By: Kelly Grogan
August 31st, 2021
After a year filled with video chats and calls via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, the last thing anyone wants to hear is that they are required to attend another virtual meeting. Having attended evening online classes this past year, I couldn’t agree more that it feels impossible to find a break from looking at our computer screens.
During a typical façade restoration project, progress meetings are conducted weekly to track the progress and potential changes as work is performed. Meetings are led by the Building Envelope Consultant Project Management Team that oversees the inspections during the construction period, and attendees typically include at least one representative from the Property Management Team, as well as at least one representative from the Contractor that is performing work. The whole team may include property managers, board members of residential buildings, building superintendents, facilities management, sub-contractors, etc. On projects for commercial buildings, there may be representatives of several departments or entities on behalf of Owners.
We recommend that progress meetings are conducted early in the pre-construction period. Planning for the project logistics and communicating all expectations are critical for a successful project. There are plenty of pre-construction items that must be coordinated in advance, including: permits and filings, contract execution, insurance review, access to work areas, installation of protection, interior documentation, and product and material submittals. Kickoff meetings are also a great time to proactively address concerns and manage expectations. Expectation management is not only important for the people in the room, but also for building occupants who later receive their updates from building management.
Maybe it was already pretty clear to you that coordination is necessary at the start of a project, but why is it necessary to maintain weekly meetings throughout the duration of the construction phase? In practice, regularity of meetings holds all parties to a higher standard of accountability on their responsibilities. And if you have a quality project management team that starts on time and gets straight to the point of each open item, the meetings are painless.
What are the main points of progress meetings throughout the construction phase? Almost every project is affected by changes due to unforeseen conditions or unpredictable weather. To accurately forecast how these changes will impact project completion, it is important to regularly revisit the overall project schedule, as well as the day-to-day activities on-site. This could also include tracking workdays that are lost to inclement weather and holidays. Accurately forecasting work is an essential part of informing building occupants when they will be affected by noisy work and potential disruptions to their daily life, especially considering how the workforce is moving more and more towards a work-from-home setup.
When unforeseen items arise on a project, progress meetings also help with tracking increases or decreases to the budget due to changes in the scope of work. On a typical building envelope restoration project, it is common to include allowances in the base bid scope of work. These allowances should account for additional work that the Architect or Engineer expects to find when performing close inspections with scaffold access. For example, you might not be able to identify all of the eroded mortar joints and step cracks in brick masonry from a street-level inspection of a façade. In that case, we would include allowances for mortar repointing and brick replacement to utilize as the project is underway. As the scope of work is increased or modified throughout a project, progress meetings help ensure that all parties set aside time to discuss potential changes in the scope of work as well as the associated costs. This can expedite the review process of proposals and pending change orders, which can help mitigate delays. An open discussion allows for questions to be answered quickly and all parties to gain a full understanding of the proposed changes to the scope of work, as well as the reasoning behind them.
Most importantly, progress meetings provide a central, consistent spot for problems and project information to be disseminated so that all parties can prevent miscommunications and misunderstandings. If you are familiar with the game of telephone, you can see how interpretations can misconstrue the main point of a message. The graphic accompanying this article gives a visual of what can happen when information is shared outside of meetings and how it can escalate frustrations. Steering clear of unnecessary irritation also encourages a healthy professional working relationship between all parties, even when meetings are conducted via virtual video chats or conference calls.
Meeting minutes are a tool for documenting and summarizing the open items discussed at meetings for those who are present, for those who cannot attend, as well as for future reference for the history of a construction project. Action items, responsible parties, and due dates are all essential data points that should be specified to ensure the next steps for each item in the minutes are clear and purposed. When used as an agenda, meeting minutes also provide a clear framework that can help make a meeting more efficient and effective. Since the construction process can move fast once the mobilization is complete, Sullivan Engineering, A Rimkus Company has a 2-day turnaround goal for all of our meeting minutes to ensure essential project information is provided to all parties within a timeframe that it is still relevant. Meeting minutes are one of the tools that can help a project stay within budget and on-time; this tool, when properly implemented, can assist all parties to manage expectations if the budget and/or schedule begin to slip off-track.