Paul Erickson

Facility Planning: Capitalizing on the Construction Phase

So you have a project! Let the construction begin!

A school’s construction phase is successful when the education institution, AE, construction adviser, contractors, subcontractors, product representatives, and governmental officials work together for a common cause—providing a high quality project. This feat requires effective planning, transparent communications, “eyes on progress,” and prompt decision-making.

Schools and universities should seek out specialists who understand that education construction parameters are unique. For example, maintaining school operations during construction often is necessary.
This requires special construction sequencing, safety-zones, power/ ventilation operations, noise/vibration/ odor controls, construction deliveries, on-site materials storage, temporary utilities services, waste/ trash removal, and bus/car access constraints.

The Standard Form of Agreement between a school entity and contractor (likewise for the AE) links to the General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, which addresses the parties’ various duties during construction, changes in the work, time/payments/completion, protection of persons and property, insurance/ bonds, uncovering/correction of work, contract termination/ suspension, and claims/disputes.

“Supplemental conditions,” prepared by an AE or other professional, describe a project’s unique parameters.

Once construction contracts are signed and before construction commences, the AE holds a preconstruction meeting with school representatives, contractors, and major subcontractors. Topics to cover include chain of communications, permits/tests/submittals protocol, safety, coordination with school operations, equipment deliveries, construction timetables, progress meetings, payment certificates, and the schedule of values/products.

Requests for information (RFIs), architect’s supplemental instructions (ASIs), requests for change order proposals (RFCOPs), contract change orders (COs), pre-substantial completion, project clean-up, and contract closeout topics also are covered.

Once construction commences, on-site weekly or bi-weekly progress meetings with team members are held. Discuss construction progress, log updates, three-week “look-ahead” schedules, and environmental concerns. The contractor or AE typically run meetings with the AE documenting/publishing minutes to designated recipients. Do a walk-through after the meeting to affirm decisions so construction progress may continue. Throughout construction the AE should visit the site regularly to address issues so that final “punchlists” are minimized at substantial completion.

During construction, product/ system pre-installation meetings are an effective way to review installation procedures, sample mock-ups, possible conflicts, weather limitations, manufacturer’s protocol, testing requirements, and performance expectations.

Once technology systems, mechanical equipment, energy management controls, motorized specialties, and elevators are operational, the contractor trains school staff members on operations, adjustments, troubleshooting, maintenance, and repairs. Training manuals, demonstrations, and digital recordings are provided for skills development and recordkeeping.

Throughout construction, a contractor should prepare for contract closeout. After substantial completion, closeout documents are issued to the AE. Documents typically include agency inspection certificates, consent of surety for final payment, contractor’s evidence of payment and release of liens, record “as-built” drawings, operations & maintenance manuals, commissioning reports, certification of hazardous-free materials, and warranties.
A final step will complete the project: One month prior to contractor’s one-year warranty expiration, check for products and systems performance issues requiring correction.

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