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The Challenge of Notes to File on a Construction Project

October 18, 2018

On a construction project, notes to file are often considered a form of communication. However, notes to file are not a complete communication. They are an incomplete communication.

Why is that? Well, they are incomplete because you put the information to the file, but you didn’t share it with anyone else. So, it’s not really communication. You have communicated with the file, but you haven’t communicated with the party that might be affected by the note to file. There is nothing wrong with keeping track of what is going on and making notes to file. To some extent, a daily log is something like an organized note to file. By the same token, if the note to file is something that would cause someone to change their behavior, do the right thing, and help the project, then simply putting a note to file is not enough.

Construction is not supposed to be strictly a “gotcha” game. We do want the other parties to pull their weight and execute their work as required for the project to finish timely, within budget, and to the appropriate level of quality. So, notes to file, while appropriate and useful in situations, are not communication. We should not anticipate or treat them as such.

Why even use notes to file?

What will we use notes to file for – to document unusual occurrences? I am sure that we could all come up with some good examples of what an unusual occurrence might be, like unusual weather, unusual meetings, unusual

How to Organize Your Electronic Construction Project Documentation

September 20, 2018

One of the things that can be quite helpful when we are using electronic documentation is to use a common nomenclature or structure. What do we mean by the terms “nomenclature” or “structure?” In other words, using consistent naming or numbering documents so they are easy to find.

Let me give you an example. I do a lot of work for the Department of Veterans Affairs. On many projects that I’ve been involved with, the project documentation was organized by Request for Information (RFI) number. For example, if the contractor submitted a RFI, it ultimately led to a change order, and extensive correspondence between the parties as it related to that problem. All the information relevant to that RFI was stored in that RFI file, and it remained there until it became a formal change order. At that point, as the files were transferred to paper change order files, it ended up being a good system. Once you knew the issue and its RFI number, you could go to that RFI file and find anything related to that issue. On other projects, I have seen the documentation organized by specification number. In other words, how it related to a particular specification section.

I have also seen it organized by a predetermined file structure, where the entire organization used the same numbering system. For example, you might find correspondence under file 1302.1 where 1302 was the project number.

There is no standard organizational structure for documentation on a construction project. Each organization develops

Criticism of the ASCE Schedule Delay Analysis Offsetting Delay Concept

August 20, 2018

At the recent 2018 AACE International Conference and Expo, Mark Nagata presented his paper criticizing the ASCE Schedule Delay Analysis’s offsetting delay concept. The paper’s abstract is below.


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) published its Schedule Delay Analysis Standard in August 2017. Not as ambitious as AACE’s Recommended Practice for Forensic Schedule Analysis, ASCE’s Standard is largely composed of concepts pioneered, proven, and standardized by others. However, the Standard includes an unproven concept – offsetting delay. Offsetting delay is controversial, both, because it is unproven and, because it is biased towards the interests of contractors.

The concept of offsetting delay states that an owner may be required to grant the contractor a time extension for an owner-caused, non-critical-path delay at any point during the project. This aspect of the concept modifies what has long been one of the basic laws of time extensions – the contractor is only entitled to a time extension to the project completion date when an excusable delay delays the project’s critical path and forecast completion date.

The ASCE’s concept of offsetting delay is biased against the interests of the owner because it provides a time extension for non-critical-path delays to contractors, but does not provide relief to the owner from the contractor’s delay costs in identical circumstances. This paper evaluates the issues of criticality, concurrency, the redefinition of key terms, and other aspects of the ASCE Schedule Delay Analysis Standard’s offsetting delay concept in arguing for its removal from the standard.

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16 Things You Need To Document On Your Construction Daily Reports

July 18, 2018

Over time, we have developed a list of 16 items that should be documented consistently on every daily report. We are going to discuss each, but a good tip is to pull out your company’s daily report template and compare it to our list. Every company should have a daily report template and it should be used consistently across all of your projects.

Furthermore, to get all the information you want on your daily report, make sure your report asks for it. If necessary, modify your report template to include a section of all 16 areas that we are about to discuss.

Even before we get to our first item, and although this is obvious, the report must be dated and we also recommend including the day of the week as well. We see many reports that are incorrectly dated. Having the day of the week identified can help sort out which date the report was truly recorded on.

