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Construction Project Management as a sectoral expertise

Does each project go through the same stages of Initiation, Planning, Design, Construction and Closeout? This article explores ways in which projects vary significantly from one sector to another.
design coodination, planning, project closeout, project coordination, project designing, Project Management, Real Estate, regulatory compliance, time management

A project is a project after all

If we think about the title of this article in general, it appears that there isn’t much to discuss on this subject. How different can construction projects really be, whether it is a residential building or an industrial facility or a commercial office? Doesn’t each project go through the same stages of Initiation, Planning, Design, Construction and Closeout? Today, we shall explore ways in which projects vary significantly from one sector to another. Take a look at the list below and you will soon see how each of these factors plays a role in the way a project shapes up.

  • Regulatory and Business Compliance
  • Design Complexity
  • Appointment of suitable Partners
  • Stakeholders and Project Coordination
  • Priority on Time (and Cost-Quality-Safety)

This also points to the areas on which risk management practices should be focused within the overall management of the project.

Residential Construction

Compliance: A major focus in case of residential construction is on ensuring compliance with local building norms and obtaining approvals in time. Aside from building approvals from the municipal authorities, project teams have to also ensure that they have taken into consideration, the bylaws stipulated by the authorities concerning fire safety, environment, aviation, and coastal development to name a few. Further, with the steady inroads that the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) has made in the monitoring of projects, this is another area that requires periodic attention.

Partners: The past couple of years of boom in the overall construction industry has simultaneously led to a significant change in dynamics between owners and partners who would execute and manage projects for them. Several long-standing relationships between developers and contractors seem to no longer be working. On some occasions, the previously successful model which worked when a developer handled single projects is no longer feasible when it is time to put the foot on the pedal. This changing pattern now means that all stakeholders are looking for new partners (internal and external) to ensure that their construction projects are managed without significant and frequent disruptions.

Focus Areas: Liaison and approvals, Appoint suitable contractors

Commercial and Hospitality Construction

Design: In both commercial as well as hospitality sector, one of the most significant areas to focus on from a construction project management perspective is to ensure that the design translates the owners vision into reality. The project management team needs to establish clear expectations with design stakeholders (architects, structural engineers, building services consultants). It is definitely a good idea to invest in partners who can lead project management using BIM, so that coordination of design is simplified. If it is not feasible to use BIM, there must at least be significant time spent in design reviews and achieving coordinated drawings before construction kickoff.

Stakeholders: While commercial project might involve specific consultants for various trades (façade, lighting, acoustic, building automation and others), hospitality projects always need to cater to the operating brand. These stakeholders may or may not have a large role to play in the construction project, however their involvement can become a major bottleneck to the project’s progress. Therefore, it is essential for the project management team to identify these critical stakeholders early in the project and incorporate their inputs timely during the design as well as construction stages.

Focus areas: Design coordination, Identify key stakeholder

Industrial Construction

Priority on time: In case of an industrial facility, every day’s delay can potentially lead to losses in crores, in terms of lost opportunity for production. Project management for industrial construction must prioritize timely completion over other parameters. Naturally, quality and safety converge into time. Poor quality may lead to repair or rework (impact on time). A fatality or accident also leads to an immediate dip in productivity (impact on time). The only parameter that can and must be sacrificed is cost. Therefore, project manager takes on a very aggressive role and must often take decisions which might seem to be expensive, but more than makeup for it if they save time on the project.

Partners: Considering that the top priority is delivering the project on or before time, it is paramount to bring on board the best consultants and contractors who will be able to deliver at any cost. The L1 mechanism of selection would put the project at great risk. The project management team must also focus on a very thorough and detailed project scheduling, envisioning future risks and building in suitable provisions to arrive at the most aggressive timeframe. During execution, construction supervision and reporting is essential with daily reviews identifying reasons for delay and preparing catch-up plans.

Focus areas: Project schedule, Appoint suitable contractors

Infrastructure Construction

Stakeholders: Construction an infrastructure requires the owning authority to navigate a complex maze of approvals, dealing with a number of stakeholders (mostly other government organizations and the project affected persons or PAPs). Management of both types of stakeholders is extremely sensitive. While this is not a challenge related to construction project management, it is one of the reasons why several metro, rail and road projects get delayed or even scrapped.

Priority on time: Most common issues reported on infrastructure projects are related to cost overrun which is usually due to delays. These issues begin with poor quality of Feasibility Reviews and Detailed Project Reports (DPR). It is during this very first exercise that the project proponent must thoroughly consider technical, commercial, legal and regulatory risks that a project might face. On several occasions, these aspects are interdependent. For example, the consultant preparing DPR for a highway project must take into account the intended types and design of bridges, the terrain, nature of soil and survey results to determine the project cost and timeframe. Unfortunately, engineering is widely ignored in these DPRs which have been reduced to nothing more than a “Goal Seek” exercise to help the governing authority present a report to achieve approval for the project.

Focus areas: Spend on Detailed Project Reports (DPRs), Risk assessment, Stakeholder management.

Conclusion

The project team responsible for delivering projects across each of these sectors needs to be oriented towards various aspects. Some of these are related to hardcore engineering and construction whereas some others focus more on project and risk management principles. In any case, it is easy to see that a narrow view of seeing a project as just another project can go very wrong very fast.

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