It’s that time of year again—SUMMER aka when all those backburner projects finally kick-off. I’ve been at Dowling Construction for two short years and it is apparent that our busy season is May—August as building owners and property managers utilize the remainder of their budget before the next fiscal year starts. Even though we love the jobs rolling in (keep them coming!), it is a difficult time for construction companies to navigate because, ultimately, timing is of the essence.
Most of these Summer projects must be completed in record time, and although we do our best to accommodate all our clients, the lack of labor throws a wrench in our scheduling. The big flop of 2008 sent many skilled laborers into other industries, never to return, and the disappearance of shop classes and trade schools are leaving us with a meager pool of skilled workers. More and more are retiring while less & less are entering as most high school graduates continue onto a 4-year university. Where does that leave us? A surplus of projects and a shortage of workers to man them. And there’s only so much overtime a crew can handle.
Other factors that affect turn-over time are material lead times and inspections. It’s not uncommon for carpet & doors to have 3-4 weeks lead time + 1 week of shipping, meaning your 4-week project just turned into 6. Other materials we are seeing lead times issues are lighting and HVAC, especially with all the new Title 24 requirements. Completing a TI is like putting a puzzle together—typically you need to assemble the border before filling in the center. Although you can get some center pieces together without the border, it is more challenging and will still need that border in place before everything else can fit into place. Same with a TI; we can install carpet before doors are framed and hung; however, now there’s a risk of damaging/dirtying the carpet plus more hours needed for install (and remember time is of the essence). In addition to lead times affecting schedule, there are also inspectors to be concerned with. It is not uncommon for inspectors to bump you creating a delay until you can get sign off on your inspection. This is something we cannot account for, but does impact the schedule. Calling an inspection during the Summer months is like playing Russian roulette, you hold your breath and hope you get the right one.
One way for building owners and property managers to help mitigate construction delays is to inform construction teams that a project will be coming their way. This enables the teams to open the project on their end, get sub contracts in place, check lead times and put materials on hold, and get subcontractors on the schedule. Remember, we are all under the gun to get the project completed quickly and within budget, so having a little empathy for the other side will go a long way.