Though design changes are inevitable, contractors must have mitigation measures to ensure that they are done in a controlled way. This is because repeated construction design changes can be costly in terms of time and resources. To avoid construction changes, consider using construction simulation and optioneering platforms.
With this technology, you can build faster, cheaper, and better. This is because you can optimize key project resources like labor and equipment. In addition, such technologies incorporate BIM technology, making it easy for independent architects to peer review your designs.
Common causes of construction design changes
Design changes can be caused by two main factors: internal and external factors.
Internal factors are caused by people directly involved in the project. Examples are construction managers, engineers, design consultants, and project owners.
Meanwhile, external factors are caused by factors that are not easily controlled. Examples of external factors include the natural environment, economic, and political factors. Environmental factors that can cause design changes include local weather conditions, geological conditions, and natural disasters.
1. Owner factors
The property owner plays a key role in instigating design changes. For starters, the project owner can decide to instigate design changes because he is no longer interested in the original design.
The owner can also cause changes when they fail to review important documents on time. Due to the delay, the contractor will continue with the original plan, only for it to be a waste of time when the owner rejects it later.
Another way that the owner can cause changes is when they are forced to remodify their budget.
2. Design consultant factors
Design consultants play a major role when it comes to design changes. A good example is when design changes are made because the consultant did not provide adequate or realistic designs for the project. Changes can also be made because of errors and omissions, making it impossible for the contractor to implement the project.
Lastly, consultants can cause design changes when teams fail to coordinate their activities with the project owner.
3. Contractor factors
For contractors, the main cause of design changes is creating unrealistic construction schedules. When the schedule is unrealistic, modifications must be made to complete the project on time. Budget constraints can also cause design changes.
An example is when the contractor is forced to modify the construction project to be within budget. In other cases, the contractor might have to modify a design to improve its quality and constructability.
4. Eternal factors affecting design changes
As mentioned above, external factors are not directly within the project team’s control. Examples of these are political or economic factors such as uncontrolled inflation and price fluctuations. Price fluctuations may augment construction costs, necessitating design changes to ensure the project is completed within the available budgetary constraints.
Another external factor worth mentioning is complaints from neighbors. Neighbors might have a problem with aspects of the design impacting their daily lives. For example, the structure may reflect too much light into their houses or block major road access. Whatever the cause, the court can direct the contractor to remodify the design.
6 tips for managing construction design changes
So how do you manage design changes?
1. Use technology
Since internal and external factors can cause change orders, technology can be employed to identify them before they affect the project. Once you identify these factors using technology, you can develop risk mitigation strategies.
For example, if budgetary constraints force design changes, technology can simulate several options to reduce these costs. This way, you reduce costs without having to make design changes.
2. Always have a lead designer
Construction projects have many design teams. These design teams often compete instead of supplementing each other’s efforts. As a result, the competition can become uncoordinated, increasing the chances of design flaws and errors. To avoid this problem, all projects should have a lead designer.
The lead designer should coordinate the work of other designers, such as consultant teams and specialists. Additionally, they are responsible for coordinating site surveys, preparing designs and specifications, and generating work schedules.
3. Have a change order time limit
There is nothing wrong with allowing change orders to be implemented. However, it is good to reduce its frequency and have a change order policy. A change order policy is a guideline you share with the client to explain when change orders can be accepted.
This is important because you do not want to find yourself in a situation where a change order is proposed when the project is already 80% complete. Such a change order might be expensive to implement, and in certain cases, it simply is not possible from an investment point of view.
4. Encourage collaboration
Some design changes can be avoided if there is enhanced collaboration among all key players, such as contractors, engineers, architects, and subcontractors. With proper collaboration, it can become easy for engineers to advise on the constructability of a design.
Also, proper collaboration makes it easy for contractors to supervise subcontractors and identify errors early on in the construction phase. To enhance collaboration, project managers should use mobile-friendly and cloud-based collaboration tools. The tools should hold people accountable and have data-sharing and document-storing features.
5. Peer review designs
Peer review involves having independent contractors look at your designs and critique them. This is important because they will be able to identify design flaws early on in the construction stage. If flaws are detected while the construction project is ongoing, it can become expensive to rectify these design changes.
6. Ensure all relevant agencies approve the design
One external reason why design changes can be made is legal litigation. Neighbors can take you to court because the design either infringes on their rights or was never approved. Instead of starting construction, only to be ordered to change the design later, ensure that relevant agencies have approved the designs at the start.
In a nutshell, it is advisable to make design changes only when the project is in the preconstruction phase. This is because the only costs that will be incurred are design change costs. If you make changes during construction, you will incur additional labor, materials, and equipment costs.