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Secrets to mastering your project schedule.

Behold the Gantt Chart!

This post is for anyone who is in charge of a construction project schedule. Whether you are a Project Management firm, General Prime Contractor, or the building Owner.

A detailed and highly thought-out project schedule can take you from a project where trades are tripping over themselves to get work done, tempers are flaring, and running behind schedule - to a smoothly run and orchestrated project that gets done on-time. The project schedule is your road-map that helps you navigate your way through today’s complex projects.

The industry standard for mapping out and keeping track of today's complex projects is the Gantt chart. While this type of scheduling platform may be a little confusing at first, once you understand the basics it can be quite useful in ensuring your project stays on-schedule and you don't run into any surprises in the project delivery!

As commissioning providers, we get to see a wide variety of designs, construction delivery types, and construction management methods. This is great because we get to be exposed to different ideas and styles and get to see what works and what doesn’t! One of the things that we see that causes frequent problems for a project is a poorly detailed and tracked project schedule.

Some things we have seen as a result of poor project scheduling/planning:

  • I was on a project early in my career where a freshly epoxied gymnasium floor was ruined because the testing, adjusting, and balancing took place the day after the gym floor was epoxied. The gym ductwork was installed within the roof joist space. When the Balancer was ramping up the air handling unit, the diffusers blew across these roof joists and blew dust that had settled on the joists during the hardwood floor sanding process down onto the uncured epoxy! This is something that no one thought twice about but looking back had us all kicking ourselves! It was truely one of those "huh" moments.

  • On several projects, the Temperature Controls Contractor was held up because the building network wasn’t completed.

  • I have seen the project schedules trying to schedule balancing when the Controls Contractor didn’t have control of the equipment yet.

  • Sometimes trades such as TAB and Temperature Controls aren’t even listed on the schedule! When do you think that work took place? You guessed it, after the Owner moved in and during the “warranty period”.

  • Delayed final power connections have held up other trades.

Today we will focus on the project schedule and some reoccurring omissions we have seen.

Below is a list of items to discuss with the project team which can affect other trades. This isn’t an all-inclusive list; however, it does contain some of the things we have seen on projects that have caused problems because they were either missing completely or weren’t fully scheduled and coordinated.

  • Building envelope milestones

  • Building final power

  • Building network

  • The final painting, cleaning, doors hung, etc.

  • Flooring finishes

  • Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing

  • Temperature Controls graphics, network tie in, testing

  • Commissioning functional testing (other commissioning tasks will be given to you and coordinated by the Commissioning Provider)

  • Building Owner furniture move-in

  • Building use start date – when will the Owner begin using the space?

In order to help you fill in your schedule and avoid missing any of the items above, here are some items to discuss with your sub-contractors and Owner when planning out the project schedule:

  • General Contractor

  • When will footings and foundations be installed?

  • When will walls be erected?

  • When will air/water barriers be installed?

  • When will insulation be installed?

  • When will doors/windows be installed?

  • When will the roof be installed (insulation, weather barrier, curbs, etc.)?

  • When will floors be poured/equipment pads?

  • When will the building be enclosed (offer rain/cold protection)?

  • When will sheet rock taping/sanding/painting take place?

  • When will ceilings (grid, hard lid, lay-in tiles be installed)?

  • When will walls be painted?

  • When will floors get finished (carpet, tile, gym floors, hardwood, etc.)?

  • When will the furniture be installed?

  • When will final cleaning take place?

  • Mechanical/Piping Contractor(s)

  • When will the equipment start-up take place?

  • Can the building be balanced in stages (can certain wings be balanced independently)?

  • When will your insulators be on-site (sheet metal and piping)?

  • Electrical Contractor

  • When will the building final power be completed? Coordinate with the local utility provider.

  • When will all power connections for temperature control panels, panels, equipment, etc. be completed?

  • Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing Contractor

  • How long do you anticipate for completing the air and water side balancing?

  • Can the building be balanced in stages?

  • If balancing in stages/phases, what systems do you need in-place and functioning?

  • What capabilities do you need from the building automation/HVAC systems before you can start balancing?

  • Temperature Controls Contractor

  • Who is running building automation system (BAS) networking cable? When is that anticipated to take place?

  • When will you have the graphics completed?

  • When will you tie into the building network?

  • How long will your system programming and checks take?

  • Building IT Contractor

  • When will the servers and systems be installed?

  • When will building network go live? Accessible to internet, phone, etc.?

  • Who is making/when will final tie-in with the building automation network take place?

  • Building Owner

  • When will you start moving furniture or equipment in? How about employees?

  • Are there any Owner contracted vendors that will need to perform work or services before the Owner occupies the space? If so, what are their needs?

  • When will the Owner start using the space? This is especially important if the building is something like a healthcare facility! After patients start occupying the building, work such as testing, adjusting, and balancing; temperature controls; and commissioning functional testing become MUCH more difficult!

An important question to ask ALL your trades is: “What systems/components/work/items would prevent you from completing your work on-time?” This one question can give you a lot of information and insight. Once you know these answers, you can work backwards to make sure that all the key deliverables are scheduled appropriately and your project can flow more smoothly.

Let us know in the comments below if there are any other items to add to the list above that you feel should be included in the master schedule. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for future posts and useful content such as this!

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