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Using Communication Techniques and Technology to Reduce Construction Loss

A major contributor to construction losses can be tied directly to miscommunication and how information is documented. The complexity of construction projects and the distributed nature of construction teams make communication a challenge for many GCs. But at the same time, effective communication is critical to project success. 

How critical? Forty-eight percent of respondents in an FMI-PlanGrid survey said that all their rework was caused by poor data and miscommunication. The resulting cost of these communication issues is steep. The report estimated that in 2018, $31.3 billion of rework in the U.S. was caused by poor data and miscommunication.

When things go wrong on a construction project, the issue can almost always be traced back to some kind of communication breakdown. Using the right techniques and tools can help GCs avoid miscommunication and reduce the risk of construction losses. 

First, GCs should be mindful of how they are communicating. As a rule of thumb, communication should adhere to the three Cs – concise, clear, and concrete. The key is to communicate important details in as few words as necessary. Miscommunication can occur by not sticking to the facts, over elaborating and including a lot of nonessential information in communications. Additionally, GCs need to teach their team how to be careful in acknowledging information. For example, if a GC provides too many details in an answer to a sub’s question, and one of those details is incorrect, the liability for the mistake could shift to the GC. On the other end, if a GC does not provide enough information, holes can form in large projects. 

Take the example of a coastal project where the roofing contractor completed his submittals with specs for the roof, and the GC approved right away without asking if it met all requirements. Come to find out, the material being used on the roof was not made to be implemented fewer than two miles off the coast, resulting in deterioration and rust shortly after the roof was put on. The owner immediately went to the GC, but the GC would have been free of blame if he had stopped and shared the appropriate information with the roofing contractor. 

Communication related to project details and specs also must be navigated carefully. For example, answering “yes” to a sub’s communication asking the GC to confirm that specific material is to be used on a project can contribute to loss and again shift liability. In this case, avoiding that confirmation and making sure to point the sub back to project and material specs protects the GC and sub and helps ensure the correct materials are used on a project.

GCs can also leverage construction project management technology to help improve communication. Cloud-based construction management can help streamline communication and provide real-time access to data so that everyone in the office, in the field and everywhere in between is on the same page. This technology facilitates communication and data sharing to cut down on waste, cost overruns, and delays – all issues that can add up to a loss.

Construction projects are dynamic and constantly evolving. Although plans are set prior to starting, they will inevitably change throughout the course of the project. Project management software allows for real-time collaboration between all project stakeholders, increasing transparency and facilitating communication, which can go a long way in avoiding costly disputes that arise as a result of miscommunication or misunderstood expectations. 

The bottom line is that good communication is essential to the delivery of successful construction projects. Being mindful of how information is communicated and leveraging technology to facilitate the flow of communication and data to project stakeholders can help GCs avoid some of the pitfalls that lead to construction loss.

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