Construction Delays: How to Plan for the Expected and Unexpected

May 15, 2023
By Michael Rief, Sr Vice President of Construction, WSB

It is not every day that a construction project is delayed due to digging up unmarked graves, but it certainly happens more than the public might realize. Construction projects face the potential of delays in work for many reasons. Some of these are within the control of the managing company, while others are outside of their control. It is essential for industry leaders and local municipalities to understand the potential causes of delays and to have plans in place to address them promptly and mitigate cost, schedule, and quality.

Controllable Delays

Delays that are within the control of a company are often preventable and are caused by a variety of issues. Plan issues, utility conflicts, poor workmanship or low-quality materials can result in the need for rework, which can delay the project, impact schedule, and increase the cost of your project. This can happen if the work is not done to the required standard or if the materials used do not meet the specified quality criteria. The time and effort required to rework or remove and replace the work can be significant, and it can result in delays to other work later in the schedule that is dependent on it.

Permitting, environmental and safety concerns can also cause delays in construction projects and may require work to be stopped, which can also result in additional costs. Communication or misunderstanding in the planning and execution of the work between project stakeholders, can lead to confusion about project requirements, timelines, and other critical information

To mitigate these risks, WSB takes proactive measures, such as implementing quality control processes, investing in safety training, improving team communication, and ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations.

Uncontrollable Delays

In addition to these internal factors, there is a number of external factors which can cause delays in construction projects. Weather is the largest external factor in delaying construction. Whether it be snow, high winds, extreme temperatures, or severe flooding, all are outside the control of the construction project team and create significant setbacks.

Subsurface obstacles such as poor soils, unidentified utilities, contamination, or historical and religious artifacts uncovered during excavation significantly impact the project timeline. These may require design changes, new permitting and approvals, and additional costs.

We have also experienced government shutdown or stoppage in programming funding which has delayed construction because contractors are no longer able to be paid, and approval processes shut down. These delays can potentially shut down work by months, even years, depending on how long the stoppage lasts

These external factors are harder to influence and, in many cases, impossible to control, but there are ways WSB’s team and partners work to eliminate and minimize their impact on projects.

How WSB Can Help:

WSB thinks through all possible scenarios to ensure that it’s prepared to prevent, address, and resolve any delays that may arise.

Existing processes such as project scoping, soils exploration and project planning along with technological advancements like ground-penetrating radar and drone surveys help WSB identify potential issues like subsurface items or utilities that must be cleared before a project begins. These approaches help to further define the nature of the work and identify issues in the planning and design phases to prevent costly changes which can impact, cost schedule and quality during the construction phases of the work. Planning and sequencing of construction activities is also managed with technological advancements. WSB identifies conflicts for each stage of the construction stages by applying conflict analysis on temporary construction elements such as drainage and traffic needs by utilizing clash detection and contract time determination.

Construction project delays can be caused by a range of factors, both within and outside of the control of the owner and contractor. However, by implementing proactive measures, investing in technology, and prioritizing communication, WSB minimizes the risk of delays and ensures that projects are completed on time and within budget for municipalities.

Mike Rief leads WSB’s Construction Services team. He has nearly 30 years of experience in civil engineering, with an emphasis on pavement and materials, pavement management, quality management, project management, design, risk assessment, project controls, contract administration, construction, and preventative maintenance. Throughout his tenure, he’s managed several complex, high-profile projects across Minnesota.

[email protected] | 612.518.8329

Michael Rief
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