Project Delivery: Pros and Cons of Fast Track Construction

Published March 11, 2016 by Whirlwind Team

Project delivery pros and cons of fast track construction

Fast track project delivery is meant to save owners money by limiting the amount of construction time and getting a completed facility that will begin to generate revenue quickly. It seems to make sense that the faster it can be built, the less time it sits there not generating revenue to return the investment.

However, fast track delivery can degenerate into a finger-pointing free-for-all if it is not handled intelligently. Everyone involved in the project, especially the owner, must understand the constraints this delivery method will impose. It is critical to select members for the project team that have experience relevant to the project at hand and who are prepared to collaborate closely and communicate constantly.

Fast track advantages

Of course, the main advantage to fast track project delivery has already been stated. Save money by getting the building into revenue-producing mode as quickly as possible. If all goes well, this is, indeed, a major advantage, and one that is uniquely possible through the use of prefabricated metal buildings.

Getting into the details, there are more advantages to be found.

Catching up the backlog

After a long economic downturn, there is now something of a backlog of building to do. Demand for space is growing. During the lean years, many projects were put on hold, now that dam has broken and owners are looking for contractors that can pick up the pace.

Leaping quickly into emerging markets

Disruptive technology and processes seem to be what the beginning of the 21st century is all about. When something new comes down the pike, it becomes a race to see who can produce it first and get a lion’s share of the market early. Facilities are needed quickly to be able to make that leap.

Reduce construction costs

Owners hope to save money by paying less for construction labor. If the days to complete a facility can be reduced, then that reduces the labor costs for the completed project. As construction costs continue to rise, you can expect more efforts to reign in construction spending.

Savings through advance purchase

When you can buy materials in advance you may be able to gain costs savings, especially on materials where the price is rising daily. This may provide a boon to designers and architects who now know exactly what they have to work with and can design with those specific materials in mind.

Closer collaboration

Communication and collaboration are crucial for success in a fast track project but this is actually an advantage. With the compressed time-frame and constraints, all team members will know exactly what is to be delivered because everyone is on the same page at all times.

Instead of waiting for one part of the project sequence to finish or work without knowledge of the rest of the project, fast track project delivery forces everyone to share information constantly.

Another bonus of this collaborative culture is that the contractor is generally one of the first hired, providing you with the opportunity for early input into the design process and a chance to do some value engineering. When practitioners from different trades get together, it can create an environment for creatively pragmatic design.

The disadvantages of fast track

There are some disadvantages to doing things fast; you’ve probably found that out yourself a time or two. Plus there is that, “Good, fast, cheap – pick two” thing going on which implies that you can have fast and good but you’re going to pay for it.

Quality issues

Primarily, when a project is put together as quickly as possible, quality can suffer. More errors and omissions can, and probably will, occur. A construction project is extremely complex with many moving parts. If even one gets out of place, many more can come tumbling down.

Drawings may turn out to be non-feasible at the site or there can be issues with existing structures or infrastructure, requiring quick modification of plans without a thorough review for potential problems. Field conditions may be different from expectations. Coordination of changes with the designer is an absolute must.

Planning issues

In fact, the speed required for a fast track project leaves much of the planning phase behind. The time between design and construction is very short, so errors and omissions are not caught as they would be in a closer review. Adding to this is the difficulty in remaining consistent across the project when parts are completed out of sequence or when more than one person is in charge (such as the case with multiple primes).

Change orders can multiply out of control on a fast track project, some of which will require deconstruction and rebuilding, wasting time, effort, and materials. Consultants will have limited time to work with municipal officials and potential problems fall through the cracks.

Multitasking, which has been proven as a poor method of working, causes problems with bidding, administration, and other documentation such as simultaneous design and build document creation. Each time one task is suspended so another can be taken care of actually wastes more time than in saves.

Unrealistic client expectations

Your biggest problem may be your client, who may not understand the dynamics of construction and expects the savings of fast track project delivery to be guaranteed. The owner believes all documents are accurate and complete, even when produced under time constraints.

Education is the answer to this last hurdle. From the beginning, you must help the owner learn what is feasible, what is not, and what can happen in a fast track project. The owner should understand the changes that occur as discoveries are made in the plans and on the jobsite that will require changes and approvals.

With the right team, a commitment to thorough advance planning, and close collaboration with all stakeholders, fast track project delivery can save construction costs and the costs of supporting non-revenue generating land and structures. Contractors are able to work closely with designers and architects as well as the leads for other trades to identify better construction schedules and sequences.

Manage your client’s expectations as well. An owner with an unrealistic idea of fast tracking tends to become an unhappy client.

Avoid the problems with high levels of coordination and collaboration, thorough planning, and maintain a clear picture of what is possible. Fast track project delivery can be a disaster but it can save costs and time when done right.

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