The construction industry has always experienced cyclic highs and lows. There are times when construction contractors are busy and pricing is up and times when projects are scarce and bids are well below budgeted amounts.
However, pandemic-related disruptions in the supply chain of construction materials are something new and continue to impact the flow of projects in the AEC industry. Due to various COVID procedures, manufacturing companies were forced to shut down or cease production of certain products. As projects began ramping up again in the Fall of 2020, there was an explosion of demand on these materials that cleaned the shelves and forced manufacturers into a game of catch-up.
“As we move forward with each new project, we acknowledge that we are in a period where material pricing is continuing to increase, contractors are extremely busy, and construction periods will most likely be extended” says BHB Senior Civil Engineer, Konstantine Bakintas, PE. As these issues continue to span across markets in both private and public sectors, BHB engineers are constantly considering a number of approaches to overcome challenges placed on their projects
For example, if a specific material is experiencing longer lead times, there may be alternatives that can be used in its place. However, packaged equipment such as HVAC or chiller systems are necessary elements that can’t easily be substituted. Therefore, contractors may split construction into phases, completing as much work as possible within the original timeline and then returning to finish once the remaining materials become available.
Mechanical Engineer, Allen Grammer, PE, understands that project timelines can be short, and adding just one or two weeks to construction can really harm a budget. However, phasing construction can increase the risk for parties such as the design team. “When you put out an equipment package prior to your final design being complete, you have to be absolutely certain that the equipment you’re buying is correct even though the surrounding design is not finished,” said Grammer.
BHB Structural Engineer, Ronald Ishmael, PE, also noted the increasing importance of discussing a client’s intent and budget expectations early on to avoid re-design efforts. Rise in costs means a rise in requests for design cuts. This means a client or contractor can come back after a design is finalized to request certain design elements be cut to stay within budget.
To combat the risk of re-design, Ronald encourages his team to focus on being proactive in asking more questions about the use of a building. This helps avoid over-designing and makes everyone feel more confident in their assumptions during the design phase.
As a firm, BHB remains engaged in this issue and continues to provide clients with accurate and up-to-date information. Regardless of the industry’s cycling challenges, designing projects in the most innovative and cost-effective way continues to be our top priority for our building partners.