Construction Management Engineering

Accelerated Schedule in Construction Projects

Construction projects almost always have a finish date deadline set by the owner and stipulated in the contract. Some of these projects have strict deadlines, which do not allow any slippage. Examples of such a project are facilities built for the Olympic Games or international exhibitions or conferences. Any slipping in the schedule in such a case could literally mean a disaster: an international embarrassment and a loss of large sums of money.

The contract may or may not contain a liquidated damage clause for all these projects. Damage usually includes an estimated loss of revenue as a result of a delay and may involve punitive damages. Punitive damages are difficult to recover in court, especially in the case of a mere breach of contract. In order to recover punitive damages (also referred to as exemplary damages), the owner must prove that the infringement has been committed maliciously or that an intentional or other unlawful or illegal act, such as fraud, has been committed.

Setting Priority or Target

Finishing on — or ahead of — schedule is a major target for the contractor and the owner. The important target is to finish on-or under-the estimate. Attaining both of these goals at the same time is desirable — and usually possible — but often the contractor must rank them in order of importance: one before the other. There has to be a decision at this stage between two alternatives:

  1. Schedule compression even though the cost will continue to increase.
  2. Do not reduce the duration any more and keep the cost to a minimum.

What is the Accelerated Schedule?

Acceleration of the construction project is quite simple: it’s when the work being done has to be done faster than planned. Generally, acceleration occurs after delays in the project have occurred. However, acceleration may also be necessary if the scope of work increases during the life of the project, or if the date of completion is moved up for some reason. Generally, instructions to speed up work will come through a change of order.

Accelerating the project means shortening the normal duration of the project schedule (also called the compression schedule). This does not necessarily mean aiming for the shortest possible duration. The term compressing the schedule is synonymous with and is used throughout this book. The term crashing schedule is generally used to indicate maximum acceleration, although it is sometimes used instead of accelerating.

Why Accelerate a Project?

There are many reasons for accelerating the projects, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The contractor’s finish date in the planned schedule does not meet the imposed finish date of the contract. The contractor usually knows this before starting the construction works, or, sometimes, even before bidding. In many cases, the client requires the contractor to submit a construction schedule (critical path method) that shows a satisfactory finish date.
  • When work begins and a certain percentage of the project has been progressed, The contractor realizes that the project is behind the schedule. He or she is in need of Speed up the remainder of the schedule to compensate for lost time and avoid finishing late (referred to as schedule for recovery). Penalties in certain contracts (Mostly liquidated damages) can be paid for late finishing to the contractor.
  • In certain cases, the contractor might have a monetary contractual opportunity to Finish before the deadline.
  • The acceleration of a project may prove to be profitable to a certain point for the contractor.
  • Directed acceleration is a lot simpler. This type of acceleration occurs when a contractor is directed to speed up the project schedule. Since direct acceleration is carried out in the direction of the highest level of the project, it is generally understood that compensation will be made in exchange for that acceleration. In general, this is accomplished through formal change orders, and there should be fewer questions as to where the money will come from to pay for acceleration.

How to Shorten Project Duration (Schedule Compression)?

Construction projects may take more or less time than planned (usually more than less) for reasons that may be within or beyond the control of the contractor. Reasons beyond the control of the contractor, such as force majeure, varying site conditions, and change orders; in most cases, draw the owner’s time extensions. Such situations are not discussed in this chapter. Instead, the discussion is limited to how the contractor can influence the duration of the project.

Schedule Compression Techniques

There are many techniques used for schedule compression. Following, but not limited to, are these techniques:

  • Ideas applicable to all phases of a project
  • Contractual approach
  • Engineering phase
  • Scheduling
  • Materials management
  • Construction work management
  • Field labor management
  • Start-up phase

How to do Schedule Compression?

  • Check or study the schedule thoroughly to find any errors or unnecessary logic or constraints: the most common pitfall is the use of the Finish-to-Start (FS) Relationship where there may be a start-to-start (SS) relationship with a reasonable lag.
  • Fast-tracking the project: fast-tracking means starting a project construction before the design is completely finished. Conceptual design is required first to be done; detailed design follows in stages. The construction of each phase follows the detailed design of the phase while the next phase is underway. Usually, this option is not available in the middle of the construction. It is a major decision that must be taken in the context of Agreement between the owner, the designer (architect or engineer), and the contractor before starting the project.
  • Conduct Value Engineering and constructibility Studies: Value Engineering (VE) has been defined as “An analysis and comparison of the cost versus value of cost building materials, equipment, and systems. VE takes into account the initial cost of construction, combined with the estimated cost of maintenance, energy use, life. Expectation and replacement costs.
  • Work overtime—more hours per day and/or more days per week.
  • Offer incentives to labors or crews for improving productivity: The contractor usually has an incentive to compress the project schedule such as avoiding a penalty or earning a bonus. Workers do not directly pay the fine or get the contract bonus. 
  • Add more labors and employees.
  • Acquisition of special equipment or supplies to speed up the job.
  • Enhance project management or monitoring: The contractor can recognize a problem in the project team in some cases. There may be a “war of power” between the project manager and the head office (favoring functional organization). It is incredibly important for the success of the project to have everybody on the same page. It is no simple decision to replace the project manager or supervisor in the middle of the work. However, this could be less immoral in some cases than keeping the status quo.

Schedule Compression Steps:

The entire project duration is equivalent to the critical path duration. Therefore we must shorten the length of the critical path by shortening the entire project duration.

  1. We start accelerating the project by shortening the longest (critical) path.
  2. To shorten the duration of a path, we cut the duration of one or more activities on the critical path. As a rule of thumb, we choose the activity with the lowest acceleration cost.
  3. We accelerate path 4 by 2 days (we may have to do so in two steps— one day at a time—or we may be able to do so in one step).
  4. If the activity shortened falls on more than one path, all the paths with the activity will also be reduced.
  5. Clearly, the further we accelerate the construction project, the more paths must be shortened & the more activities must be involved. Consequently, we may need to compress 6 or 7 activities to cut only one day from the project duration. This fact is why the direct cost of acceleration is not linear (although it may be linear for short intervals).

Check this Schedule Compression Detailed example from HERE

Construction Project Scheduling and Control (Saleh A. Mubarak)
See Also
The Guide to Critical Path Management
Construction Project Closeout
DCMA 14 point schedule assessment

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