Introducing Guardrailed Construction

Introducing Guardrailed Construction

6 critical areas of focus to help the construction industry have more success!

I was at the AIA Build Boston conference last year and saw two different presentations by project teams where the presenters struggled to talk about their projects in a positive way. Their smiles and excitement notwithstanding, they kept saying things like:  “we certainly had our challenges,”  “we all got through it,” and “in the end, we have a great building.” 

Of course, we’ve all had this experience, but how many projects are we just “getting through” without everyone reaping the rewards they had planned for?

A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute rates the efficiency and productivity gains for our federal government. It found “construction is one of the few industries that are less productive now than it was 60 years ago.”  They go as far as to refer to “lagging construction productivity as an intractable productivity problem.

Sadly, despite the best efforts, the majority of commercial construction projects fail to meet deadlines and cost targets and result in dissatisfaction for many involved. There are gains being made. Greater use of technology in the field and information sharing software is helping, but our progress as an industry can be better. Everyone reading this should be thinking the same thing – we can do better.

For a long time, I’ve asked myself, “who are you to change it?” Could I possibly make a difference?  I will let you know here at the outset of my “blog series,” that I consider myself a relative “newbie” and have a ton of things to learn.  Also, the company for which I am a principal does not aspire to build the largest of buildings; our projects are relatively small which enables us to apply our learning to less complex projects.

I’ve been building for twenty years but only have twelve years of direct experience with sizable complex permanent buildings. I am an attorney (full disclosure) and I believe that my legal background has given me a good handle on how disputes arise.

I have also been deeply involved with the formation of no less than fifty contracts for construction in the last five or six years. At this stage of my career, I have begun to see clear patterns emerge, problems that could be avoided if more “guardrails” are set up between the parties. “Guardrails” is my way of saying “shared understanding.”

Construction is an inherently complex undertaking.  How do we achieve greater understanding and excitement between all parties involved in a permanent construction project and maintain that until the end? The answer is we need to set up guardrails that create shared understanding.

Whether you are a designer or contractor, we need to do a better job to set a predetermined course that eliminates complexity. We need to replace disorder with order, the dynamic with static, and the unpredictable with the foreseeable.

I set up actual road guardrails in our offices to help us along in our journey. That is me in the back right of the photo at the top. The obvious analogy is that if you follow the road and heed the guardrails, you will limit your accidents and reach your destination in a predictable fashion. Like a trip to the mountains with the kids, arriving successfully with everyone happy. (A bit tired however is naturally understandable).

The six guardrails to get us there are:

Click the links above to learn more about each principle.

I never want to be the loudest voice in the room and it’s easier to remain quiet but I cannot deny what I’ve seen – the same issues misunderstood over and over.

Therefore, in conclusion, I believe it would be a shame not to share the lessons we’ve learned. By learning, asking the “stupid” questions and by being curious, we are having far more satisfaction in our own projects.

What we have learned may not be revolutionary but I do believe that if the issues presented in these categories are discussed by your project teams, it will improve your projects considerably.

Welcome to “Guardrail Construction,” a series of blogs and informational content to improve our company and yours.