Our last article discussed the importance of communication and flexibility during the preconstruction process – two key practices that have enabled us to continue to meet our clients' needs, and exceed their expectations, during these turbulent times. With the labor challenges and supply chain shortages, initially brought about by the onset of the pandemic, continuing to plague us as we head into year two of COVID-19, we'll offer some additional insights on how we, at PC Construction, are continually evolving to meet this ever-changing landscape.
Innovation is nothing new…
Of course, logistical hurdles are nothing new in the development world. Well before we were dealing with a global pandemic, construction projects faced obstacles every day that could delay progress and threaten critical milestones. Clients have always needed a construction partner that operates from a mindset of consistently pushing the project forward, as opposed to accepting delays or settling for price increases. The most successful partners have always "thought outside the box," and had a backup plan at the ready, in case the original roadmap turned out not to be the most efficient or the most practical.
In other words: "We got this!
…but the stakes are higher
However, there is an important difference between the current construction landscape of late 2021/2022, and the situation we were dealing with before COVID. Pre-pandemic, clients and developers were comfortable letting their contractors handle the hurdles on their own, and sometimes, the client wasn't even aware of the adjustments being made to keep projects on schedule.
Now, with the economic consequences of COVID rippling across the globe and impacting every single market, the hurdles (and the monetary stakes) are much higher. As a result, clients and developers are working much more closely with their contractors to ensure that a "plan B" is always in the back pocket. The client is also asking more questions up front, as everyone is much more keenly aware of the lack of subcontractor resources, material delays and extreme price escalation that are impacting construction projects at every level – from modest kitchen facelifts in single-family homes, to downtown condo developments.
No more "slam-dunks"
A perfect example of this occurred recently at a large development in southern New Hampshire. This multi-building complex includes four five-story buildings, for a total of 232 apartments on a 25-acre greenfield site. Sounds like a slam-dunk project, right?
But, when this 16-month project was in month 4, we came up against two formidable hurdles: the unavailability of metal plates for the wood trusses, plus shortages of several essential chemicals that go into the manufacture of the specified roof insulation.
As soon as we learned about these obstacles, we put our heads together with our client, the design team, and all our subcontractors and vendors to list out our options and talk through all possibilities.
Could we re-sequence our work around the missing components? Could we find alternate sources for the specified materials? Or could we use completely different materials than what the original specs called for?
Assessing our options
Unfortunately, re-sequencing the entire project wasn't really an option because the roof trusses and the insulation come quite early in the building process, and so many of the later stages are fully dependent on their completion. We quickly took that one off the table.
We did spend time considering an alternative metal plate and truss manufacturer instead of the one previously specified and approved by the design team. While those metal plates were in stock and could deliver immediately, that change would have required a re-design and a formal submission for approval – which would have negated any time we might have gained by the immediate material delivery. So, this option did not make sense either.
We focused on finding alternate sources for the specified materials. We made a list of vendors and suppliers and started making phone calls. We conferred with other truss manufacturers to see if they had a supply of our approved metal plates, and if they might have enough capacity to meet at least some of our needs on the project. We ended up identifying three different manufacturers that were building our trusses concurrently. Our project manager also connected with a vendor in the Midwest that happened to have a supply of the roof insulation. Fortunately, that vendor had enough in their warehouse to meet our needs, and they could get it to us within two weeks.
With new delivery dates on the calendar, we did re-sequence a handful of activities within that particular construction phase, mitigating a major impact to the project schedule and budget.
Being creative and staying nimble
When it comes to the curveballs that are thrown at us – whether just through the normal course of project work, or (more frequently, now) as a result of supply-chain issues brought about by the pandemic – the key, again, is staying in touch with all partners through strong communication, working through problems as soon as they emerge, and using our creativity and flexibility to constantly think outside the box.
Here at PC, we are embracing our "new normal," seeing it as an opportunity to keep ourselves nimble, and to always be ready to be resourceful for our clients. With this perspective, we position ourselves well not just to handle the curveballs, but to hit them out of the park.