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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

How Retained Logic, Actual Dates, And Progress Override Deal With Out-Of-Sequence Progress

February 07, 2017

In this Ideas & Insights, we’re going to look at an issue that may arise when you are either preparing or reviewing a schedule update. In particular, we’re going to look at how your scheduling software may address “out-of-sequence” progress.

In construction scheduling, “out-of-sequence” progress occurs when activities begin, progress, and finish earlier than expected (based on the logic and activity durations in the latest schedule).

Oracle’s Primavera P6 Project Management (P6) scheduling software provides users with three different options with which to handle out-of-sequence progress. The Retained Logic and Progress Override options are carry overs from P3. However, there appears to be a significant amount of confusion among schedulers and construction professionals as to how the third option (Actual Dates) deals with out-of-sequence progress. Let’s look at how each of the three options deal with out-of-sequence progress in different situations.

To show how these scheduling options work, Figure 1 depicts a simple, four-activity schedule. The activities are connected to one another with Finish-to-Start relationships in sequence. Figure 1 illustrates how P6’s Retained Logic and Progress Override options deal with out-of-sequence when an activity begins earlier than expected and makes progress.

Figure 1.

actual dates out of sequence progress

In Figure 1, the blue bars represent completed work, the red bars represent critical path work, and the green bars represent remaining work that is not critical. The dates identified in the schedule calendar correspond to the dates of the

What Management Structure Should You Put In Place On A Typical Construction Project?

March 06, 2016

In our questions and answers series, we answer some common questions that get sent to us from Ideas & Insights readers.


What management structure should I put in place on a typical construction project to handle communication issues?


Communication Flow

The focus of all communication is typically the project manager. The project manager is the person responsible for the project. On small projects, one project manager might have several projects and handle all the communications on all of these projects.

On larger projects, the project manager might be responsible for one project and might handle all the communications on that project. On very large projects, there might be a Project Executive, a Project Manager, an Assistant Project Manager, and Superintendent (or more).

Each would have specific responsibilities regarding communication. For example, Superintendents would traditionally communicate with other Superintendents, non-working foremen, and other folks in the field.

Project Executives might communicate primarily with the client and then only on matters that relate to the agreements between the parties.

Project Managers will typically run meetings and prepare or direct the preparation of minutes. Others may draft letters, but all letters will typically go out with the signature of the PM.

Emails and Texts

E-mails and texts might be sent by anybody, but should be governed by protocols developed internally and on the project. The person responsible for responding should be clearly identified to minimize confusion and duplication of effort.

Schedules, RFIs, and Daily Logs

Schedules are usually prepared by the scheduler, the Project Engineer, or the Project Manager. However, every schedule should

What if the General Contractor Doesn’t Submit Proposed Changes Correctly?

February 07, 2016


What if the General Contractor does not submit proposed changes using a correct time impact analysis, changes are collected together irrespective of their effect on the schedule, and requirements for fragnets are ignored?

Do you have any suggestion on how to make the contractor recognize his obligations to adhere to the contract requirements?


Even on big projects, sometimes the contract and schedule don’t get pulled out until there is a problem. To me, that makes sense with regard to the contract. The contract is more for handling problems than it is for day-to-day administration.

I’m often surprised by how little project participants know about the contract. However, it’s a bit more problematic with regard to the schedule.

Our thumb rule is that if you can keep track of a project in your head, the schedule isn’t necessary. Beyond that, however, the schedule becomes more important.

One thing everybody needs to understand is that the schedule matters when it comes to sorting out disputes. That’s because contemporaneous documents (the documents prepared as the project work was being performed) often trump oral recollections or analyses prepared after the fact. Contemporaneous documents are often perceived as being less biased and more reliable. Oral recollections are sometimes viewed as having an over-reliance on selective memories.

After-the-fact analyses are often perceived as being biased towards the desired outcomes of the analyst.

With regard to the schedule, here are some things to consider:

The Schedule Is NOT Part Of The Contract

It is a management tool. That’s it.

The scheduled completion date of the project is

Should Transportation Agencies Approve Early Completion Schedules?

January 10, 2016

I’ve been involved in many discussions with transportation agency staffers over the years regarding the merits of early completion schedules. It’s not an easy subject and there are many conflicting opinions based on a lot of undocumented assumptions about contractor behavior.

