Change order is a dreaded work in the construction industry. It can derail the original schedule that project managers set. Oftentimes, it can cause the project to go over the approved budget too. But the sad reality is, there are just a lot of things in construction that we cannot control. The keys to minimize change order, though, are efficient construction crew management, progress monitoring, and open communication between the site and the office.
In the past, we were able to define the steps in writing a change order document properly and how to implement the needed modifications. Today, we’re going to look into some ways you can try to minimize errors in your construction project so that you don’t have to go through the hassles of writing a change order request.
But even if there are ways to reduce risks of rework or medication, it is still important to define change order conditions in your contract. Like we said, you can never tell when the unexpected happens and change order condition in the contract will protect you from future legal problems with your client.
You have to know too that most changes happening in construction involve unforeseen conditions like material price increase. As materials are needed in bulk, a sudden price increase can be cause the project to go over the original budget. Shareholders of the client will then complain and the project team will probably take the blame for not predicting such situation. The worst part there is they can go against you legally for breach of contract. And to save your company from damages, you will be left with the option of sacrificing your profit.
So never omit the change order condition from the contract. Nobody likes to go through modifications when the construction is already halfway through, but think of it as a means of protection from damage. You should also take away the mindset of relaxing just because you are allowed to make changes. As a construction company who aims to become a preferred contractor and a leader in the field, your goal should always be to deliver results beyond the client’s expectation by using the most efficient construction strategies.
By doing so, you can keep change orders to a minimum until you can perfect your processes and eliminate errors. Full coordination between the client and the project team is the main ingredient in a hassle-free construction. And like we always mention, for this to happen, clear communication should be established. The use of a reliable construction project management software such as Pro Crew Schedule can solidify communication by improving the flow of information between the two parties. This way, updates on prices, processes, and progress can be communicated immediately so that issues can be remedied at once, eliminating the need for bigger changes.
But this is just the start. Below are more tips on how you can minimize unwanted change orders in your construction project.
How to Minimize Chances of Change Order in Construction
Errors may not be avoided at the site, most especially because there are elements that we don’t have full control over. That includes the weather and raw material prices. But here are some ways you can do to reduce the risks of committing errors that may require costly change orders.
- Define Change Order Conditions from the Start
Clearly define everything in your contract from processes to change order. In the change order condition, indicate who pays, who authorizes the modification, and the acceptable reasons for the change. This way, you can prevent disputes caused by unauthorized change order. So be very specific when writing the contract.
- Ask for a Clear Statement of Work
Some scope of work agreements are too ambiguous that they, too, can trigger change orders. But in fact, it should be the most important part of a contract. This document defines what the client expects from the contractor and the subcontractors by noting down all the work they need to perform, the timeline, performance standards, and deliverable schedules. Without it, the contractors and the subcontractors are left in a gray area where they will just keep on hoping that what the processes they’re doing are correct.
- Check the Project Design for Completeness
This is basic but still, some contractors fail to check the design for complete specs and other relevant details. This often happens to contractors new in the business and those who always tend to cram.
The design is an important reference for the builders schedule, budget, and plan. So when it’s incomplete, then expect all those three elements to be inaccurate too. This will surely lead to errors and project delays will soar.
So to prevent change order caused by incomplete project design, be sure to have your team of experts like architects, project managers, and engineers check on the document. And when you see lapses, report them right away to the design team so they can supply you with the missing information.
- Coordinate with Your Stakeholders Before Submitting the Bid
A construction project isn’t the work of just a single professional. Other elements, apart from steel bars and cement, include HVAC, piping, electrical systems, elevators and escalators, and sewerage system are required to complete the building too. So gather your engineers from civil to mechanical and electrical and your architect too to review the specs, standards, and design so that the flow of work you submit is correct and well-organized.
- Coordinate all Project Elements
Like we just mentioned earlier, a construction project needs the expertise of several professionals. It isn’t just the structure that makes up a building but other important elements too from electrical to mechanical works. If you are going to get subcontractors for these elements, you need to gather them up together and discuss how the flow of work will be. Will the mechanical team lay out the ducts first before the electrical can lay out the wirings? Will the civil engineer need to design the storm drain inlet first before the other tasks can be done? When all elements are coordinated properly, errors and rework will be avoided.
- Establish a Quality Control Process
We mentioned in a previous project how quality should be a priority in construction. By checking out on quality instead of always focusing on speed, you can greatly reduce chances of rework. Duet to the pressure received by the project team, they tend to speed things up just to meet the deadline. Speed and quality always seem to be contradicting in construction. But with the available technologies today like BIM, robotics, construction project management software, processes are streamlined, hence reducing work hour for both the project manager and the construction crew. With that, everyone in the project team will have more time to focus on improving their output.
- Manage Subcontractor Activities
While it’s true that you are hiring subcontractors to speed up the project, lighten the project team’s load, and to ensure expertise, you should still see to it that you check on their work from time to time so that their output is within the standards. You should also be clear with them about their scope of work so that the flow of work won’t be disrupted. Otherwise, errors may happen or the client may not be satisfied with the output, hence leading to change order.
- Support Transparency
Communication is the key to a successful construction project. Constant communication between the contractor and all persons involved in the project encourages transparency in their concerns and output. This way, the contractor and the project manager are able to act of any problems right away, hence reducing the need for change order.
- Ask for Mandatory Pre-site Visit
Before going into a bid, request to visit the construction site so you can have a better vision of the work condition and how the project should look like. This way, you can make better project plan that you can present during the bid, which will consequently help you prevent risks of change order.
- Always Stick with the Contract
Remember to stick with what is defined in the contract. The contract was written for a purpose and that is to guide the project team on how they should go about the project. Contracts should define the plan, design, specifications, quality standards, the budget, the authorized personnel, timeline, deliverables, change order condition, and scope of work. Doing otherwise will be considered breach of contract. The client will complain and demand for change so that the original agreement will be carried out.
That said, be sure that everyone in your team, including your subcontractors, are following everything that’s indicated in the contract.
Change Order as an Opportunity for Improvement
Fortunately today, you have BIM to walk us through probable problems that you may encounter during the construction process. This has been an effective way to revise the design and plan to eliminate those problems even before the project begins. But let’s take BIM out of the picture. Prevention of errors will now depend on the contractor, the project manager, and the rest of the project team.
But yet again, errors are still highly possible to happen. It shouldn’t always be taken negatively though. Some errors happen because of an inefficient design. Errors are then a way for the project team to see the mistakes in the design and can be a way to improve the project. You are only lucky when this happens, though, during the early stages of the project.
Another instance when change is favorable is when the client and the project team suddenly identify points that can be improved without the errors. For instance, adding elements or changing finishes, or applying upgrades to improve the overall design, making the building more desirable and sellable.
From our tips above, it is clear that coordination and communication are keys to avoiding change orders. Work closely with everyone involved in the project. Be more careful in reviewing pre-construction documents so you can write a better plan, builders schedule, and budget. Encourage transparency between you and your crew members. Update your client from time to time. And finally, be quick at acting on issues so they won’t turn into bigger and more costly errors.