Contractors must be some of the best communicators in the professional services world. Everything we do relies on proper communication between our own team, trade partners, owners, and even other contractors. It may sound like more work at first, but for certain projects, the benefits of hiring two contractors for one project include two major factors for an owner: building expertise and cost efficiency.
BENEFITS OF COLLABORATION
It is not rare for contractors to work together to bring their unique skill set into play for one project. When one contractor is hired for their expertise in a certain area of work, it can end up being a financial advantage for the project owner by relying on their ability to control cost. Hiring experts can also mitigate risk, which is a huge plus for everyone involved. Each contractor will come to the project with something they have worked tirelessly to perfect, resulting in less damages and delays. It can be helpful to have different opinions from the two contractors in case a project’s plan changes. When something changes on one side of the project, such as an architect’s initial design, infrastructure, or the materials being used, it could affect the other side of the project.
Planning is always any contractor’s main priority. When two contractors are involved in one project, it becomes even more so. The base scope of the project should be made clear from the beginning, and each company should be fully aware of who is responsible for what to avoid scope gaps that can cost the owner money. It should be made clear why these two companies were hired in the first place and what the expertise of each company covers. Since challenges can occur regarding scopes converge, understanding all of these factors are key to setting the project up for success.
Each team needs to have positive and open communication every step of the way. Teams need to inform one another of any changes to their plans and schedule delays because they will affect the other’s work. Weekly meetings should be scheduled to discuss things like crane locations, deliveries, and safety concerns to ensure that each team is working together to the best of their ability. A communication plan should be created to list the key contacts from each company, and who to reach out to for certain issues and updates. This will allow information to flow in a consistent, clear, and direct manner. Weekly meetings are also a great time to coordinate between the different building plans and work through any adjustments. Construction professionals can use 3D models to build a virtual project to scale to understand exactly what different size elements are and how they will fit together in the final build. This is especially helpful for reviewing underground utilities. If an architect wants to change a bathroom or revise a kitchen layout, it means that plumbing and electrical conduit may have to be installed in a completely different location. Teams can work together on the 3D model and, once everything is agreed upon, convert them into 2D prints for use on the construction site.
BUILDING INFORMATION MODELS
Construction is constantly improving through the use of technology. Whether it’s using drones to survey land from above a site or using new safety equipment, general contractors and owners need to decide which products provide the most cost-effective assistance on their projects. Using building information modeling programs such as Revit™ can bridge the gap between architects and builders and save considerable installation time in the field. What used to only exist in an architect’s 2D design can now incorporate more specific product information in a 3D format. This is extremely useful when it comes to clash detection. When multiple contractors bring their trade partners into the same room to coordinate adjacent building systems, these modeling programs allow everyone to see how their designs fit together and work out problems before the first trench is excavated.
As projects reach the final stages, each team should be sure to communicate what is necessary from local jurisdictions to pass final inspections. Sometimes there will be last-minute changes directed by inspectors which could have an effect on the other general contractor if not properly communicated. Ensuring there is a safe path of travel from one area of work through the other’s area can be one of the biggest hurdles when both companies need to schedule and pass all their final inspections. Another potential for trouble is when the fire alarm or low voltage systems are shared and must communicate with each other to operate the entire property. One of the worst-case scenarios for a project like a hotel would be to have the rooms ready for guests by one team, but the exterior (sidewalks, lighting) or lobby still unfinished by the other. You cannot operate a hotel without the lobby and check-in desk, but you can operate without the top floor being complete. By keeping communication channels open, teams can plan for any delays on either side of the project and may even be able to assist with manpower to overcome obstacles that could delay a project from opening.
When two general contractors can collaborate successfully, it can be the beginning of a lifetime partnership that is beneficial for everyone. Hiring two companies with specific expertise on various elements can create a financial advantage for project owners, while creating more opportunities for each company, and an incredible outcome for the community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric Brown, LEED AP, is a senior project manager with Hoar Construction’s Florida Division. He oversees confirmation of project scope per client needs, prepares and evaluates bid packages and oversees cost analysis, projections, and reporting.
Modern Contractor Solutions, October 2018
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