February 13, 2013
Improvements still needed on close-out process
Bidding and winning a construction contract can be tough, but often not as tough as bringing a project to a successful close-out.
“The industry isn’t doing a good enough job of closing out projects and we need to raise the bar,” says Craig Lesurf, general manager, Walsh Construction and chairman of professional development with The Construction Institute of Canada.
Lesurf notes that construction partners need to begin the close-out process on the day they begin the project.
“It’s a process, not an event and should be pursued throughout the project, not just at the end,” he says. “This process involves thousands of actions performed by individuals from all facets of the construction chain.”
While the obligations of each party are often detailed in contract documents, these obligations are not always properly assigned, coordinated and scheduled and this can lead to cost over-runs and delays.
“At project kick-off you need to formulate a project execution plan,” says Lesurf. “Get all of the parties—owner, architects, consultants, sub-trades and general contractor—to agree to the close-out plan. Even when contract obligations are written down, parties can disagree on what those words mean, so they need to be discussed. Everybody needs to get on the same page right from the start. There’s still confusion, for example, on the difference between ‘record’ drawings versus ‘as-built’ drawings.”
Lesurf recommends that each project stakeholder maintain a close-out binder or file, create a close-out checklist including all completion dates and assign responsibilities to complete each item.
“If you miss getting a manufacturer’s inspection of a start-up, or miss in-plant inspection of an HVAC component, it can’t be redone,” he says.
“If you don’t perform a moisture test on a floor before putting vinyl down, you’re potentially delaying the handover of that building and shoveling unnecessary work to the end of the line.”
Lesurf notes that under certain delivery models, contractors face escalating penalties for failure to meet timelines. For example, contractors interested in pursuing projects delivered under the public-private partnership (P3) model need to adopt close-out best practices before considering such ventures.
Proactive close-out procedures are being implemented on the Women’s College Hospital redevelopment project, which is delivered under Ontario’s Alternative Financing and Procurement model. Walsh Construction and Bondfield Construction are partnering on construction.
“We’re even taking photos of all of the wall cavities before they’re closed up, and incorporating those images into the Building Information Modeling system,” says Lesurf.
“When we hand the project over to Bilfinger and Black and McDonald Facility Management, they’ll have all the information required to maintain and renovate the facility.”
Lesurf notes that a major close-out oversight involves turning over project documents on completion.
“They’re handing over a mountain of paper, or disks and disks, or sticks and sticks of information and then somebody associated with the project loses it and claims they didn’t receive it,” he says. “Quite often, the documents were temporarily kept together in a folder on a server and now they can’t be put back together again without significant effort. Companies don’t often keep project files and backups all together and readily accessible.”
Lesurf also cautions contractors to watch for minor signs of failure to close out a project properly that may indicate more serious problems in an organization.
“If you walk into a building a year after it’s completed and see minor deficiencies such as a nail or screw sticking out of a surface, warning stickers on equipment and hardware, as well as glazing stickers still on windows, there’s a problem,” he says. “That building should have been wrapped up like a present with a bow on it long ago.” Lesurf spoke at a session during the Construct Canada show in Toronto.
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