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What is Constructability in Project Management and How to Use it

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What is constructability?

Well, it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like:  the ability to construct.  A basic definition of constructability is:  how efficiently and easily can a structure be built, and how to make it even more efficient and easier?  That sounds rather straightforward, but how does it apply to project management?

The practice of constructability in project management is still relatively unpopular (for lack of industry awareness, not that it is a burden or anything that impedes success).  90% of contractors do not currently use constructability in their project management. So, we will go over the practice broadly, but with enough detail that you can quickly put it to use in your next project.

By the end of this article you should not only have a coherent understanding of the  value of constructability but also  how to apply it  to your project management.

First, some background...

Origins and Overview of Constructability

Construction projects are the largest human endeavors and achievements since the dawn of time. Every man-made article on our planet (and beyond when you include satellites, space shuttles and such) have been first  designed  and then  built. Everything from a #2 pencil or disposable lighter, to the Eiffel Tower and   Hubble telescope, was planned and then created.

The modern concept of project management  was first founded in the 1950s as method to better achieve engineering feats, using organized systematic processes to ensure timely and efficient completion of construction projects. Later, in the 1970s, there was an industry push for establishing a more efficient method of project management to tackle engineering project management  and construction goals. That is when constructability was born.

projected U.S. civil engineering construction

As of this year, the construction sector is a 300+ billion dollar industry in the US alone. In such a massive industry there is enormous competition, so how can you manage your projects to stay ahead of the pack?

Constructability in Project Management

Constructability  is a  project management tool  used during construction projects. Its primary aim is to gauge and determine the collective  knowledge  and  experience  between the project consultants, contractors, architects/designers and client, in an effort to maximize efficiency, minimize waste, and complete construction projects on or ahead of schedule.

Think of project management as your road map. Constructability is planning the road trip with your friends, drawing the route on the map, packing up the car and hitting the road.

The 3 Tenets of Constructability

Constructability can be summarized to achieve the assessment and implementation of three basic goals and practices:

1. The greatest level of ease with which a building’s  design will allow for construction while still meeting construction codes

2. Team  integration of construction knowledge during the design phase  to determine the most efficient means to construct while still achieving design goals

3. Team integration of construction knowledge during building to ensure that the lowest level of environmental impact occurs during construction.

Constructability and Social/Environmental Responsibility

It’s no secret that the construction industry is known as one of the leading contributors to environmental waste and energy depletion. After all, cranes and cement trucks are not run on solar power (yet...). Consider the current statistics on the construction sector’s impact on resources:  50% of nature’s resources; 40% of global energy consumption; 50% of global waste.

In the present socio-economic climate pushing for every man, woman, child, and contractor to “Go Green“, the practice of constructability in project management has never been more valuable.

Benefits of Constructability Beyond Cost Savings

The benefits reaped from proper implementation of constructability are both physical and conceptual. Efficiently, quickly executed projects completed with constructability don’t only get everyone a rewarding payday, but fortify the  reputations  of each party involved in the project.

The ability to complete a project on time, and save on costs is one immediate benefit to your team’s reputation. Everyone likes saving money, especially if it’s in the seven-figures for large-scale projects.

By using the most spartan of equipment and materials in place of costly, needlessly complex gear, teams demonstrate to prospective clients that they can accomplish design and construction goals that are not only cost-effective, but by using constructability during design, planning, and building, waste is further reduced, which makes for an attractive final project.

Putting Constructability Into Practice

So, you are familiar with project management for your timeline organization,  progress monitoring, and task assignment. Now, how do you actually  put constructability to use?

First of all, constructability is a tool for  perpetual review  of the project during design, planning, building, and completion. Especially if you are implementing constructability in your project management for the first time, we recommend using a  checklist approach  for each step of the way. A checklist is a simple way to ensure that you are achieving the goals of cost saving, energy efficiency and waste management while still meeting design goals. The following are some of the most important reviews (but not all) that should be performed during your project management:

Design Stage

  • Review (between contractor, client, consultants and architects/designers) whether the construction design is realistic or not; architects can sometimes get carried away, and contractors know what is feasible or not
  • Review whether the design can be executed within budget
  • Review whether the design will take longer to execute than time afforded to the project

Planning Stage

  • Review which materials will be necessary to complete the design, and which are the most cost effective while still achieving the design-vision
  • Review which equipment is necessary to achieve construction, and which can be done without; eliminate luxury but non-essential construction equipment
  • Perform a cost/benefit analysis on equipment quantity demands (i.e. will using one tractor for multiple roles which takes more time, saves more project money than investing in multiple tractors for accomplishing individual roles more quickly?)
  • Review proposed site soil composition, and how it will impact building

Building Stage

  • Review how quickly the contractor is performing the construction, whether it is on schedule or falling behind
  • Review whether design expectations are being met
  • Review how construction waste is being managed
  • Review again if there is any extraneous, non-essential equipment being used during site construction

Ready to Incorporate Constructability?

Remember how we mentioned that 90% of contractors do not yet use constructability in their project management? Use this to your advantage. On average, projects that use constructability are more  likely to finish on time and save the project money. The collaborative efforts between parties involved, along with enhanced communication, and mutual agreement between all parties before moving forward each step of the way enhances efficiency.

By reducing waste and saving on energy expenditure, while keeping costs low, will turn you into a scion in the building sector. Take full advantage of constructability while the other guys are still lagging behind.

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