Achieving the Final 5 Percent of the Construction Schedule

With June comes summer, outdoor activities, family vacations, baseball, and pool time.  In student housing development and construction, it also brings crunch-time and urgency to finish the construction of projects in time for occupancy as students return for the fall semester.  For the project and university teams, this crunch-time means focusing on punch activities, getting final Authority Having Jurisdiction “AHJ” inspections and signoff, and planning for a successful move-in experience for staff and student residents.

Where’s the Painter’s Tape?

In order to maintain schedule and deliver a consistent, quality product, a thorough, well-planned and deliberate owner’s punch program is critical.  When the project’s general contractor has space ready, the building areas can be broken up into manageable sections and then a punch team can be assigned to each section.  At Capstone, punch teams typically include an in-house construction manager or quality control manager, and representatives for the architect, general contractor, university and/or manager.

During the punch process, each team will check for quality level and consistency in general architectural details including general workmanship, finish applications, cleanliness, appropriately placed and secured accessories and the overall readiness for a space to be lived in by students.  Each team also checks to confirm correct system performance for elements such as HVAC control, appliance operation, access control, plumbing fixtures, temperature and leaks, window and window treatment operation, and electrical performance.

Once an area’s initial punch activities are complete and a first-round punch list is generated, the area is turned back over to the general contractor and their subcontractors to complete the outstanding work.  Then, our quality control manager will re-walk each space to confirm that the work is completed and that it meets or exceeds quality expectations.  To keep the space from being impacted after all of the punch work has been completed, the space is locked down and no workers beyond those needed for final AHJ inspections or FF&E installation are allowed back in.

Expect the Unexpected

This time of year always comes with suspense and surprise when trying to achieve final signoff by the AHJ to obtain a certificate of occupancy.  To try to avoid completion “chaos and confusion”, during construction we schedule ‘touch base’ sessions with the building officials to better understand expectations and all of their specific requirements for occupancy.  Additionally, months prior to requesting final signoff from the AHJ, the development team will hold internal round table ‘roadblock’ review sessions to strategize on any final inspection issues that may arise and to identify how best to manage those items within the projected or original completion schedule.  Perfection is a lofty and often elusive goal when it comes to completing the many elements that need to come together as a project nears completion, however by planning ahead and trying to foresee potential stumbling blocks, the ability to anticipate challenges and avoid or overcome them quickly is greatly improved.

Smile, You’ve Arrived!

Finally, it’s move-in weekend and the years of planning and implementing the project is complete and occupancy is upon us.  Based on our years of experience we have found that in order to ensure the smoothest possible transition to occupancy and operations, it is best to assemble a construction work order ‘hit team’ during move-in to immediately address any building problems or questions that may arise.  This team generally includes professionals from the development team, general contractor and key trade personnel such as access control, HVAC, electrical, plumbing and elevator technicians, as well as general carpentry and cleaning staff.  This team is able to address and track all work orders – big and small – all with a single goal of setting a new high standard- the least number of submitted work orders during move-in based on all prior projects.

These complex and import projects involve years of planning, designing and implementation. When June comes and you are in that home stretch – the final 5% – the team can’t afford to lose focus. By maintaining a high level of attention to detail and working together as a team, everyone will enjoy a fantastic new building that is fully ready to welcome home new student residents.

Author: David Morrisey, Sr Construction Manager