In general, transportation agencies sometimes don’t realize that, given the way many of them have written their contracts, the contractor is entitled to payment for delays even if the contractor is projecting an early completion date.

Unlike some private sector development, there is not really much of a downside to completing a highway construction project early. It just means that the contractor and owner can move on to the next project sooner and the public gets to use the new roadway sooner.

I feel there is possibly a hierarchy of options. They might go like this:

A+B Bidding

A + B bidding is the best approach, perhaps, in that it ensures that the contractor’s scheduled completion date and the contract completion date are the same date. It also gives the owner a little warning, at least, regarding the resources that will have to be mobilized to support the administration and inspection of the project. I suspect, however, that the concern that A + B bidding favors larger contractors may be real.

If A+B Bidding Is Not Possible

If A + B bidding is not possible, and my guess is that it usually is not, then the first step is for the agency to do a great job of estimating the appropriate contract duration.

This is a real

What Should You Include In Construction Project Meeting Minutes?

July 05, 2015

What separates meeting minutes from the rest of the standard project documentation is that all the project stakeholders are expected to be present at these weekly meetings. Usually, the owner, the contractor, the design team, and maybe even the subcontractors are at these meetings.

The construction project meeting minutes or record produced from this meeting are assumed to be an accurate representation of the current status of the project and the execution plan for at least the coming week. Furthermore, because all the stakeholders are present, it is assumed that the information provided in these meeting minutes is agreed to by all parties. It is accurate, reliable, and thus the meeting minutes become a very important contemporaneous document. Because of the importance placed on meeting minutes, they must be complete, inclusive, accurate, and fact based.

Complete the construction project meeting minutes and record all topics discussed at the meeting, not just the standard headings such as safety, RFI’s, submittals, schedules and changes. These are important topics and they should be discussed weekly, but if the conversation diverges to discuss an issue with the concrete supplier whose concrete didn’t come up to strength or how weather impacted the site work or how a failed township inspection was impacting progress, these conversations must also be documented.

Sure, these issues may show up in other project documents like inspectors daily reports or the in the project correspondence, but where those reports might be one dimensional or one-sided, the meeting minutes should reflect all the views

How To Document The Pre-construction Phase Of A Project

June 03, 2015

In order to understand how pre-construction really unfolds, we have to document it. It is particularly important in a situation where you don’t have a clear bid date. On many public projects bid on a lump sum basis, there is something magical about getting beyond the bid date. Once you get beyond the bid date, some believe the only thing that really matters is that number and the contract that we sign. But on many projects, like projects with GMPs or negotiated prices, the events that occurred prior to the start of construction can have as much importance as the events that happened after the start of construction.

There is not necessarily anything super important about the bid date. It is just another event in a long series of events that leads to the successful completion of the project. This early phase, when we don’t even have a real project in hand, is still a time when we need to be preparing our documentation and recording what is happening on the project. That is true of the contractor, the owner, and the design consultant. Frankly, everything I say here applies to not only construction projects, but the design portion because that is very project oriented and it has its own documentation demands.

Here’s an example of documentation that contractors may want to consider during the pre-bid phase. What are my observations and assumptions that go into:

  • My bid
  • My price
  • My plan for executing the work.

This may even accompany a submission of a price

What’s Better, Electronic or Paper Construction Documentation?

March 01, 2015

Let’s talk a bit about electronic versus paper construction documentation.

The reality is an astonishing amount of what we do today, particularly to someone like me who has been working on construction projects for 30 years, is done electronically. We have not eliminated paper, but certainly the amount of paper we consume, strictly for managing our project, has been dramatically reduced.

Why Electronic Construction Documentation is Different

The big difference when it comes to electronic documents is really storage. How do we keep track of information in a useful and sensible way so that we can retrieve the right thing quickly? Those of you familiar with the days of paper files know that with a lot of work, organization, procedure, and insisting people do the right thing, you could build a pretty comprehensive paper file. And it was relatively easy to access and come up with the appropriate information. Typically, we asked our support staff to help us accomplish that.

In an electronic world, a lot of that organizational structure really falls upon individuals. It also falls on developing protocols and agreements as to how we are going to store the documentation (in joint storage locations on the same servers for example). And then, of course, the question always becomes, “What am I going to share with whom?”

Security of electronic information is also an issue. With paper documentation, you have to worry about fire or someone grabbing a folder and not bringing it back.

But when you are using electronic documentation, the number of concerns