Getting to Grips with Accelerated Construction Techniques

Want to expedite your construction project? Here's how to do it.

Cityscape in downtown of Bangkok,Thailand
••• All we do is rush in this field. Prasit photo // Getty Images

Faster, faster! While there can be no skimping on construction quality or standards, the pressure is often on to get buildings built and delivered more quickly. Reasons include:

  • It helps your cash flow, as well as revenue and margins
  • You’re growing your contractor enterprise, and you need to do more business, sooner
  • Customers want to move right now to take advantage of interest rates for financing
  • There is an impact on residents or drivers close by while construction is taking place

    Fortunately, construction can be accelerated in a number of ways.

    Do it right the first time

    Smart construction planning and properly trained workers mean that wasteful rework can be avoided. As the saying goes, if you don’t have the time to do it well now, will you have time to do it over later? Remember that it’s not only the quality of work that is in question. If you fail to organize mandatory building inspections, expect no mercy – you’ll have to undo work to allow missed inspections to take place, then redo it all again.

    Pre-fabricate components

    When buildings can be built from pre-fabricated blocks instead starting with bricks and bags of cement, construction schedules can be drastically shortened. A nine-story apartment building can be put up in five days, for example. Bridges can be put in place with minimal disruption to traffic and cutovers lane by lane for smooth transition from the old to the new.

    Delays caused by bad weather can be eliminated or considerably reduced, because the manufacturing process of the components can take place, come rain or shine.

    Use alternative building materials

    Concrete isn’t the only possibility. Steel constructions are modular and more rapid to put up. They can leave time for design choices to be confirmed and avoid any changes negatively affecting construction schedules or causing rework.

    Further possibilities include reusing materials already available on site (masonry, for instance) and materials that are easily available locally to prevent risks of delivery delays, not mentioning making for a greener project overall.

    Use suitable project management methods

    Agile project management already brings benefits in the pre-construction phase by making construction teams focus on what is needed, rather than any ‘nice to have’ feature. When building gets underway however, other construction project management methods may be more effective in shortening schedules. Critical chain project management (CCPM) is a case in point. It avoids the schedule padding that can go on in critical path methods (CPM) because of uncertainties, and lets construction managers realistically accelerate sequences of activities.

    See it now as it will be later

    CAD modeling applications already help construction teams and managers envisage buildings before they are finished. Understanding a construction as a conceptual whole helps improve scheduling, avoid mistakes and shorten delivery schedules. Other new technologies are also changing the landscape. Augmented reality lets workers see the future as an image superimposed on a view of the construction directly on site, or as video clips superimposed on views of equipment or installation to show them how to accomplish different tasks properly.

    Manage carrots and sticks from your customers

    Some enterprising customers get in on the act with their own versions of accelerated construction techniques. Incentives for finishing ahead of time and penalties for delays are nothing new, but customers continue to show considerable creativity. One example is ‘renting’ traffic lanes to construction companies when those lanes are blocked because of construction work: the sooner the lane is freed up again, the sooner the building enterprise stops paying the ‘rent!’