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Fast-track construction requires communication

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by Pat Nolan

SBJ Contributing Writer

Fast tracking a building project need not cost any more than an ordinary construction job, and in terms of use running your business in the new space it can save you money, said Bill Killian, chief executive officer of the Killian Group of Companies.

"We had one owner that told us the advantage (of fast tracking) was worth $30,000 a day," Killian said.

Fast tracking is a way to reduce the time line of traditional construction methods. Larry Phillips, a partner with Pellham-Phillips-Hagerman Architects-Engineers, said, "You can set a project in place faster than with a traditional design-bid plan."

The time is saved because construction begins while the architects are still designing the building.

Berg Industrial describes the fast track process on its Web site,

www.bergind.com/designbuild.html.

"On a fast track project, the owner, engineer and contractor work as a team from project conception to project completion," reads the Berg Industrial site. "Together they establish design and construction criteria within a budget established at the outset of the project."

This means the contractor is usually brought in when the architect is hired, Killian said. A fair fee for the contractor's services is frequently negotiated prior to start of the project. The ordinary model of construction calls for the owner to work with the architect then the engineer and so on until the plans are complete, then he bids the project out to a contractor and begins construction.

Killian said that method can take up to a year or longer to complete some projects. The fast-tracking method brings the contractor in early and begins construction before the final plans are finished.

For example, Killian said, his company started grading the ground at Chateau on the Lake prior to having the detail drawings.

"I think we shaved 6 months (off the construction time)," Killian said. "There is some risk because when the owner starts the project, he doesn't know what the final cost is going to be. We broke ground with a grading plan."

Phillips agreed that time was saved by fast-tracking Chateau on the Lake.

"Mr. Hammons was obviously anxious to get in there, rent some rooms and do some business," Phillips said.

Some owners fast-tracking a project will also accelerate the construction process, which increases the cost of construction, Phillips said. When there are several crews working in shifts to complete a building, the costs will go up. However, fast-tracking doesn't necessarily mean that it will cost more.

The need to keep the costs of fast-tracking under control is one reason Killian advises recruiting an experienced team. "Fast tracking, in my opinion, should not lead to an increase in the cost of a project," Killian said. "It is important to choose a contractor that has a history of managing successful jobs this way."

Phillips agreed. "Fast-track design is best left to those with quite a bit of experience in the field. It takes an experienced team to fast-track. You have make the right decisions the first time."

Communicating needs and requirements is necessary throughout the process, both men said.

"Architects design buildings from the roof down. Once we get to the foundations, then the contractor can get started building them," Phillips said. "Input from the contractor is important in making the most economical decisions for the owner."

The only way fast-tracking works well is to keep the lines of communication between the designer, owner and contractor open and clear, Phillips said.

Killian agreed. "Communication is the key to fast tracking," he said.[[In-content Ad]]

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