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Contractors Should Verify Construction Project Documents for Change Order Requests

Bhushan Avsatthi
Mar 21, '17 7:33 AM EST

Reasons for change order vary for every construction project. Due to scope changes or unforeseen conditions, there comes a situation where contractors are compelled to request for additional time and funds so as to complete the contractual obligation. These change orders at time become major challenges, especially when requested additions come with multiple complexity and time frame constraints. It is therefore strongly suggested that change order management forms a part of each and every contract, backed with good construction project management, facilitating the navigation and understanding of all construction contract documents.

A contract document includes project description, contract price, payment basis, construction schedule or calendar, contract document list, construction scope, construction conditions & responsibilities, contract laws etc. This is important due to the reason that change order requests can lead to disputes, legal battles & arbitration. Usually, all this comes in from the Architects or architectural design firms in form of detailed construction drawings and documentation.

Drawings Errors and/or Omissions Lead to Change Orders

In any project scope, drawing errors or/and omissions top the charts for change orders. This clubbed with misrepresentation, inadequate details or ignorance in preparing a comprehensive set of detailed drawings, which leads to serious change order requests.  There are also instances where details and misrepresenting the exact environment in which the construction will take place, leads to change order claims. This can be avoided by reviewing all contract documents and verifying that the owner has genuinely provided information that is accurate and is in accordance to the latest standards and specs. However; with advent in design and drafting tools like AutoCAD delivering handy 2D CAD drawings, drawing errors are being taken care of most of the times.

Changes in Initial Designs Lead to Change Orders

There are external factors that may compel the construction project to start without scope of the project and even the construction without final drawings. This errors are inevitable even on design-build projects, where the on-going design and drafting process brings the construction work to a halt and if not, at least dents the project economically. Frequent changes in designs certainly lead to stop work orders. If the changes are major, it can lead to labor issues causing a delay in project execution.

Inaccurate Specifications Lead to Change Orders

Imagine a situation where drawings ask for a particular product, however; specifications call for a totally different product. This happens to be a very common situation across construction projects, where drawings are assigned to various consultants, each of them executing on their own, most probably without any guidance from the project or team leader. This creates a situation for the contractor to assume and quote a particular component. However; at the time of installation, the owner needs a different component for installation – instead of the one for which the quotation was raised.

BIM for general contractors, and why only they; the entire construction industry is responding to this situation by adopting BIM ready 3D models, with the ability to exploit and reuse information directly, to extend the current intra-disciplinary collaboration towards integrated multi-disciplinary collaboration across all involved in the construction process.

Unforeseen Conditions Lead To Change Orders

Ask a contractor, how many times they were compelled to complete a soil boring & they will tear their heart out. Land surveyors are also of the same opinion. Soil problems are the most prominent ones when it comes to unforeseen conditions. Though study of soil types help you in anticipating some unforeseen conditions based on specific testing, but as soil profiles vary; they might present additional challenges.

The chances that your assumptions are correct about soil conditions or any other unforeseen situation on the construction site are very less. Instead the chances that the actual construction site conditions will pose challenges for you are very high.  Also, if conventional 2D drawings specify a certain amount or quantity of work, but on real time basis you discover that the amount of materials required is almost double; and these cases as well ask for a change order to be released. This however; is taken care by 2D CAD drawings as mentioned in the above point.

Substitutions are Problematic & Lead to Change Orders

Apart from aforementioned, one of the challenges is a contractor’s brain child and that is to substitute the material. This is done either in case of non-availability of specified materials or in case of shortage in supplies. This challenge leads the situation to a different tangent altogether, where credit will be asked in case the material cost is too low, and at times the contractor is required to make up the difference in costs between materials and/or products. Instances where owners ask for upgrades in an ongoing construction project cannot be denied. In such scenario, the contractor is required to submit a change order request asking for additional compensation and time required to justify proposed amendments.

This is likely to be taken care of by BIM-oriented CSC (Construction Supply Chain), which brings together various material suppliers for lead time management.

Conclusion

Change orders that are properly identified, documented, and managed ensure the orderly, professional and profitable progress of the building construction project. They also minimize potential claims or disputes when the construction project concludes. But the fact remains that varied change orders can overburden the contractors with legal disputes and ever increasing challenges. BIM solution providers are at the rescue of general contractors of residential, commercial, institutional and infrastructure construction projects.