By: R. Burns Logan, Esq.
LLOYD, GRAY, WHITEHEAD & MONROE, P.C.
One of the easiest and most successful ways you can limit your risk on any construction project is to have a pre-construction meeting. We work with several clients who conduct regular pre-construction meetings and it has lead to an overall increase in project efficiencies, decrease in work-related accidents, and, ultimately, larger project profits. As such, we encourage all our construction clients to conduct a pre-construction meeting for every project.
Who Should Be Involved in the Pre-Construction Meeting?
Your pre-construction meeting should include the relevant managers and upper level stakeholders within your company involved in the project. This varies with each project, but below is a list of personnel which should likely be involved:
1) Project Executive;
2) Project Manager;
3) Project Superintendent;
4) Safety Manager;
5) Legal Counsel;
6) Human Resource Manager;
7) Procurement Manager;
8) Project Accountant;
9) Bonding Manager; and
10) Chief Estimator.
Each of these parties should determine the top issues they believe will affect their scope of responsibilities on this particular project. Ideally, each participant will identify four or five issues each to discuss. However, on some large projects, there may be a significant number of other issues to discuss pre-construction.
For example, the Safety Manager may want to discuss any fall hazards or excavating issues particular to this site. The Procurement Manager may want to discuss how purchasing on this project may be consolidated with other projects to increase purchasing power. The idea is that everyone gets a chance to think through the best ways to make the project successful.
Legal Issues to Discuss at Pre-Construction Meeting
I have seven (7) things which I routinely discuss at pre-construction meetings. The point of this discussion is to focus the day-to-day project management team on the relevant legal issues and what they can do to resolve legal issues before they spin out of control. Like with all other disciplines, there are other issues that may be considered on each particular project, but below are my primary discussion points:
1) Change order provisions. Be sure you understand what your contract says about how, when, and what a change order request can include. It is imperative that issues related to potential change orders be identified quickly and decisively in order to ensure you get paid. This could mean everything from the proper procedure for documenting design changes to managing changes for unknown conditions.
2) Damages for delay issues. Almost every construction project runs into schedule challenges which must be overcome. Many of these challenges are faced successfully simply because the parties knew beforehand how to comply with their contract. If there are weather delays or design delays, the project team needs to know exactly what needs to be documented and in what time frame.
3) Liquidated damages clause. Everyone on the project needs to know what the liquidated damages clause includes. This will guide business decisions regarding whether to request change orders or possibly to accelerate the schedule of the work when needed.
4) Time and money for concealed conditions. The parties need to understand, especially at the pre-construction stage, what the contractor’s rights are related to concealed conditions. Often when sub-grade work is being performed, quick decisions need to be made about how to address unforeseen issues. If the parties understand what their obligations are when these issues arise, the process can move much more quickly.
5) Who is responsible for informing of design defects and other issues. Many construction contracts require contractors and subcontractors to identify design defects which they recognize on a project. If your project team recognizes a design defect, it needs to know what should be done immediately to remedy this issue. Design defects which are ignored by the project team create huge problems down the road when systems do not work or the building does not meet the owner’s expectations.
6) Notice requirements. All project personnel need to know what, when, and how to provide notice on a project. This is by far the best way to avoid construction lawsuits on your project. The notice provision is intended to give all parties reasonable facts surrounding potential claims and issues so that the parties can come together and attempt to create a resolution which is acceptable to everyone. If you do not provide proper notice, this cannot happen.
7) Timetable for responding to RFIs and Submittals. Oftentimes, the construction schedule is impacted by delays related to Requests for Information and Submittals. The project team needs to have a solid system in place which takes into account the particular contract specifics to deal with these issues.
On my blog, I have provided a “Pre-Construction Meeting Legal Worksheet” you can quickly go through with your project team to discuss these particular issues. See the legal worksheet here: Pre-Construction Meeting Legal Worksheet
Pre-construction meetings are one of the most effective ways you can manage risks on your project. Enrolling the help of your project teams at the beginning of the project will help identify issues and sidestep traps that are inherent in every construction project.
R. Burns Logan, Attorney At Law
LLOYD, GRAY, WHITEHEAD & MONROE, P.C.
a: 2501 Twentieth Place South / Suite 300 / Birmingham, AL 35223
This article is published in ConstructionRisk.com Report, Vol. 16, No. 6 (June 2014).
Copyright 2014, ConstructionRisk, LLC