3 Critical Elements for Construction Projects

Posted by on 10.16.17

Have you ever sat on a three-legged stool with one leg shorter than the others? When the professionals at HWH Architects Engineers Planners Inc. work on capital improvement projects to further advance their Client's vision for success, we stress the same three legs of the stool over and over: scope, schedule and budget.

Every decision and every facet of a project has an impact on each of these core tenets. If they are not all considered in concert with each other, you will find yourself in a precarious balancing act on a wobbly stool.

Let's take a closer look at each of these three critical project elements your project team must incorporate to first, establish reasonable and realistic expectations, and second, insure the successful completion of the vision.

1.) Scope

"Great news! We've purchased new equipment to double production by the third quarter and improve the quality of our world-class product. Let's get started"

Awesome! How exciting! Wait a minute; where will this new equipment go? Aren't we out of power for our site? Doesn't that new equipment need a basement? And can we be ready to install by then? – Great questions!

It’s human nature to get excited about physical improvements to your facility and/or manufacturing processes. The employees of HWH know this feeling well, as the firm recently affirmed its commitment to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio by building out and moving into two floors of the Fifth Third Center office building near the heart of downtown. But the work wasn't done overnight and they spent the necessary time to design and document what they were trying to accomplish in a complete design package clearly defining the scope of the project before key decisions about timing and capital were solidified.

Too often, companies embarking on their project endeavors do not incorporate adequate time to actually define the scope of the work they need to accomplish. Many times, initial discussions only focus on how much a project will cost before the necessary design effort is put forth. Do you need additional power to your facility to support new equipment? Or, do you need expand your cooling water system? Will you put your first shovel in the ground and discover deep seams of unsuitable soils to support your structure? Will the local authority require you to separate your building with unexpected fire separation walls? Does your expanded second floor now need an elevator?

Uncovering major project stumbling blocks after committing to a project path is inevitable when necessary steps are not taken to work through the development of a complete scope of the project. Without that definition, an Owner's own project team members, project designers, suppliers, and ultimately contractors tend to march in conflicting directions causing complications and frustration with cost and schedule control.

Development and management of a clear, concise scope of work is the cornerstone of creating the best chance of success for your project. Establishing this foundation allows for better project stakeholder understanding of schedule and budget impacts when modifications to the scope naturally occur throughout the course of the project.

2.) Schedule

Once the scope of the project is established, it's time to consider the timeline. Going back to a couple of the examples presented above, discovering you need a new electrical substation can unexpectedly add upwards of 16-weeks to your schedule. Or, placing shallow spread footings can go a lot faster than specialty deep foundations and weeks of excavation and backfill. Will you have long-lead equipment or specialty materials that will control when certain aspects of the project can be constructed? The discoveries accomplished through the proper development of a scope will drive a more accurate project schedule.

This is also the time to consider different delivery models for the project. The days of working through a complete design package to competitively bid to multiple contractors before any work is started have long gone. The advancement and repackaging of many different delivery models gives Owners flexible options in ways to satisfy stringent schedule requirements while also maintaining an acceptable level of risk, quality, and cost control.

Having an experienced design professional, like HWH, brings with it all of the knowledge and expertise needed to understand and piece together a logical sequence of activities required to execute the project.

Failing to establish a realistic, reasonable project schedule oftentimes has the largest impact on the measurement of success of a project. Missed milestones and lagging completion dates carry implications throughout many more business operations than just the project bucket; not the least of which can be extending out production runs that delay your product from getting to market.

3.) Budget

Now that you know what you need to build and how fast you need it done, the process of establishing a budget can be accomplished. The design professionals at HWH are fully capable of working through proven estimating techniques to help you feel comfortable with anticipated project costs based on the level of information gathered at that time. With each stage of the design process, anticipated costs can be refined for accuracy as needed.

The critical concept of the project budget that all Owners and stakeholders must understand is a budget can only be as good as the definition of the scope and schedule being used to piece together the estimated numbers.


With this blog, we've attempted to lay out the three core tenets of project planning and execution that HWH uses to manage and implement successful projects with our Clients day in and day out. If you want to trim the budget, there must be a countermeasure to balance the scope and the schedule. If you want to add another floor to your building expansion, there will be a consequential impact to the schedule and cost of the project.

Scope, Schedule, Budget; Three legs of equal importance and strength, working together to support one central vision.


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