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Planning and Managing a Technology-Driven Construction Project

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By Matthew DeVries

Competition in the construction arena has traditionally resulted in an environment where you do whatever you can to make the deal happen, to keep the project going forward and to minimize the risk of loss. In a technology-driven world, we see that the modern construction project, its players and its tools are constantly evolving. From business development efforts, to assigning risk through contract documents, to the ultimate design and performance of the work, the construction industry’s future success will depend on how well projects are planned and managed.

Working Together
Project management and collaboration have different meanings to different people. For general contractors, it means getting the estimating, design, construction and operation teams to work together to ensure a high-quality, safe, timely and on-budget project. With so many players involved and a host of circumstances that can dramatically affect a contractor’s bottom line, success ultimately depends on how well the parties work together through those circumstances.

Business Development and Networking
Already the next generation of leaders in the construction industry are communicating and networking differently. Through tweets and Facebook posts, information and data are being transmitted more quickly with less formality than ever before. Business development, networking efforts and global research now occur from behind the office desk and on a Smartphone through online networking solutions and professional association groups. Indeed, there are numerous AGC professional groups (national, state and local) on LinkedIn® to help make connections and share best practices in the industry. Networking that once began with a handshake and occurred exclusively in person now starts with a click of a mouse and develops through online activities and communications.

Still not convinced? At www.agc.org there are advanced search features, access to meetings, workshops and training seminars, and communication and information sharing among members. The association’s site is also cutting-edge with a store for purchasing resource materials, a member directory, and a database of local organizations.

Construction Contracting
Since funding for private construction projects remains tight, the team that an owner must assemble to begin and successfully complete its projects is comprised of more members than just the prime design professional and the general construction contractor. Early involvement of all major design professionals and trade contractors and suppliers, and full collaboration among those team members, are essential for success in the current economy.

How do the parties allocate risk in this promising era of collaboration? As contractors sit down to negotiate a construction contract, collaborative form documents published by ConsensusDocs provide a good framework for collaborative contracting. Specifically, ConsensusDocs 300 is a tri-party agreement that binds the owner, designer and contractor at the inception of the project, requiring them to collaborate in the planning, design, development and construction of the project. They share the project risks and rewards differently than the traditional project. Negotiation in contracting will continue to be a necessary process, even where the parties agree to share certain risk in a collaborative arrangement.

In 2012, ConsensusDocs created a new platform and updated several of their most popular documents to make construction contracting even easier. See what's new at www.ConsensusDocs.org.

Technology in Design and Construction
Technology has improved a project’s successes and minimized the potential mishaps throughout the design and construction process. For example, use of project management tools such as building information modeling (BIM) and project delivery methods such as integrated project delivery (IPD) and lean project delivery (LPD) allow for such early involvement and enhanced collaboration. BIM can benefit contractors by avoiding conflicts in the design, compressing the schedule of work, and coordinating the teams in place. Similarly, IPD and LPD are focused on the project as a whole and reward the collaborative efforts of the whole team, who may often share in those cost-savings even to the benefit of the contractor.

In addition, innovative technologies such as cloud computing, iPads and other tablet computers are becoming more commonplace on the jobsite. Immediate access to project specifications, revised drawings and field instructions allow owners, designers and contractors to better communicate with each other throughout project performance. In many instances, collaboration through tablet computing significantly reduces requests for information and change order requests, as well as saving numerous hours in response time.

Conclusion
In the end, technology’s contribution to the planning and management on a construction project can impact many different things—networking activities, contract documentation, or the design and construction process. Technology can help attain a win-win for all parties.

Matt DeVries is a member of the construction service group of Stites & Harbison PLLC and is the founder of www.bestpracticesconstructionlaw.com, a construction-related blog focused on transportation, health care and sustainable design and construction. DeVries represents contractors, subcontractors, owners and sureties in construction disputes. He can be reached at matthew.devries@stites.com.

 

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