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Success Tips for Building Construction Projects

  1. Remember the Golden Rule. He who has the gold makes the rules. Payment is your leverage to ensure the performance, timeliness and quality you expect.


  2. Include everything you want or may need in the contract. Without a contract it is difficult to get exactly what you want without costly Change Orders. Prepare for the unexpected. Include incentives for early completion and penalties for delays.


  3. Check references and referrals. Ask for references and the names of their best competitors.


  4. Start Commissioning at the beginning of the design phase. Commissioning is the only proven way to realize and verify that you are getting what you paid for. Catching problems early in the design phase is much less expensive than changes during construction or repairs afterwards. Earmark ˝ to 2 percent of the total construction cost for commissioning activities.


  5. Be explicit about building performance. Specify seemingly obvious comfort matters such as light levels, temperature, ventilation, noise, and humidity. Set a utility budget and ask for an estimate of future electric, gas, and water bills. Be clear about how much or little maintenance you expect the building to need.


  6. Be frank about durability. A warranty is nothing more than an insurance policy in the event your best efforts fail. Tell the designer how long you expect building systems to last. At a minimum include the roof (20 years), the air conditioning system (12 years), floor coverings (5 years), doors (20 years), and light fixtures (12 years).


  7. Ask for proof of bonding and insurance. Have the insurance companies send you a copy of certificates directly. Include Liability and "Errors & Omissions" insurance for architects and engineers. Require a performance bond.


  8. Leave yourself an "out" at each project stage. Require that the project be reviewed and accepted at each major milestone. These include "design concept" or "10% design drawings", "30% design drawings", "Ready-to-bid plans and specs", regular job-site progress inspections, the "testing, adjusting and balancing report", and a "building performance test."


  9. Negotiate mark-ups, hourly rates, and fees instead of negotiating the total cost of a project or the cost per square foot. Using lower quality materials and spending less time is one way to reduce the total project cost, and the building’s value. Ask for and discuss rate and fee schedules. Be clear about the performance and services you expect, and the rates and fees you believe to be reasonable. Virtually no one will labor weekends ‘on the house’ in order to give you a lower price, especially in today’s strong economy.


  10. Use progress payments. Only pay for work that has been accomplished to date, plus materials stored on site, less a 10 percent retainer. Remember the golden rule, be fair and firm, and never pay for more than what you can justify. As long as you have the gold, you can make the rules.

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