What to Look For in Your Scheduling Specifications
As the plans for a new construction project start to solidify, much attention is paid to the development and maintenance of a CPM schedule. Unfortunately, the contractual obligations detailed in the scheduling specifications are sometimes overlooked in the rush to finalize a plan and move forward with the execution of the project in earnest. For any project, identification of the relevant contract sections or clauses pertaining to CPM scheduling is a key first step on the road to a usable project planning tool. Some of the details to keep an eye out for in scheduling specifications are discussed further below.
Many commercial and institutional building construction projects in North America adhere to the MasterFormat 2012, a publication of the Construction Specifications Institute and a standard for organizing scheduling specifications. Within this standard, Section 013200 is dedicated to Construction Progress Documentation, which could include, but is not limited to, provisions regarding the timing of the issuance of the baseline schedule, specific scheduling software requirements, and essential details regarding phasing and milestones. Whether the contract is based on a published scheduling specification standard or not, a thorough review of the contract will illuminate the path to creating a CPM schedule that is appropriate for the project at hand.
Timing and Scheduling Software
In most cases, a formal schedule specification will provide a requirement for the timing of issuance of a baseline CPM schedule. Typically, this is referenced as a number of days from the contract Notice of Award or a Letter of Intent. Additionally, a scheduling specification may require that a specific scheduling software application be used in the development and maintenance of the electronic schedule. Currently, the Primavera scheduling software products, be it the legacy P3 or newer P6 applications, are the most commonly required by construction contracts. Whether the specifications require Primavera, Microsoft Project, or another software package, it is important to confirm whether the project management team has access to the required software and has the in-house capability to properly execute the scheduling scope. It is common for the native electronic schedule files to be shared between the general contractor and owner, so abiding by the software requirements is important. Some scheduling specifications may also require the use of a qualified outside consultant to prepare and maintain the CPM schedule, which may need to be factored into the bid estimate.
Phasing and Milestones
The execution of complex construction projects may require the implementation of phased work, either due to physical constraints, such as maintaining utilized spaces or advancing weather sensitive work, or due to preferential concerns, such as resource management and owner requests. Frequently, the inclusion of these phasing details, along with the associated phase durations and conformity with contract milestone dates, is usually stipulated within the scheduling specification section. The ability to manage risks stemming from liquidated damages and/or early completion bonuses starts with the ability to identify, plan, and schedule the required scopes of work in line with the prescribed phasing and milestones.
Some scheduling specifications require an integrated baseline schedule with cost loading (based on the contract value of individual activities) or resource loading (based on the manpower or quantities required), which allows for more sophisticated tracking of progress over time. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in its publication ER 1-1-11 Administration – Progress, Schedules, and Network Analysis Systems, as well as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in its Master Construction Specifications, Section 01 32 16.13 Network Analysis Schedules, call for the inclusion of cost and/or resource loading for construction activities. Although incorporation of this level of detail into the electronic schedule can be a time consuming up-front process, this information can ultimately be used to assess the feasibility of the plan and can be analyzed and parsed throughout the project for various reporting purposes.
The scheduling party – whether it is the general contractor or the scheduling consultant acting on behalf of the lead contractor – is usually obligated to coordinate with the other prime contractors (on a multi-prime contractor project) or essential subcontractors (on a single-prime contractor project) to appropriately detail schedule activities for their respective scopes. The goal of this coordination effort is to capture activities, durations, and construction logic, as well as anticipated means and methods in executing the project from award through final completion. Many scheduling specifications recommend attendance at a scheduling conference or pre-construction meeting to facilitate this effort. The opportunity for key stakeholders to have reasonable input into the development of the schedule can assist in the development of a reliable baseline schedule.
Once a baseline CPM schedule has been developed and agreed upon by the project management team, the focus will switch to the regular updating and maintenance of the project schedule. Just as I have discussed some of the typical requirements outlined by a scheduling specification for a baseline schedule, similar requirements are usually stipulated for regular, periodic schedule updates. Timing of these submissions, usually on a weekly or monthly basis, is a common request. The specification can also provide detail regarding the requirements for specific schedule reports, tabular reports related to resources and earned values, as well as the request for an associated schedule narrative. These regular schedule updates and reports can contribute greatly to keeping all stakeholders apprised of project status and can be just as valuable as the baseline schedule in traversing the hazards of a construction project.
Besides the handful of details outlined above, scheduling specifications have much more to offer when it comes to the requirements of planning and scheduling. While these contract clauses are often overlooked and compliance varies from project to project, it is these very details which have the potential to reduce common misunderstandings during project execution. A considerate review of the scheduling specifications and related contract documents is not just an academic exercise, but a practice that can clarify the requirements of the project schedule and the scheduler, facilitate the coordination and phasing of work, and contribute to avoiding common project issues and disputes.