Change Orders and How They Affect Your Project

Posted by HJT Design

Change orders are the one constant that we can always count on. Changes can occur for a multitude of reasons, whether it’s due to unforeseen discoveries, technical issues, personal choices, etc. Whatever the cause or reason is for the change, it will definitely have effects (either big or small) on the project’s budget and schedule; therefore, to minimize change orders, communications, coordination, and collaboration between all stakeholders must be a constant occurrence.

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Even with something as simple as a relocation of a door, an immediate domino effect is created, and this seemingly small change affects much more than the door alone. The proposed door relocation may affect not just the building systems (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and at the extreme, the structure) but also building code compliancy, traffic patterns, and overall form and function affecting the overall flow and efficiency of the practice.

When there is a proposed change, the architect and engineers review and analyze the change and how this change will affect everything else. The best team members to ascertain and determine the potential impacts on the design and building systems is the architect and engineers. It’s extremely important to make sure that the architects are the first to be informed and involved with any potential changes every single step of the way so they can review, advise, coordinate, and provide necessary supporting documentation as well as ensure that the information is flowing in the right directions and to the appropriate team members.

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Who is Responsible for Covering the Cost?

● If due to an unforeseen discovery, such as buried or undocumented utilities, the project owner is responsible for the added costs.

● If due to and originated from the owners wanting changes to the design, after the construction contract has been awarded, such as moving walls and switching materials, then the burden of added cost would be on the project owners.

● If due to and/or originated from the contractor wanting to make substitutions, or not able to acquire the specified equipment or materials, the burden of added costs would be on the contractor and in warranted instances the owner may receive credits resulting from the change orders.

● In some circumstances change orders are due to code interpretation by the code officials and changes are being directed to satisfy their interpretation requirements, therefore, the burden of added costs would be on the project owners.

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While a change order shouldn’t be automatically viewed as bad or costly, mismanaging it is. Open communication and coordination early on and throughout the project are the key determining factors in managing and minimizing the number of change orders and their effects on the project’s overall cost and schedule.

Things You Can do to Manage Change Orders

  1. Assign a point of contact team member representing each of the project’s stakeholders and have that individual be responsible and accountable for the flow of information to and from the project team. This will minimize confusion and finger-pointing.
  2. Direct all project technical and design issues to the architect and engineers to get his or her advice and supporting documents on proposed changes to enable the contractor to provide costs for consideration or approval. This is to ensure that everything is properly documented, and agreed upon, such as the scope of the change orders, costs and duration of time required, etc., prior to the contractor giving the approval to carrying out the changes.
  3. Communications for all project related matters should always be in writing and shared with all stakeholders, keeping everyone in the loop well informed and accountable.
  4. Work done, for change orders, prior to being reviewed and approved can become very contentious and difficult to resolve when invoiced after the fact. Therefore, it is very important that the process as stated above be adhered to and be documented and presented for review and approval with sufficient details, regardless how large or small the change order may be.

Your architect and engineer have in depth knowledge and understanding when it comes to the project and construction, so let them sweat the details first, which insulates you from being the go-to person for your contractor, potentially or inadvertently approving changes without having the necessary technical knowledge to make important decisions that may result in less value at higher costs with potential project delays.

In conclusion, Change Orders can be minimized and managed; provided that all project team members follow the prescribed protocols listed above.

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With our years of collective knowledge and experience we have a deep understanding of the functionality and unique needs within the dental industry. We invite you to contact HJT (866) 213-1268 to start the dialogue regarding a plan for your current or new office and how we can implement your unique visions. We look forward to talking with you soon.