Sweet Nightmare: Navigating Changes in Project Management

By Craig Carson

Picture this: You get involved in a design-assist or design-build project and provide the design team with a budget based on the systems that perform to the required spec. You provide proposal drawings, and your proposal is accepted. You break out the champagne!

Now the real work begins. As the project moves forward, you start to see drawings that don’t match the shop drawings you used to create the estimate, and details of the systems you proposed aren’t being used.

You contact the general contractor (GC). Hopefully, he will tell you to re-price the project with the changes as the design team is moving in a new direction. This might be frustrating because of the time it takes to reprice, but it’s still your project.

It’s worse when something like this happens after you’re through the shop drawings and engineering submittal stage. The architect then keeps making changes or “tweaks” to the openings. You have seen this; maybe they move the locations of the jambs further away from the columns. Okay, you go ahead and revise the drawings. Then they repositioned the sills because the sidewalk slopes, the sill staggers in height to the finish floor, and the original design left the sill too low for the look they wanted. All these changes must
be addressed again in the shop drawings. So, you still don’t have an approved set.

Project Struggles

The GC is frustrated, too. He set a schedule to complete the building, and the changes delay the construction. You explain why the changes may take a week to revise and return, but he wants them in three days.

Then the architect, who has been using a 3D model to track his design (remember, the model is not a contract document) reissues it to the GC, whose own modeler returns it to the former version. Now, the intermediate location in the curtainwall has changed. When the GC asks about this, the architect explains how the model matches the new architectural supplemental instructions they will issue later in the week. Guess what … you have to redraw the project again.

Good Project Management

Getting paid to make the changes may not be a problem, but the timing to revise takeoffs and glass orders could be the real issue. When this is your project to manage, it is a nightmare. Trying to stay on top of the changes and the timing for materials can be overwhelming. When this happens to you, reach out and ask for help. You want to manage the project, not the other way around. That’s when projects can go wrong—and the profit disappears.

Over time we all learn about certain GCs or architects who run projects like this. Do yourself a favor and review the projects you bid to these customers internally before sending your proposal. You may need to add additional support time to your project manager in charge of this project.

Craig Carson is the vice president and general manager of 8G Solutions in Denver.

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