How to Reduce Change Orders on Your Construction Project

how to reduce change orders in construction

Change orders have earned themselves a bad reputation among project owners, construction teams, and design teams alike. While they’re an important tool to ensure the needs and vision of the final product are met, they can often lead to extended schedules and additional costs.

That said, they’re not always a bad thing. An owner submitting a change order because they’d like to make a change to the project is normal and to be expected. Used in this way, owners can ensure the end result is exactly what they had in mind.

On the other hand, many owners experience unexpected change orders that are in many ways out of their control. These may be the result of mistakes in design or construction, delays in labor or materials, or poor scheduling or budgeting. Using the right project approach, change orders like these can typically be reduced or avoided.

What Are Change Orders?

Change orders are amendments to the project’s previously agreed-upon scope of work.

At the beginning of the project, you and your construction team will craft a scope of work document that clarifies what work is to be completed during the project. But as the project progresses, situations may arise that require modifications
The result is a change order. First, the necessary changes are shared with the appropriate parties. Next, Your construction team will put it in writing, outlining the details and itemizing the added costs. The owner will then sign off on the document to approve the change and initiate the next steps.

While change orders serve an important purpose in the project process, they come at a cost. Construction projects require advanced planning, with talent and supplies being arranged sometimes months in advance. When presented with a change, the team has to quickly pivot to work the amendment into the schedule in the least disruptive way. In many cases, this leads to increased costs and a longer schedule.

How to Reduce Change Orders

Change orders don’t necessarily need to be rigidly avoided. They’re an important part of the project process that can contribute to a better overall result. But whenever possible, it’s preferred to set your project up in a way that can accomplish the ideal outcome without change orders.

Here are four ways how.

1. Laser-Focus Your Vision for the Project

One of the best ways to prevent changes down the road is to get a very clear vision of the project’s end result. Sit down with key stakeholders internally and discuss what’s important in relation to the project. Once these needs are prioritized and applied to the larger picture, bring them to your design and construction teams.

turning plans to realityWhen selecting design and building partners for your project, look for teams that understand your vision for the project. If they kick off the project with a strong understanding of what it is you expect from the project, there’s a greater chance they’ll meet or exceed it. And with modern building technology like BIM (building information management) and other imaging software, your team can translate this vision into something more tangible before construction starts.

At Horst Construction, we begin every project with this in mind. We build relationships with our clients before buildings, and we take time to truly understand the vision of their project before hammer hits nail.

2. Create a Collaborative Environment

Collaboration is one of the most fundamental building blocks of a project’s success. A construction project is dependent on pooled expertise and talent from several different disciplines. When these disciplines work independently of one another, mistakes and oversights become more common. When these disciplines work together at every stage of the project, these issues can be addressed and avoided right away.

This can often be facilitated with modern communication and document-sharing software. What would once take days to coordinate across multiple teams can now be worked on collaboratively, from anywhere, in real-time.

Overall, your project will benefit from a team-oriented approach where everyone contributes their unique skill set to each phase of the project. As a result, the planning process will go more smoothly, resulting in a construction project with fewer issues. That often means fewer change orders.

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3. Use the Design-Build Approach to Your Project

Any project with any delivery method can create a collaborative environment. But some delivery methods structure the team and project in a way that fosters teamwork more than others.

One of the best project delivery methods for this is design-build.

Studies show that projects that take on this approach are completed faster, and cost less than projects completed with design-bid-build and construction manager at risk. Oftentimes, this is because there are fewer change orders.

Why do design-build projects typically result in fewer change orders? This project delivery method sets up the project so that all disciplines work together on their respective tasks. The construction team will be on board working with the design team to ensure constructability. The design team will help to ensure the construction team is properly actualizing their plans.

Collaboration and team-based accountability is cooked into the design-build approach, which leads to a smoother project process and better result.

How does a design-build project work? Check out this blog to learn more.

4. Ensure the Scope of Work is Detailed & Clear

The scope of work is a document that outlines all of the work to be completed on your project. As an owner, you’ll communicate your needs and expectations to the construction team. They’ll then translate those into deliverables and milestones, creating the framework for the construction project.

A scope of work that is detailed and clear can successfully set the expectations for a project. However, if a scope of work is vague or leaves too much up to interpretation, you can’t be sure how, or even if, that portion of the project will be executed. This can lead to work that isn’t in line with the owner’s expectations, which can lead to change orders.

Before you sign off on your project’s scope of work, be sure that it properly embodies all your expectations. Taking the time to do so at this stage will save you both time and money down the road.

The Importance of Change Orders & Change Order Management

Change orders get a bad reputation. And while the overall project approach should work to minimize the number of change orders needed due to poor planning, it’s important to remember not all change orders are bad. Sometimes, change orders can make a project more successful, whether it’s to create a better result or adjust in the face of an unexpected challenge.

Instead, focus on building a team that understands your vision for your project and will work collaboratively. This will help reduce the need for change orders that stem from errors in design or construction, delays, or mistakes.

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