When a property owner decides they want to repair or add on to a home or other type of structure, they often have an engineering firm design the project and then hire a construction firm to build it. All too often, however, the engineering firm fails to create a practical design that will be easy for the construction team to build. That’s where “constructability” comes into play.
Constructability is a technique in which construction processes are reviewed from start to finish during the initial engineering design phase. It all boils down to understanding and coordinating the construction process during the design and planning phases. This technique prevents problems in construction by identifying problems before the project begins construction. Don’t be surprised when your design firm wants to know early on who will build the project. As design engineers, we know the best construction firms for your particular project and want to be confident that our clients are choosing a responsible construction firm—not necessarily the lowest bidder, although competence and economy are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Identifying and resolving potential construction problems upfront helps reduce and prevent delays, errors, cost overruns, headaches and major stress. When planning with constructability in mind, the project’s design and the construction process are carefully aligned with the client’s needs to make sure that all aspects of the project are completed as conceptualized and scheduled in a way that allows construction to occur without delays, disruptions and unexpected costs.
When a project is designed by a professional engineering firm with good “constructability” in mind that means the structure will be easier and more efficient to build than a project that was not designed with constructability in mind. For example with doors and windows, the choice of their type and design, their placement and sizing can result in the use of standard off-the-shelf door and window materials rather than custom-built doors or windows, which can require extra framing and trim materials too–adding still more costs to the project.
To continue our example . . . For the property owner, it’s acceptable when the design requested is to be a custom, spectacular look with craftsman design, unique materials, specialty construction and high costs. If that type of approach, however, is not within the property owner’s expectation or budget, then the design firm needs to be sure that it takes an economical approach that will be easy for the construction firm to implement at a much lower standard construction cost.
An important element of constructability is the quality of the design documents. Projects that feature easy to understand instructions will be easier to build, and those with poor design documents will be more difficult. When engineering firms consider construction requirements and costs in advance, there is no guesswork and the delivery of the necessary materials can be planned and scheduled for an optimal build process that is highly efficient. This is why it is important to make sure early that your engineering and construction firms can work together and have similar approaches and expectations.
Engineers that approach projects with good constructability in mind will consider the features and characteristics of an existing structure when repairing, updating or adding on to it. They are also considerate about adopting the latest construction techniques and best practices. They are careful to incorporate these considerations for the construction firm during the planning and design phases so that the project is built accurately to plan, on schedule and cost effectively with no surprises.
To start a project with constructability in mind, bring your engineering and construction firms together early in the planning process so they start and finish working together well as an integrated team that considers upfront: equipment selection, construction materials, layouts, details, space limits, seismic bracing, purchasing and pricing, insurance risks, agency and association requirements, project implementation pain points and future building and design recommendations.
At Helfrich-Associates, we work together with expert construction firms outside of our own organization every day. We understand their needs when it comes to building and repair projects, so we can work with them and our clients to avoid altogether or resolve any potential construction issues from the start – rather than halfway through the project.
We also know how to work with existing structures so that the final result is appealing, functional and well-built for many years to come. We also know how to add those special creative touches to a project’s design that provide extra curb appeal when it is the desire of the property owner.