How to Ensure a Smooth Running Commercial Construction Project
Because there are so many variables, it is not uncommon for a commercial construction project to extend beyond the scheduled completion date and cost more than the initial bid. Counteracting the detrimental effects of cost overruns and time delays requires two things: acknowledging that many things can go wrong, and drawing up contingency plans.
A skilled commercial general contractor with a cohesive team has the necessary tools to assure that on-time, within-budget completion is the norm, no matter what the project entails. It is not easy, and involves constant attention to approved plans and specifications, job site details, ongoing consultation with architects, engineers, and designers as well as the various trades, scheduling expertise, and development of a timeline that allows for anticipated “slippage.”
It’s not rocket science, but coordinating the efforts of scores of suppliers, managers, and workers is, in some ways, as daunting as herding cats. It takes commitment, energy, and expertise.
Because advance planning and ongoing communication between client and contractor are key elements of a good working relationship, ask a lot of questions and obtain satisfactory answers at the outset, whether the work involves tenant improvement (TI) to an existing building or ground-up construction of an industrial site. Leave nothing to chance.
The first question to ask is whether a contractor has experience with similar projects. Ask for pictures and references, and then check those references. Confirm proper licenses, insurance coverage, and bonding ability, if required. It’s important to establish trust at the outset.
Additional questions include:
- Does the contractor work with a team of familiar subs on each job, or seek bids from different trades for each project? There is no “right” answer but ask for specific reasons.
- How are materials ordered and billed?
- What kind of contract? There are several options: Design/Build, Cost-Plus, Lump Sum and many variations, and each has pros and cons. Some contracts might include a bonus for early completion or a penalty clause for unapproved delays.
- How will extras and potential cost overruns be billed?
- What is the payment schedule?
- How is the timeline developed? How is it monitored? Is there a way to make up lost time? What about overtime charges and cost overruns?
- What percentage of contracts are finished on time and within budget?
- Finally, is there a contract provision for dispute resolution?
If you’re comfortable with the answers, and the compatibility factor is sufficient, move on to signing a contract and setting a start date.
Before the construction or TI project begins, both client and contractor should confirm that drawings and specifications are in compliance with known regulations, local codes and municipal ordinances. If you as a client aren’t happy with the plans, the finished product won’t please you either. It’s better to delay the start than to make changes during construction.
If you have previously worked with an architect or had interior finish-out plans approved by building management or site developers, your chosen contractor will advise you regarding permits and fees. There might be additional health, safety and zoning restrictions for restaurant projects, medical facilities, and office or retail space.
By choosing an experienced, professional contractor, you free yourself from daily involvement in the project. If you are comfortable with your choice of contractor, resist micro-managing, but insist on scheduled updates, perhaps at well-defined benchmarks along the path to completion.
It is the contractor’s job to deliver a finished project on time and within budget. However, at the first hint of a problem, a quick email or phone call is certainly not out of line. By working together, both client and contractor will achieve their goals.
Want to learn the Top Five Must-Haves When Picking A Commercial General Contractor? Download the PDF here.
At M.A. Nourse, we leverage decades of knowledge and experience to provide more detailed and accurate estimates, so that our clients can feel confident that their projects will be completed on time and on budget.