Professional Development: Avoid Construction Rework

By James G. Zack, Jr.
Published in the January/February 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Rework during construction—the need to do work more than once, or to remove and replace work previously installed—impacts costs, completion dates, and the quality of constructed facilities. Facility managers (fms) concerned with life cycle costs and long-term operation and maintenance (O&M) undoubtedly want to avoid rework and its negative impacts.

After reviewing studies performed between 1987 and 2001, the Navigant Construction Forum estimated the cost and time impacts of rework on typical construction projects. Also determined as part of this review were some practical remedies that fms can use to reduce rework.

There are numerous causes of rework during construction, and these include: design or construction changes, errors and omissions, and unanticipated field conditions. According to the review of studies, the total cost of rework ranges from 7% to 11% of construction cost with a median cost of 9%. It is also estimated that rework negatively impacts facility completion dates on average some 10% of planned schedule duration. Both impacts—time and cost—should be of concern to fms. Of equal concern is the quality of the constructed facility. Quality, or the lack thereof, impacts O&M costs and may impact the ability to use the facility for its intended purpose.

There are tools and strategies available that help avoid rework, thus lessening cost and delay to completion of constructed facilities and improving project quality.

Use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). Employing these technologies may cost a little more at the outset and take somewhat longer, but they provide long-term benefits. Clash detection locates and isolates conflicts between trades and systems, reducing rework. It aids in trade coordination and eliminates conflicting construction sequences, both of which cause rework. This reduces cost and helps deliver the constructed facility on time.

Fms should require delivery of an as-built BIM model at project completion. In addition to containing an accurate 3D visualization of the installed systems, it also embeds distinct equipment attributes and information into BIM close out deliverables. This spatially correct, data rich BIM model can be integrated with existing facilities management maintenance and work order systems. The long-term benefits are twofold. First, accurate system maintenance information moves seamlessly into existing systems, eliminating the costly and error prone process of manual data re-entry from binders and rolls of drawings. Second, fms will possess accurate models that provide a “crystal ball” for future renovations and rehabs, thus reducing typical costs and uncertainties associated with downtime for destructive investigation surveys.

Early and continuous involvement of stakeholders. Fms can reduce rework at project turnover by identifying all stakeholders early and actively engaging them in the planning and design stages. Stakeholders often do not see the facility until construction completion. This approach results in numerous last minute changes because the facility is not what they thought it would be. Use of BIM modeling helps avoid changes at the end of construction because stakeholders will be able to see exactly what is to be constructed.

Design freeze. Fms should “freeze” design at the start of construction. If all project stakeholders are involved in planning and design, and if they have fully identified their needs, then all decisions should have been made. Stakeholders who change their mind during construction cause rework, increase cost, delay completion, and potentially compromise quality. The only changes that should be allowed during construction are those necessary to meet new or changed facility requirements or to comply with revised building codes and regulations.

Project czar. Hand in hand with design freeze is the appointment of a “project czar.” This is the only individual authorized to approve changes with, communicate with, and direct the contractor. The project czar might be the fm or a construction manager employed as their representative. If this approach is used, information about this individual’s role must be included in the contract documents and the individual’s name and delegated authority included in a “warrant of authority” provided to all stakeholders, design team members, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers and enforced at all times.

Biddability and constructability review. Fms should employ an experienced construction oriented team to review plans and specifications to determine if there is sufficient information for contractors (or trade contractors if the facility is being constructed under the design/build method) to bid intelligently. This review looks for poorly coordinated drawings and specifications and ambiguously worded contract requirements. Constructability reviews determine if there is sufficient information to allow the contractor to build exactly what the fm’s organization wants. The review looks for errors and omissions, impossible or impracticable requirements, ambiguities and conflicts, and contract requirements at odds with the fm’s work processes.

Change order review. If an fm is a “serial builder” (that is, one who has overseen the design and construction of multiple facilities) then his or her staff could review change orders from previous projects to determine if some changes could have been prevented during design. If so, then a review of the current facility design should be able to determine whether the same problems exist in the new design.

Operability review. Fms must also involve their O&M staff in the planning and design of each facility as these staff members usually have specialized needs. O&M personnel should be invited to review the design in order to address issues that may not be identified in other reviews.

Having to perform rework during the construction process increases cost and delays facility completion. And it has the potential to impact the quality of the constructed facility. But fms can use readily available, practical strategies to reduce the incidence of rework and to provide more economical and timely projects that meet the needs of their organizations.

James G. Zack, Jr.
James G. Zack, Jr.

Zack is the executive director of the Navigant Construction Forum, a global resource for best practices on avoidance and resolution of construction project disputes. With 40 years of experience working on construction projects, Zack has expertise in mitigation, analysis, and resolution or defense of construction claims. He is a Fellow of AACE International and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and he is a Certified Forensic Claims Consultant, a Certified Construction Manager, and a Project Management Professional.