine years earlier on an estuary floor. The waterway was dynamic and had been subject to an extensive reclamation effort. The boring logs were woefully obsolete. The contractor prevailed in its claim for a differing site condition.


Human activity as well as natural forces can render site information obsolete. Modifications and repairs affect the accuracy of as-built drawings. Even construction on adjacent sites can have an impact. Why then would project owners risk using aged, off-the-shelf data? Have you seen examples of this practice?



As someone who has been in the real estate development and construction business for 40 years, I have always tried to obtain the latest and most accurate data I can and make it available all bidders. Why? Because to do otherwise is to set the project and the project team up for failure, a very foolish risk for the developer to take given the relative low cost of obtaining the site data in relation to the overall cost of the project and the potentially catastrophic impact of designing and building with bad or incomplete data. With the cessation of construction back in 2007 and 2008, many projects with site data already in hand were shelved. Many of these projects have now been reactivated in the past couple of years, but more than likely the site data was not verified and updated. Thus, contractors, and indeed the entire project, are even more at risk than they may have been in a more normal construction environment where the site data is generally more timely in relation to the start of construction. And as an aside to my contractor friends, my comments are primarily directed at unenlightened owners, developers and the design team. The success of a project frequently starts and ends with them.
Posted by: Kurt Updegraff - Monday, May 4, 2015 12:51 PM


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