Catching errors: Study indicates 100-fold savings if mistakes fixed at pre-design phase, compared to construction

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Researchers have determined a hundred-fold cost saving can be achieved if errors are caught in the pre-design phase compared to the construction/contracting stage of Canadian construction projects, say representatives of organizations which have funded the research.

Speaking at a Buildings Show panel discussion on Dec. 1, the Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario (CDAO) representatives said the data gathered by Ryerson University researchers has proven their hypothesis that allocating adequate resources and spending at the up-front pre-design and design stages will dramatically improve the cost-effectiveness of construction projects of various sizes across the nation.

Giovanni Cautillo, president of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), said: “When research demonstrates that an error that costs $100 to address during the pre-design, could cost $1,000 to address during the design phase and $10,000 during the commencement of construction, do I have your attention now?”

The study combined data gathering and surveying with about 1,000 responses, plus additional research. The CDAO has 19 constituent organizations “covering the full spectrum of the design and construction industry, including but not limited to architects, engineers, planners, interior designers, general contractors, road builders, sewer and watermain contractors, residential construction and surety,” said one of the panelists, Bruce Matthews, executive director of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC) – Ontario.

Mathews said the study indicates that “owners and stakeholders need to spend more time and effort to ensure they adequately scope the project before going to market.”

As well, there’s a “need fo a commitment on the part of owners to allow for the time and budget for sign-off checks and verifications to be undertaken throughout each phase of the design process.”

Incomplete, unclear or conflicting documents, sometimes “from one page to the next” cause serious impacts on “delivery efficiency during construction,” he said.

Panelist Sandra Burnell, senior consultant at Revay and Associates Ltd., said once the study is released in January, representatives from throughout the design and construction industry will be encouraged to comment and report on their own experiences. She said one or more white papers may be developed to “direct government to assist with policy development efforts.” The problems with inadequate design resources appear to be most predominant in the public sector, the panelists said.

“Research can also be used as an input to the development of a decision-support tool for use by project owners, and determining what is the proper level of upfront investment and planning to achieve the best product delivery efficiency based on a variety of criteria that raised issues in the report.”

She also said CDAO is considering developing a conference of symposium to further disseminate the research findings and further “discussion about the subject area overall.”

“This report is really a conversation starter,” she said.

Kristi Doyle, executive director of the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), says she encourages industry participants to review the study when it is released and raise the issues within it when “you’re talking to your own client group around schedules and budgets.”

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