Time to take on delays

Mohammed Elweshahy of Hill International tackles the issue of project delays and attempts to find some workable solutions.

COMMENT, Projects

Mohammed Elweshahy of Hill International tackles the issue of project delays and attempts to find some workable solutions.

Time delays, unmet schedules and project programs are phenomenal aspects and a trademark of most Middle East construction projects.

Delays leave the market with frustrated clients, while contractors face losing money.

Feasibility studies for construction projects, which are based on certain periods and schedules to be achieved, often turn out to be unreliable.

Afterwards, we look for solutions to overcome such an unfavourable situation.

This article will highlight the causes of inevitable construction delays and how we can face them.

The design stage of any project plays a major role and many reasons for time delays could be avoided at that stage. Designers who do not fully incorporate a client's requirements or introduce new market trends to clients are a major reason for projects that overrun because of rework. Another is the requirement from the facilities management company. Some clients are starting to recognise this issue and are awarding design, build, operate and maintenance contracts.

A well-studied and designed project, which fully meets the client's and authorities' requirements, has a much better chance of avoiding time delays due to unaddressed client requirements or redesign due to unfulfilled authorities' requirements or even time-consuming technical problems that arise later in the engineering stage of the project.

Too many provisional sums drive construction sites to receive contractors in later phases of the project, thus increasing the potential for mistakes due to lack of coordination and unplanned jobs.

A solution to this would be minimising the provisional sums contracts earlier in the tendering phase to save delays.

Many sites suffer due to inability and a lack of resources among the awarded contractors.

Careful attention and evaluation of the bidders and awarding the job to the competent contractor would not only save delays, but the whole project itself.

This also leaves the contractor struggling with delays and trying desperately to get extension of time claims and approve recovery plans, working 24/7 and doubling or tripling manpower to catch up.

Once an accurate program with the correct duration and workforce allocation is in place, strict implementation and adherence will push the project on the right track. All time delays should be monitored on a weekly basis, stating the reasons, the responsible party and corrective action should be taken. Approvals in the design and execution phases from authorities and municipalities can be a time consuming task.

Delayed important milestones such as electricity connection by the electrical company or cold-water delivery from the district cooling company would hinder the whole project.

So the earlier the contractors start, the better their chances.

A dated action plan for all approvals should be prepared with earlier dates. It should also be controlled and monitored carefully to ensure the utilities delivery to the project is on time.

Many workers have no formal training or permits to execute their specific job, which not only means that the projects take longer, but also leads to an increase in on-site accidents.

Workers' conditions are generally poor. Workers protests and strikes in Dubai could initiate labour struggles for better salaries and accommodation all over the region. Low productivity and less quality is the result of an unskilled and unsatisfied workforce.

Better training, salaries and accommodation for workers can help to ensure that projects finish on time with a reasonable quality.

Low safety standards on sites lead to injuries and fires in some projects, delays and a dent in a company's image. Strict safety measures should be executed and action taken to raise safety knowledge and awareness among the workforce.

On-site logistics and material storage space should be addressed in the first phase of the project, especially for tower projects with limited available space.

Mobilisation and demobilisation of cranes and hoists and other equipment on-site should be planned carefully from a project's inception to avoid delays to site progress and activities.

Shortage in the supply of materials, the increased cost of cement and steel and gulf currencies in connection to the US dollar have caused prices to rocket and projects to be delayed.

Suppliers are overwhelmed by demand and delivery schedules, which do not meet expectations. Long-lead items arrival dates should be monitored carefully to ensure arrival to the site at the right time. One good idea is to plan and cater for material shortage and to have alternative suppliers approved and on standby for critical long-lead items.

New laws may force changes and rework. For example, projects may face a redesign in order to fall in line with new green building standards that were recently enforced in Dubai.

The discussions about the five-day week laws are ongoing and everyone is worried and expecting more delays with projects if it's implemented.

Recruitment has started to have a big impact on construction progress due to the lack of qualified people in all positions. The demanding market makes it even worse with many employee movements and it has become the norm to find many vacant posts in project organisation charts, which again hinders progress.

It is amazing how every aspect of a construction project can lead to delays unless it is well-planned and carefully studied.

Here, the necessity for capable project managers to lead the projects and maintain the client goals to control, monitor and deliver the projects on time is shown clearly - but that's another story.

If you would like to write for Construction Week in this column, please email angela.giuffrida@itp.com.

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