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Construction Delays and How to Prevent Them

Delays are a common occurrence in most construction projects, but for large-scale commercial buildings, they can have complex and expensive impacts. As VERTEX consulting and management experts explain, these projects involve multiple stakeholders, owners, contractors, architects, engineers, suppliers, and regulatory agencies. With so many moving parts, it’s no surprise that various issues inevitably arise. However, failing to predict them and create plans for multiple scenarios can help prevent delays in the construction schedule.

Large-scale projects often require heavy equipment and specialized materials, involving more complex designs and building components. This factor creates risk to delays since there is often a shortage of skilled people and alternatives to labor or materials may not be easy to find. In addition, they may involve more comprehensive site preparation, excavation, or foundation work. Finally, they are often subject to more stringent regulatory requirements and approvals, which can cause delays in obtaining necessary permits.

However, managing all the potential risks or mitigating their impact when they can’t be avoided can be successfully achieved through effective planning, risk management, and clear communication among all stakeholders. Appropriate strategies and approaches can minimize the risk of delays and contribute to finalizing construction projects on time and within budget. In this article, we will dive into the most commonly encountered reasons and obstacles to completing any construction project on time.

Most common causes of construction delays

Unfortunately, completing any type of construction project exactly as planned is a rare occurrence. Even smaller and less complex projects can be delayed for various reasons. This worldwide issue impacts all involved parties in different ways, but what connects them is usually financial loss. Many international studies have been conducted on construction delays, and the body of knowledge on this subject is extensive. Yet, delays still happen often.

Let’s explore the most common factors that contribute to construction delays. For example, there are three main categories of construction delays:

Owner delays. The most common delays caused by owners include:

  • Change orders.
  • The approval waiting time is too long
  • Design issues like changes, inadequate quality, or incomplete drawings
  • Funding
  • Indecisiveness or slow decision making
  • Design Information delays; slow information flow
  • Lack of communication
  • Poor coordination
  • General organizational structure issues
  • Unrealistic contract durations
  • Inadequate design team

Contractor delays. When it comes to actions or oversights made by contractors, the most frequent causes of delays are:

  • Site management and supervision issues
  • Availability of labor
  • Poor planning and scheduling
  • Equipment issues and failures
  • Financial difficulties
  • Delays in subcontractors’ work
  • Productivity issues
  • Inadequate experience
  • Materials management
  • Need for reworks
  • Equipment allocation issues
  • Accidents

External factor delays include situations that are out of the control of both the owner and the contractor. The most frequent causes of this type of delay are:

  • Shortage of construction materials
  • Weather conditions
  • Regulatory issues and slow permitting by agencies
  • Unforeseen construction site conditions
  • Price fluctuations
  • Increase in cost of materials
  • Disputes and other types of conflict
  • Government regulations
  • Labor disputes, strikes
  • Civil disturbances
  • Economic conditions

How to avoid construction delays?

Construction project delays can have severe effects. Developing a good strategy and risk-mitigating measures is the best way to address these risks and minimize the risk of delays. It is clear from previously listed delays that insufficient planning and scheduling is a common basis for many of the delays. Developing a detailed project schedule that enables proactive management is the basis of every good construction project.

Crucial steps that can be taken to prevent construction delays include:

  • Developing a detailed project plan. A well-developed project plan with a realistic timeline can help ensure the project stays on track. In addition, taking into account potential delays and risks helps make contingency plans.
  • Using technology to automate and streamline processes. This can include using project management software to track progress, scheduling software to manage workers and materials, and drones to monitor construction sites.
  • Improving communication: Clear communication between all parties involved in the construction project – regular contact and communication between clients, suppliers, subcontractors, and workers to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Risk management involves identifying potential risks and developing strategies to mitigate them, like having backup suppliers, contingencies for weather-related delays, and using reliable subcontractors.
  • Using experienced contractors, subcontractors, and workers ensures the project is completed efficiently and to the expected standard.
  • Having a reliable supply chain management system. Prevent delays caused by material shortages. Working closely with suppliers, monitoring inventory levels, and having backup suppliers in case of delays or quality control issues.
  • Conducting regular quality control checks. Inspections and QC checks can help identify potential issues before they become significant problems. This can include safety inspections and quality control checks on materials, equipment, and workmanship.

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