Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  27 Jan 2011

CONSTRUCTION: When a Construction Project Runs Into Trouble


Recent Gauteng Business News

Almost any construction project has its complexities - which may arise due to the fact that a wide variety of integrated tasks need to be undertaken by a number of role players. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in an outcome where the building being constructed goes way over-budget and is completed late, says Rudolf Nieman, projects director for JHI property services group.

”In addition to cost over-runs and not meeting the completion deadline, there may also be quality problems with sub-standard performance by those involved such as professional consultants, building contractors and employees of the landlord. Although these problems can occur on any construction project it is more likely to happen on projects of a complex nature, as in the case of refurbishment of an existing building where major construction activities are required to take place and where it is not clearly evident during the planning phase what needs to be done in order to achieve the desired end result.

“However, one of the main reasons for buildings or projects under construction encountering problems is one of lack of communication - namely the fact that the professional consultants and subsequently the contractors involved with the project are not properly briefed or did not understand the scope of work as envisaged by the landlord. This perception difference with regard to the deliverables and the end product inevitably leads to confusion and a project which is ultimately set up for failure, leading to a costly and undesirable situation for the landlord or owner of the building,” says Nieman.

Recently JHI was asked to intervene on a multi-million rand project which was 20 percent over budget and almost six months behind schedule. A revised brief was implemented, comprising a comprehensive ‘scope of works’ document together with a detailed responsibility matrix involving all the role players, and JHI’s electronic, web-based project management system was implemented. Says Nieman: “Taking swift action these steps enabled formalised and structured management intervention to reduce the cost over-run to five percent over the budget while reducing the time delay by four months. In this way we enabled the project team to pro-actively solve and eradicate problems.”

He says when considering a new building project, the landlord needs expert advice and guidance from a professional team right from the outset, when the project brief is being compiled. This team is appointed to manage the execution of the project. “All building projects require various combinations of skills, including a sound knowledge of the principles and techniques of building construction, engineering structures and systems, building economics and budgeting, business administration and construction law. Crucial to the success of any project is to identify and define the work required for the project in sufficient detail and to ensure that sufficient resources are employed by all the various disciplines during the execution process.

“In essence, the professional team is responsible for providing very specific services to the client, ie interpreting and defining the landlord’s requirements, designing the building or refurbishments, determining the viability and feasibility of the project and ensuring it is designed in accordance with the development rights and statutory requirements, preparing contract documents and administering the building contract. A key aspect of the professional team’s responsibilities is to achieve a balance between the building’s purpose and what it should look like, the time parameters for completion, limitations of the budget (cost and feasibility), and how the building should be constructed (quality parameters).

“The principal agent, acting on behalf of the landlord or owner of the building, is the focal point of the entire development process and should be capable of managing all these various skills required to finish the building to the satisfaction of the client. As a result the principal agent must integrate all the required planning, procurement, technical, financial and construction activities within a comprehensive and structured process of execution thereby providing the client with a single point of responsibility. Unfortunately, the industry norm is to manage projects on a purely personality-driven basis with the outcome directly related t the expertise and capacity available during the management process,” says Nieman.

JHI replaces this by adding established and formalised project management procedures on an interactive electronic platform to the experience and hands-on involvement of a dedicated project management team, with stringent levels of prompting, auditing and controlling of project activities entrenched in the execution plan.

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