Commercial construction often happens on a much larger scale than residential construction, which means it’s harder to control the project’s expenses. With so many individual tasks and tools operating simultaneously — plus the heightened costs of essential materials like concrete and drywall — site managers have their work cut out for them.
Here are seven straightforward strategies construction professionals can use to cut costs on commercial projects.
1. Never Stop Communicating
Every construction project needs digital and interpersonal communication methods. In terms of digital options, contractors should implement these tools at a bare minimum:
- Cloud Documentation: Use a cloud software service to store all project documents in one easily accessible place. Employees and subcontractors can edit and collaborate on these documents seamlessly without slowing the project down.
- Instant Messaging: On a micro level, workers need to have an instant messaging platform. Commercial sites can be enormous, so verbal communication won’t always be sufficient. They should use the same instant messaging app to discuss work schedules and upcoming tasks in the project.
The worker hierarchy becomes especially important in project communication. A general contractor’s most experienced workers need to take charge, offering firsthand knowledge and experience to the greener employees. The value of this information cannot be overstated in dangerous environments like commercial construction.
Site managers must also keep their communication lines open at all times. Respond to emails and texts from subordinates as soon as possible, no matter how small the request. Hold frequent touchpoints and check-ins with subcontractors. These small efforts go a long way toward eliminating confusion, cutting costs and keeping the worksite safe.
2. Invest in BIM Software
Building Information Modeling software is a must-have for all construction professionals. It gives contractors a complete 3D digital plan of all the project’s moving parts. The software’s interactive features allow workers to mark the plan in seconds instead of erasing and redrawing plans on traditional 2D project blueprints.
BIM is practical throughout the project’s cycle, providing real-time data on material costs, talent availability, tool conditions and other relevant information. These insights enable construction teams to stay up to date on the project’s ever-changing costs and make necessary changes.
It also plays a key role in keeping the project on schedule, which is a crucial part of cost reduction. For example, the BIM’s clash detection features might identify a material or appliance deficiency early on, prompting the contractor to order another delivery well in advance instead of delaying the project.
3. Get Key Stakeholders Involved Early and Often
One of the best things a contractor can do to cut costs is to get stakeholders involved as soon as possible. Early team integration has a significant impact on the project’s performance.
According to a group study from Dodge Data and Analytics and the Lean Construction Institute, 76% of successful projects involved important figures such as the property’s owner, architects, electricians, plumbers and other subcontractors before or during conceptualization. It seems like a no-brainer, but 42% of projects failed to complete this step.
The 42% of projects that did not include early collaboration between crucial players were more likely to finish behind schedule and exceed cost estimates. This strategy might prolong the project’s initial deliberations, but it keeps everyone on the same page in the long run and lays the metaphorical foundation for a successful finished product.
4. Know When to Buy or Rent Equipment
Managers need to know when buying or renting is more cost-effective. As a general rule, if a construction team uses a machine for about 175 hours over eight months of the year, buying is more cost-effective than renting. On the flip side, any machines used sparingly or seasonally are better off as rentals.
Storage and maintenance are other important considerations. Buying might be in their best interest if a contractor has the space to shelter its vehicles from the elements and keep a consistent repair and detailing schedule. Companies with limited resources in the storage and maintenance departments should rent most of their equipment.
5. Equip Workers With New Technology
Human error will always limit the efficiency of construction projects, but new technologies can alleviate its impact. Wearable monitoring devices are great examples. They’re now available in hard hats, vests, boots and other construction gear to help workers stay safe and perform their tasks efficiently.
These wearables use artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to track relevant metrics like heart rate and activity levels. It also monitors the working environment, keeping tabs on air quality. With wearable technology doing all these supervisory tasks, managers can focus on the project’s logistics, such as equipment and material deliveries.
6. Limit Change Orders
Every commercial construction project has at least a handful of change orders, usually due to human error, material or equipment deficiencies. The client might also change their minds about a design detail. These hiccups are sometimes unpreventable, but contractors can reduce their likelihood in a few ways.
First, they need to establish clear lines of communication between departments. With complete transparency, team members are less likely to misinterpret the project’s guidelines. They might work on opposite sides of the building, but their individual tasks still need to mesh at some point.
Developing a change order process early on is also essential. There might be a disagreement on a specific change order that can only be resolved through an unbiased procedure. Thorough documentation will make most clients reconsider their change orders because they might not get authorization and simply won’t want to do the extra paperwork.
7. Reduce Construction Waste
Excessive waste is one of the construction industry’s biggest problems. Construction and demolition waste accounts for 30% of worldwide waste production. Contractors leading commercial projects can reduce waste — and thus cut back on waste disposal costs — in a few simple ways.
They can start by consuming less energy and resources. Three common examples are switching to LED light bulbs, limiting fuel consumption and saving leftover materials for future projects. The aforementioned communication methods and technologies will also assist in reducing waste.
Keep Commercial Construction Simple
Although commercial construction projects are often more complicated and expensive than residential projects, contractors can simplify them in many ways. They should start by going back to the fundamentals of worksite collaboration — getting key players involved, equipping them with helpful resources and ensuring everyone is on the same page at all times.
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