Facility Assessment

The Owner’s Corner: Constructability Reviews

By: Mark Chang

Jul 19, 2021

Constructability, as a concept, is not as simple as the term may imply. With limitless time and money, anything can be built. But construction projects rarely, if ever, are blessed with such freedoms. In fact, budget and schedule are usually the two primary constraints. The purpose of a constructability review is the early detection of any issue that may impact these two constraints during buildout. While a construction project can almost always be built, doing so in a timely, cost efficient manner is a large part of what defines a successful project. In the second installment of our 3-part Owner’s Corner series, our experienced construction consultants break down the importance of constructability reviews and how they benefit your project’s bottom line

What is a constructability review?

A constructability review is a discerning examination of the complete set of construction documents in an effort to detect and resolve any omissions and/or inconsistencies prior to buildout. In the review, just some of the things that should be addressed are:

  • Scope gaps
  • Conflicts at system interfaces
  • Any atypical components and elements that raise the level of difficulty (architectural features, specialized building service requirements, low-voltage systems, added security needs, etc.)
  • Schedule hot spots
  • Long-lead material availabilities and lead times

A skilled reviewer will use the construction documents to conceptually build the project in their heads, stepping through the activities and items in the order of construction and scanning for potential problems. The reviewer’s job is not necessarily to fill in the gaps, but rather to identify the need for additional information or attention and direct any issues to the responsible project team member or designer. The act of conducting the review is methodical and detailed. When done well it will facilitate buildout, streamline materials and equipment, reduce energy use and waste, and save the owner a lot of time and money.

Who does the review?

For a clear perspective, a separate evaluation should be done on the owner’s behalf by an independent third party apart from the design and engineering teams. The reviewer should be someone with deep knowledge of all aspects of construction projects and extensive experience with both construction management and field operations. Reviewers should use the review’s results as an opportunity to promote additional dialogue and collaboration within the project team, reinforcing project data and information.

When should the review be done?

There are different schools of thought as to which project phase is appropriate for a constructability review. Some say they should be a part of the entire design and development process. At STRUCTR advisors, we agree, but will distinguish that process as feasibility assessments that should naturally accompany the design process. The constructability review, as described here, is essentially a double-check on whether the project can be built as presented in the construction documents in an efficient, problem-free manner. This review should be conducted at or around the 80% – 90% construction documents phase by an independent construction expert after all elements and systems have been finalized.

“Trust, but verify”

In construction, time and money are extremely limited resources that should be protected. Could you trust the design, take the construction documents, and go for it? Sure, but expect a difficult journey ahead. Achieving the design goals (form and function) within—or better yet, under—the set budget and on schedule is a complicated process.. Hitting these marks is where skilled constructability reviews start to resemble an art form. Synthesizing the big picture with the many nuances that come with a construction project takes experience, patience, attention to detail, and a good dash of finesse. Any project, however well planned and designed, has room to be tightened up and fine-tuned to further advance successful buildout.

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