Item 1: Weather

Our first item that should be included is the weather. You want a complete weather report for the day. Was it sunny, cloudy, rainy, or snowing? What were the temperatures morning, noon, and at the end of the day? How did the weather change throughout the day?

Item 2: The Location of Work On Site

Who was working and where were they working? Location can be defined by sectors on the plans, column lines, or using north, south, east, or west directions.

Item 3: Work Accomplished

Who is performing what scope? In this section, it is

Incorporating Weather Days into Your Project’s CPM Schedule

June 20, 2018

An often-debated question is “How should a project schedule incorporate the workdays that might be lost to adverse weather?”

While there is not one perfect solution for all projects, there are at least three approaches to incorporating weather into your CPM schedule. These approaches are:

  • Incorporating non-workdays into the schedule’s work calendars to represent the workdays that might be lost to adverse weather.
  • Increasing the durations of weather-sensitive work activities to represent the workdays that might be lost to adverse weather.
  • Adding an “adverse weather” activity at the end of project with a duration that equals the number of workdays that might be lost to adverse weather.
  • (Of course, there is always a fourth option, which is to assume that every day lost to weather will be made up by working on Saturdays or by working overtime. If this is the assumption upon which both your costs and your schedule are based, and both your contract and your other team members are on board, then you may not have to bake any weather into your schedule at all.)

    Each of these three options (except the one in which you do nothing to the schedule) will be discussed in more detail below.

    1. Incorporating Adverse Weather Workdays in Work Calendars

    In CPM scheduling software packages, users have to create or modify work calendars that identify when the contractor plans to work. For example, the most common work calendar is an 8-hour-per-day, 5-day workweek calendar that includes holidays and weekends as non-workdays. Each schedule activity is assigned to the work

    What If The General Contractor Wants To Scrap The Baseline Schedule?

    March 18, 2018

    In our questions and answers series, we’ll answer some common questions that we receive from readers of our Ideas & Insights section. Here’s the first question.


    Let’s say a General Contractor is weeks behind schedule on a 12-month project and has replaced the Site Superintendent and Project Executive. The new Project Executive would like to scrap the baseline and start anew. If the owner were to entertain this suggestion to develop a new schedule, what would be some things we would likely need to have clear before proceeding? If the revised schedule is approved, would this mean the owner has inadvertently provided a time extension and therefore could not assess liquidation damages?


    The first piece of good news here is the contract has gotten rid of the Project Executive and Site Superintendent that weren’t performing. And the new Project Executive sees the schedule as an important management tool. The schedule is a management tool. If it doesn’t reflect the contractor’s plan to complete the work, it’s useless. If the Project Executive wants to update the schedule so that it reflects his (or her) plan for completing the project, then I think you should be supportive of this effort, particularly if the contract completion date has already passed. By the way, it is common for contractors that have fallen behind schedule to revise the schedule for completion of the work. These are often called revised, recovery, or completion schedules.

    Here are some of the things you need to be careful about:

  • The revised schedule might not be in compliance with the contract requirements or good scheduling

  • Prescriptive vs. Performance Specifications in Construction

    February 18, 2018

    Today’s Ideas & Insights is about two different ways to write specifications: prescriptive and performance. I’ll tell you about them, why they are different, and what you should consider before choosing them.

    Prescriptive Specifications

    The first one, which we are very used to using in the design-bid-build world, is what we call prescriptive specifications. If you were to look at a standard highway construction contract, you would see the owner sometimes even telling the contractor what pieces of equipment to use and how to use them.

    Prescriptive specifications are recipes: do this, then do this, then do this, etc. If you do all those things, you know we will accept whatever the results are. That can be a successful way to specify work on a design-bid-build project. It has been used for centuries. But it doesn’t fit very well within the design-build process, where you are not entirely certain exactly what you’ll be getting.

    Performance Specifications

    The kinds of specifications that might fit a little bit better with design-build projects are what we would call performance specifications. These specifications aren’t recipes. They don’t tell the contractor how to do the work. What they tell the contractor is what we want.

