Dotted Line: 4 Answers to Common Collaboration Hiccups

By on October 31, 2018

From ConstructionDive:  This feature is a part of “The Dotted Line” series, which takes an in-depth look at the complex legal landscape of the construction industry. To view the entire series, click here.

Collaboration among multiple stakeholders is nothing new in the construction industry, but more and more contractors are solidifying relationships through integrated project delivery methods such as those completed through joint ventures and design-build systems that require teamwork from design though punch out. No matter how a contract is structured, owners, general contractors, architects, engineers, subcontractors and even sometimes major material or equipment suppliers must find common ground to achieve the project’s end goal.

However, there are a number of challenges associated with a highly collaborative construction process. Here are ways the key players can overcome the obstacles and make managing the collaborative process easier.

1. Decide who’s in charge

An official collaborative arrangement means all major players get a say, but what happens when there’s a stalemate around a design or building issue?

According to Brad Meltzer, president of Plaza Construction, the entity that provides the financial guarantees for the project has the most say in regard to design and implementation. Even on design-build projects, he said, the owner or developer typically prepares a “design narrative” on which companies can bid, creating a certain level of understanding as to what the project is all about. In some cases, the owner establishes the framework for the entire project, which makes it very similar to a design-bid-build project in that respect.

However, even with a collaborative delivery method, each party tends to stick to traditional roles, Meltzer said.

Randy Burns, senior design manager at McCarthy Building Companies, said the parties typically set operational rules that govern the project before the scope of work begins. “It’s important to establish early protocols,” he said, “that empower people in day-to-day activities.” Setting a clear hierarchy of authority also helps when the processes and procedures are different than the ones some parties are used to.

“We know that 100% of projects that start poorly end badly,” said Mark Konchar, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Balfour Beatty.

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