Part 1 – Why do Construction Delays happen and how to analyse it

Construction_Engineering_43169Construction projects often suffer from delays due to a wide variety of reasons, which can have severe financial impact on the project. As a result, delay claims may be filed. The analysis of the delay impact, the causes and effects of the delaying activities is one of the most complicated types of claims analysis. It requires an expert with extensive knowledge of construction projects, means and methods, scheduling and the ability to develop a sound methodology to conduct the analysis. Most of these delay claims reach the expert after completion of the project. This results in a detail intensive research of the documents to verify schedules, events, sequence of work, changes during construction and the delay impact.

This article will address these challenges and the various delay analysis methods.

Below is a list of common delay causes encountered on construction projects. One of the complications of a delay analysis is that the delays can be caused by few of these listed causes or a complex mix of these causes. The time of their occurrence and who caused what delay add to the difficulty of the analysis.

  • Errors and omissions in the contract documents:

◦                                  Missing information.

◦                                  Not having a phasing plan in the bid documents when the site work has to be done in phases.

◦                                  Conflicting information that need design revisions.

  • Contractor caused delays for reasons under their control:

◦                                  Not having enough labor force on site.

◦                                  Contractual problems between the prime contractor and subcontractors.

◦                                  Cash flow issues.

◦                                  Lack of proper planning and management of the project.

  • Delays for reasons beyond the contractor or owner’s control:

◦                                  Strikes

◦                                  Out of state manufacturer’s shut down.

◦                                  A subcontractor going out of business in the middle of the project.

◦                                  Unusual weather conditions.

  • Owner caused delays for reasons under their control:

◦                                  Scope changes.

◦                                  Limiting contractor’s access to parts of the site.

◦                                  Cash flow.

◦                                  Late processing of contractor’s requests for clarifications and change orders.

◦                                  A higher level political factor that impacted the project’s progress.

  • Personality conflicts between the project’s team.

◦                                  Unfortunately, sometimes this factor results in the team making things difficult on site that cause delays. In this case each party blames the other for the delay.

One of the main steps in the delay analysis is to research the project’s documents to identify causes like the above that delayed the project.  The methodology used to determine the impact of these factors is the heart of the difficulty of this type of analysis. To better understand the level of difficulty involved, please note the following basic concepts that have to be factored in:

  • Critical, non-critical delays and float:

The project activities in a schedule are 2 types, critical and non critical. The non critical activities have certain number of days (float) where the activity can be delayed without delaying the whole project. For example five days float means that the activity can be delayed up to five days without delaying the whole project. The critical activities have zero or less float which means that each delay day will delay the whole project. Determining which activities are critical and non critical depends on the durations and logic of the sequence of activities. Rebuilding the schedule after the fact, determining which activities are critical and which ones are non critical and establishing the logic, which usually changes through the project, takes a highly technical research of the documents. Some assumptions and judgments may have to be taken during the analysis.

  • Excusable and non-excusable delays

Excusable delays simply mean delays at no fault to the contractor. In this case a time extension is owed to the contractor.  Non-excusable delays are delays due to the contractor’s fault. A detailed revision of the contract’s terms and conditions is critical to properly classify the type of each delay identified in the analysis.

  • Compensable and non-compensable delays

Compensable delays are delays where the delayed party is owed money to compensate for the loss due to the delay. Non-compensable delay is a delay where a time extension is owed but no compensation is owed to the delayed party. For example, some contracts specify that delays due to reasons beyond the control of the owner and the contractor are delays where a time extension is granted but no compensation is paid to the delayed party. A good understanding of the contract terms is critical to the expert analyzing the delay claim.

  • Concurrent Delays

Some analysts simply list the delays, calculate the number of days for each delay, add them up and claim the total as the total number of delay days. Well, that is far from being an accurate analysis. The timing of each of these delays is important. We may have three delay causes that occurred during overlapping time periods or within the same period. The schedule and the actual site events have to be examined at the start date of each one of these delays to analyze its impact. We may find that only one of the three concurrent delays had an impact on the critical path of the project. After plugging that in the updated schedule, we can find out the new completion date of the whole schedule.

About Jamil Soucar

Jamil Soucar is a practicing and consulting general contractor, which includes expertise in Civil Engineering and has been in construction industry since 1983. He is a Certified Construction Manager by CMAA and holds a Certificate in Project Management from UCLA. His specialty is managing public works construction including schools, libraries, community centers and other commercial projects. His background includes private projects like singe family homes, restaurants and retail. He has done civil and structural design in the past, working on grading plans, surveys, subdivision maps, sewer, storm drain and street improvement. He has also prepared and taught several construction management training classes covering topics such as construction management, contract administration, change orders, logs, claims, principles of CPM scheduling, delay analysis and other relevant topics of interest to construction managers. Expert witness and article contributor for

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