Avoiding Schedule Nightmares

Few things bring as much energy and excitement as making physical building improvements; either by renovating old, dated residence halls or building a new, modern, state-of-the-art campus housing project.  The sense of accomplishment from creating a meaningful addition to your university can create a euphoria of joy and excitement as you anxiously await the final product.  The contagious momentum and enthusiasm of the project continues to increase; can this really be happening?  Trusting the project team you have selected, you find yourself falling asleep and having a peaceful dream full of sunshine and delight. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a dark, cold, crisp sensation shoots sharply through to your very core and the monsters of the dark wake you to a cold, pale sweat in the middle of the night.  You find yourself now fully awake and in a state of uncontrollable panic.  Are we going to make it? What happens if the project doesn’t finish on time?  What will we do if the students can’t move into the new hall?  What about their parents?  Our reputation as a school??? Can this really be true or is it just a horrible nightmare? 

Undoubtedly, if you have been involved in student housing you have experienced the thought of what might happen if a project doesn’t finish on time. The nightmares: the logistics, the PR, the students, oh the horror!

In order to ensure that we ‘avoid the nightmares’, CDP makes sure that we anticipate the possible demons and monsters that can impact a project even before the project begins to make sure we have an on-time, goblin-free delivery.  Let’s take a moment and see how to have a project flow smoothly and end on time.

Look at the Monsters

For CDP, making sure a project delivers on time begins before the project is awarded.  We do this by putting together a carefully assembled team of design and construction professionals that have the experience, knowledge and resources to design and construct the project as proposed to the University.  Before the first sketch, the project schedule and approach is developed and each member of the team commits to the schedule that is then shared with our University client.  The project schedule consists of an overall development schedule which incorporates all governmental, financing and University client approvals and incorporates more detailed design and construction schedules. Milestones are created on the design schedule to cover entitlements, deliverables for review and pricing deadlines to ensure the preconstruction budgets are accurate and given in a timely fashion so the proper decisions can be made in accordance to the scheduled deadlines. The tasks are assigned and tracked to ensure they are completed in adherence to the schedule. Regular meetings are held to discuss the progress and challenges along the way.  “DAC” meetings are held weekly between CDP, the design team and the contractor.  In these meetings the team ‘looks directly at the possible monsters’ and plans on how to keep them at bay through extensive planning and execution of the plan.  The team then incorporates the plan details and reviews them with the University in a “UDT” meeting.  The UDT meetings are generally held twice a month throughout the entire process between CDP, the University, design team and contractor. This ensures that the University has input so the completed facility achieves their objectives and vision.

I ain’t afraid of no ghost!

Once the design, budget and permitting thresholds have been achieved it is time to start the actual construction of the project.  The DAC and UDT meetings continue throughout the construction of the project. CDP carefully reviews the contactor’s schedule to ensure strict adherence. Activities are reviewed and discussed as the team works hard to find opportunities to stay ahead of the schedule.  If the project is ahead of schedule the team has time to react and absorb a minor delay and stay on, or ahead of schedule.  Communication is key to the success. By being proactive, CDP works with the contractor to address any possible delays before they happen. As unforeseen delays occur, it is important that all team members have the resources to adapt and accelerate their work when necessary. The contractor is obligated by the contract to accelerate the work if the work falls behind schedule more than a set number of days as well as create a plan to get the project back on schedule as quickly as possible.  CDP is actively engaged in managing the progress of the project through carefully monitoring work, trade manpower, and quality control. By being consistent and creating a team environment of transparency and open communication, CDP and its team is able to address issues quickly and efficiently as they present themselves, rather than pushing them to the end of the project.

No Tricks Just Treats

As the project nears completion, CDP works with the team to ensure that punch items, inspections and miscellaneous items are tracked and completed efficiently.  This allows for the final stretch to be a controlled and smooth process.  The final touches are put on the building giving the management team and University time to set up and prepare for the opening dates.  The bottom line is through thoughtful planning and open communication, CDP doesn’t miss completion and opening dates. We do whatever it takes to assure on time delivery and opening. We stay awake at night and do the worrying about any demons potentially lurking in the shadows throughout the project so our University partners can relax and celebrate the opening of another successful project while ‘avoiding the nightmares’ of not having the facilities ready for students and staff in-time.

Authors: Dan Bethers, Construction Manager and Joe Harrison, Sr Construction Manager