Cost Management During Construction: How to Keep Change Orders in Check

In this third installment of our informative blog series, we share how partnering with WCCI during the construction phase can help you navigate one of the biggest challenges in any project. 

Change orders may occur in a project for various reasons, however, careful planning during the pre-construction phase can help prevent them in many instances. Inadequate planning remains one of the top causes of change orders, resulting in projects going over budget and extending beyond agreed timelines.

You will experience a higher likelihood of change orders for complex projects involving multiple variables that could shift at a moment’s notice. Additionally, for large-scale initiatives such as themed projects, you might face unrealistic cost constraints, supply chain disruptions, and design concerns that can significantly alter the scope of work. 

Defining Change Orders

Essentially, a construction change order refers to amendments made to an agreed contract for a project. Multiple factors lead to change orders, such as unforeseen circumstances at the job site or poor coordination between subcontractors. 

However, regardless of the reason, these unexpected changes may lead to high construction costs or even litigation fees, and could compromise your professional reputation.

You can avoid change orders by anticipating potential barriers and complications from an early stage of the construction project — even as early as the bidding stage. WCCI helps project owners avoid multiple change orders down the road by promoting strong collaboration and communication among all stakeholders and keeping close watch on project dynamics from the outset. 

Clarify Vague Documents from the Start

Complex construction projects often involve interdisciplinary teams that might consist of specialized technicians, architects, and other subcontractors. As a decision-maker, you need to ensure that your project plan remains transparent across the board. 

For instance, architects should provide non-specialists with an accessible breakdown of the building plans for easy interpretation. You should consider including a request for information (RFI) to optimize team collaboration. RFIs function similarly to other requested documentation applied in project management, such as a request for quote (RFQ) or request for proposal (RFP). However, unlike other requests during the pre-construction phase, RFIs occur during the construction phase itself as stakeholders address and resolve on-site issues and concerns. 

The detailed answers provided by an RFI will help your project run with minimal hitches or disagreements and improve change order management. WCCI’s industry specialists can help you decide on the necessary documentation required for a seamless process that promotes clarity and collaboration among stakeholders. 

Minimize Project “Surprises” 

Before commencing with a project, you should conduct a thorough on-site inspection as part of your efforts to minimize unforeseen circumstances that may compromise project progression. You should check for potential logistic issues and environmental factors that could complicate on-site operations. For example, you might detect previously hidden old underground facilities and pipelines at the job site, which require extra removal costs and timeline changes. 

An effective way of reducing worksite mishaps involves promoting collaborative efforts between your design specialists and construction teams with the help of a construction solutions partner offering extensive on-the-ground experience. WCCI’s experts can help you implement a thorough construction strategy based on detailed site assessments, including the feasibility of design and contingencies before starting a project. 

Additionally, you might consider leveraging building information modeling (BIM) software in your cost estimations to identify inaccurate drawings that might result in change orders. BIM software offers an accurate digital visualization of structure details and safety profiles, potentially driving cost savings and seamless coordination between interdisciplinary teams. 

Executing Change Orders

In the event of a change order, you should ensure that you have the proper procedures in place to avoid further disagreements, changes, and relationship strains. For starters, you should never go ahead with a change order without official documentation and authorization. 

Never accept verbal authorizations, whereby clients may deny accountability for additional expenses and liability without proof. Also, it is essential to review and ensure that your subcontractors have the technical capabilities to handle the scope of work expected from the change order.

Maintain open and efficient communication with every party involved in the change order to solicit or clarify questions or requests that may occur during the process. You may also consider keeping a log of the significant changes enacted during the change order as a valuable reference for handling similar project decisions in the future.  

WCCI – Managing Change Orders with Experience

The construction cost management experts at WCCI provide decades of combined experience across interdisciplinary specializations. Our trusted experts provide contextual construction expertise and the latest market knowledge to help you navigate the challenges of change orders with greater understanding and control. 

We understand the biggest challenges owners face in complex construction projects, with change orders often reported as the reason for budget blowouts. Our construction consulting specialists and estimators will evaluate your change orders to identify the reasons behind the request and determine if the price is accurate or if there are any unnecessary additions to the project.  

By partnering with us, we will guide you toward evaluating project pricing agreements and identifying the red flags associated with underbid projects that all too often result in a chain of change orders during the construction phase. 

Additionally, we offer global experience in handling complex and nuanced construction projects, providing you with deep insights on incorporating practical budget cushions and contingencies to secure the trust of your clients in the event of an unavoidable change order. 

Our next article in this series will share how WCCI can help you vet bidders with confidence and efficiency. Contact our team to learn more about consulting services to help you maximize your construction ROI.

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