    For example, a prescriptive specification would tell the contractor exactly what size motor we want to drive the vacuum cleaner. In contrast, a performance specification would tell them what kind of suction we want at the other end. Then, it’s the design-builder’s decision as to how to size the motor to meet our performance objectives.

    The Challenge

    Design-Build: Why Not?

    January 18, 2018

    In the last Ideas & Insights, we discussed the advantages of design-build. But there are things to consider when thinking about adopting design-build. We can call these disadvantages or challenges.

    Limited Competition

    One of the challenges, particularly for public agencies, is there may be a limit on the competition that you can get from local firms on design-build projects. However, as design-build becomes more popular, there are going to be more teams capable of executing a project on a design-build basis.

    Your Risks and Role are Different

    Another important consideration is that the risks can look very different. If you are used to your designer being the owner’s advocate on a construction project, then what you are going to find, in the design-build scenario, is that’s definitely not the case.

    Here’s a quick example. I have a good client and friend who was involved with the construction of a public hospital using design-build. His inspectors noted that a component of the project was not being constructed as required by the specifications. In other words, the standards were not as set forth in the specifications. Dutifully, the inspectors identified the deficiency and made the owner’s representative aware of the problem.

    The owner contacted the design-builder and said, “Look, we’ve got an issue out in the field. The contractor isn’t executing the project according to the specifications. We are going to reject it and we thought you should know.”

    A quick response came back from the design-build entity. It basically said, “Yeah, we went out and took a look

    How Could Owners Benefit from Design-Build Construction?

    December 18, 2017

    Ideas & Insights There are several perceived advantages to using design-build. In this Ideas & Insights, I want to look at those potential advantages from the perspective of the owner. Even if you are a contractor, I think it’s important, when discussing design-build, to consider the owner’s perspective.

    Single Point of Responsibility

    One of the most basic advantages is that the owner enjoys a single point of responsibility for both design and construction. Ultimately, this could limit the owner’s exposure to errors and omissions. That design-build team is responsible for both the design and the construction. If there are any errors or omissions in that design, it becomes the responsibility of the design-build entity. The owner would often stand between the designer and the contractor in the design-bid-build approach.

    Accelerated Delivery

    You can get accelerated project delivery results. One of the reasons for this is you can “fast track” the design and construction (meaning you can design at the same time you are constructing the facility). This is of course phased or staged. For example, the design of the foundations precedes the design of the building superstructure; which precedes the design of the guts of the building. Once the design for the foundations is completed, it can go out to bid and construction of the foundations can begin before the design of the superstructure or the guts of the building is completed. This is possible in the design-build process because the designer and the contractor are one entity. In

    The Pitfalls of a New Schedule Delay Analysis Standard, Getting Paid for Changes, and Publication of the Third Edition of Construction Delays

    October 29, 2017

    Usually, our Ideas & Insights provide information on a single topic that helps you avoid, evaluate, or deal with problems on your construction projects.

    Instead of focusing on one particular topic, in this Idea & Insight posting we’ve provided three new resources that we hope you find helpful.

    How ASCE’s New Schedule Delay Analysis Standard May Impact Owners

    One trend in the construction industry is the attempt to define delay analysis guidelines by professional organizations. Engineering News Record recently published a viewpoint by Mark Nagata that looks at a major flaw in the American Society of Civil Engineer’s new Schedule Delay Analysis Standard. The article discusses why this standard is unfair to owners.

    Click the following link to read the full viewpoint:

    How Subcontractors Can Get Paid for Changes and Claims

    Subcontractors sometimes struggle with compiling the necessary documentation that they need to make their change orders and claims submissions complete and, most importantly, successful. Bill Haydt provided some subcontractor-specific advice on eSub’s blog.

    Click the following link to read the entire article:

    Construction Delays, Third Edition, Recently Published

    Ted Trauner wrote the first edition of Construction Delays in 1990. In the following decades, the analysis of delays on construction project has become a common and more sophisticated practice.

    Mark Nagata, Bill Manginelli, Scott Lowe, and Ted Trauner spent over a year revising and adding new sections to this third edition of Construction Delays. The newly released third edition is not just an update of the prior two publications, it provides practitioners with everything they need to know

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