As with many undertakings, a remodel, tenant improvement or new construction project is full of subtle dynamics that if neglected can make even a simple project seem monumental. One such dynamic is the pace of a project during the construction phase. Understanding a little about the general contractor’s function as well as his method of scheduling is critical in managing the project pace.
Most construction crews today are made up of a collection of independent contractors who specialize in a certain aspect of the construction process. These independent contractors are typically referred to as sub-contractors or subs. On any job there might be many subs: a concrete sub, a framing sub, an electrical sub etc. The contractor who over-sees all of the subs, manages the scheduling & handles payment is referred to as the general contractor or GC.
The ideal schedule for any successful general contractor is to always have at least 3 jobs going at a time: one project starting, one project half done and one project in the finishing stages. This ensures that all of the subcontractors are constantly working and gives the GC the reputation of being a good source of work. As a consistent source of work, the GC is able to both limit the amount of time the subs have to look for other work as well as motivate them to perform with the promise of future work. For a client, finding out if your GC has a consistent crew is one way to tell if he will have the leverage required later in the job to keep it moving.
In addition to sub-contractors, clients can also impact the pace of a project. A job is most profitable for the contractor when he and his subs can get in, do the work and get out. In order for the contractors to do this, materials and equipment must be selected and ordered in a manner that makes them ready for installation when the sub is ready for them. There are seemingly thousands of decisions to make on any project – from flooring materials and colors to what type of faucet to use. Some of these items can come from other states or even other countries and can take several weeks to arrive. If a client delays providing decisions on materials and equipment, a diligent GC has to decide between attempting to keep the pace of the project moving forward by making on-site design decisions without the beneficial input of a design professional or allow his subs to move on to another project. This leaves the client having to either compromise on their design or risk turning the project into a “fill-in” project – a project that the subs get to only when they have no other work to do. To remedy the potential disruptions caused by material and equipment delays we recommend that our clients allocate a sufficient part of the budget to the “front-end” or planning portion of the project.
Beyond timely payment to the contractors, the client actually does have more influence over the pace of their construction project then they might think. Leveraging this influence can often make the difference between a never-ending nightmare project and a smoothly run & gratifying construction experience.