You’re a multi-family property owner and your latest apartment complex is just days from completion. Your contractor’s project manager comes into your office and cautiously takes a seat. He sighs and sheepishly slides a change order across your desk.
That’ll be another $40,000 and several additional weeks on the schedule.
And here’s the kicker—this costly and time-consuming mistake could have been avoided from the very beginning, in the pre-construction phase.
Most multi-family construction processes follow the same blueprint, so to speak. The owner works with the architect, architect hands the plans to the general contractor, contractor works with supply chains and subcontractors, and they build. It’s a very linear process. And while it’s common, it can lead to confusion, miscommunication, and ultimately, unforeseen building construction costs.
In order to truly remove ambiguity and keep costs down, a more collaborative, dynamic approach is needed during the pre-construction and design phase.
If you want to streamline the process and avoid costly jobsite starts and stops, here are 10 things to do during the pre-construction phase to keep costs down.
- Remove the Ambiguity
If the contractor has questions when they review the drawings, so will the project manager, the superintendent, and everybody else in the field. The best contractors will view plans through the lens of the subcontractor and supplier, reviewing every last detail for content, cost-effectiveness, and many other precise details. From this unique vantage point, the majority of unknowns can be eliminated right off the bat—resulting in huge time and cost savings for the owner.
- Don’t Assume Anything
The multi-family construction industry is full of some incredibly talented and intelligent people, but it also encompasses a very diverse range of skillsets. The person adding finishing touches or installing the final product from the drawing could be an 18-year-old fresh out of high school or someone that has been working in the trade for 40+ years. Don’t leave it up to chance that they’ll have the experience and knowledge to realize if something is drawn incomplete or incorrectly.
- Accuracy Matters
Sounds like a no-brainer, but always make certain that the drawings are correct. Different elements are added to drawings by architects, structural engineers, mechanical engineers, and so on…and it’s up to onsite personnel to decipher the nuances. It’s often the simplest things can lead to the biggest increase in multi-family building construction costs. Think about it, one seemingly minor error in the design could have to be multiplied by 200-units!
- Consistency is Crucial
A continuation of accuracy, consistency is just as important in multi-family drawings to keep costs down. If a detail is represented a particular way on one page, make sure all pages are uniform—from architectural to structural to mechanical and electrical. Some architects may draw a certain way on one page, and on the next page they’ll inadvertently copy something over from a past project. This may save time initially, but can cause big headaches further along in the process.
- Keep it Simple
You may run across an apartment plan in your archives from 20 years ago that’s just a small amount of pages for an entire complex. Today the same plan could be 100+ sheets, and in reality, the old drawing worked just as well—if not better. Yes, much in the multi-family construction industry has advanced over the years, but when it comes to drawings to save costs, quality over quantity has always been what helps people in the office and in the field really dial in.
- Learn from the Past
The best multi-family contractors don’t mess with success. This is especially true when working with architects. When they find those whose drawings consistently hit the mark, they can really hone-in and find a rhythm. If you know fiber cement siding is the best and most cost-effective solution for the owner, you wouldn’t want to see plans drawn up with vinyl siding.
- Use Common Sense
We’re not all trying to build the Taj Mahal. Especially in multi-family construction, complexes and apartments need to be practical, functional, and cost-effective for the owners. In an industry where time is money, it’s imperative that the architect doesn’t assume everyone involved is an expert in all facets of the business. If the quality of the drawing is lacking or there’s uncertainty, it can be difficult on project managers, superintendents, and people in the field. By simply using common sense in the beginning, the work can be completed uninterrupted on the jobsite.
- Think Outside the Box
This one goes beyond the drawing stage and involves getting creative when problems arise. Often when issues come up during the building process, many contractors will immediately call the architect or engineer. Pulling rank only causes more problems, so when the entire team is on the same page from the beginning, an inherent level of trust is built between the engineers and the people in the field. Go outside the box to get away from the old school pecking order in favor of an approach that engages everyone early and often.
- Spend to Save
Don’t be afraid to go heavy on the meetings early in the design phase. It’s been a theme these last few points, but can’t be said enough…coordinate schedules and get everyone involved from the outset. Yes, this takes time and effort. Yes, time is money. But when you can work out all the details, finalize all the numbers, and ensure all involved parties are crystal clear on the complete scope of work, you’ll all but eliminate costly change orders later on. This often rushed and overlooked aspect can literally save tens of thousands of dollars per project.
- Allocate Time for Revisions
The final multi-family pre-construction tip to keep costs down is to ensure all paint colors, cabinets, doors styles, flooring, fixtures, and finishes are selected in the beginning. Work with a designer to go through all the selections and get them on the plans early. It’s not uncommon to become consumed in the big picture and overall budget and miss some finishing details. When this happens, additional and unforeseen costs add up quickly.
For nearly 40 years, Brester Construction has sat on the same side of the table with owners, architects, and all parties involved in the multi-family construction process. Time and again, this creates an open and dynamic process that fosters efficiency and the best possible end result for all involved.
Post Excerpt: Jobsite starts and stops can kill the construction process as well as your budget. Read how a collaborative, dynamic approach to the multi-family pre-construction and drawing phase can keep your costs down.
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