By: Kevin Duffy
The struggle between Contractors and Engineers has been around as long as either profession. Engineers are frustrated when project schedules are delayed due to insufficient manpower, improperly trained construction personnel, improper materials being utilized etc. In some cases, Contractors feel that Engineers don’t understand the difficulty associated with working in tight spaces, or hard to reach areas. They criticize Engineers for designing repairs without taking into account the constructability of the detail, being too picky, or having overly high standards. The most common complaints though are that Engineers delay the project by not providing timely answers or clarifications to Contractors’ questions or comments, and take too long to make decisions. This is a valid concern. Quick feedback and turnaround time are vital in keeping a project on schedule and within budget until its successful completion.
Once a project is underway, the issue of turnaround time can have massive negative implications to the overall project schedule. Whenever possible, the Engineer should provide answers or clarifications in the field, particularly if it’s a simple. If a field response is not possible we believe that an answer must be given in 1-2 days. If they are not, the Contractor may feel the need to proceed without an answer in an effort to keep the project moving along. When this happens, the relationship between the Contractor and Engineer will likely be tested.
Sometimes a new detail may be required if an unforeseen condition should arise. If that’s the case, the Engineer may need more time to prepare a thorough detail. However, the Contractor is not always willing or able to wait long for the Engineer to provide the detail. There is a delicate balance between turnaround time and the quality of the product that both parties must be aware of. Although it may take additional time, a 3D detail may be necessary to ensure the Contractor delivers an end product that is of the utmost quality.
Delays can also compound if documentation isn’t turned around quickly. If an Engineer or Architect takes several weeks to issue field reports, problems are exacerbated and work progress can be derailed. Field reports document issues, resolutions, instructions, etc. If this feedback is not received in a timely manner, the Contractor might make incorrect on-site decisions or repairs. In addition to quickly providing documentation, The Engineer of Record on any project should be in regular contact with the Contractor’s Project Manager or Superintendent in order to mitigate any issues that arise or errors that are made, in the field. Even quick turnaround of a field report can take 2 days; so on-site instruction, emails or phone calls can immediately correct problems and keep a project on track.
Progress meetings are also imperative to keep a project on schedule, but only if the proceedings are accurately documented and quickly distributed. Issuing meeting minutes the day before, or the day of, the next meeting doesn’t allow attendees to take care of what needs to be done and properly prepare for the next meeting. When this happens, tasks are not accomplished, issues are not resolved, accountability is not established, and parties are not on the same page. Accurately documenting meetings and providing minutes in a timely fashion are crucial to a project’s success.