Why collaboration is key to controlling prolongation costs

Why collaboration is key to controlling prolongation costs

It’s the same story in architects’, engineers’ and clients’ offices up and down the country – what are we going to do about prolongation costs? It’s obvious that they don’t have to be an inevitability; but why is it that we, as an industry, have still failed to come up with a workable solution? Here at DJHC, we have a theory.

The root cause of the issue is, arguably, at the very nascent stages of the project. Although the consequences may emerge towards the end, it’ll be at the beginning of the process that the problem has its foundation. This problem is silos and a lack of collaboration – here, we’ll explain more and make the case for multi-disciplinary consultants.

How siloes happen

Usually, clients will appoint architectural, engineering and MEP consultants separately. Subsequently, a further project management consultant is appointed to stitch their recommendations together. This document is then passed to the various contractors who assess the tender drawings and specs, and place a bid.

However, it’s quite common that various construction or “buildability” issues won’t be addressed at this stage. Design details often won’t totally mesh, and although BIM has addressed some concerns, it’s no substitute for lived experience and expertise. Meanwhile, catch-all clauses including phrases like “express or implied” or “fit for purpose” leave contractors in somewhat of a grey zone.

This is where siloes begin, and often, the inconsistencies in designs won’t rear their ugly head until the critical moment. Then come project delays – and the associated costs.

MEP as a prime example

Let’s look at MEP to illustrate this point. Once the main contractor is appointed, it could be months before the MEP contract is awarded. The contractor is expected to submit a programme to meet the original deadline, including engineering drawings and material approvals. Often, at this stage, budgets are tight.

Tight budgets mean longer negotiations with suppliers and subcontractors. Longer negotiations mean more lost time. Moreover, civil planners in particular will often underestimate the time required for complete MEP works, leading to further delays. Meanwhile, the architect and other engineers continue to work in silos and the project manager tries to stitch everything together. More time is lost.

To add extra problems, different project stakeholders will be paid on different bases, whether it be fixed lump sum or percentage of value. This can further frustrate the coordination of efforts and more delays emerge. The tight budget that the MEP contractor was compelled to work with is squandered on further delays.

Considering how crucial MEP is to the operation of a building, it’s fairly alarming how these critical elements are so often left until the project is 40 or 50% completed. What’s more alarming still is the number of stakeholders across the construction supply chain who have faced the same issues project-to-project.

Multi-disciplinary skills are essential

The moral of the story is self-evident – drafting in a consultant with a multidisciplinary skillset is crucial from the word go. With a clear overview of how project elements interact, you can prevent the cultivation of silos and promote a more integrative approach to a project, far beyond the knowledge of a regular project manager.

All in all, the construction industry needs to recognise the need for investment in people to tackle inefficiencies. A collaborative and equitable approach, including on issues such as prolongation costs, is in the overall interests of the quality and timely completion of the project – benefiting everyone involved.



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