Resolve to Set Construction Project Expectations Early and Often in 2012

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As we enter 2012 expectations for the new year are in all of our thoughts.  The best laid plans are made and possibilities seem endless.  New Year’s resolutions will be made (and possibly broken).

As a construction attorney here in Virginia, if I could ask contractors and subcontractors to make (and keep) one resolution for 2012 it would be to set expectations for a construction project before, during and after the project.  More construction claims and lawsuits arise out of poorly managed expectations for the project.  Everything from a poor explanation of the costs and benefits of green building to the simple failure to draft a solid contract with a well defined scope of work can lead to claims and conflicts that can only make attorneys happy.

Contractors (and even subcontractors and suppliers) must manage expectations through education of those “upstream” of them on the job site to avoid shock on the part of those with the money.  Such education takes many forms, I’ve listed several key ones  here (you will notice that many are are the same things that we lawyers love to see in contracts).

  • A solid contract with a well defined scope of work.
  • Written Change Orders!
  • A pre-construction “educational” meetings
  • Consistent communication throughout the project with status updates, etc.
  • Resolving issues as close to their occurrence as possible
  • E-mail confirmations of field changes
  • Payment “reminder” letters

Setting realistic and understandable expectations for a project, and reinforcing them on a regular basis throughout, keeps all of the players in a commercial or residential construction project on the same page.  Following these relatively simple steps will keep expectations in line and avoid most issues on a construction job site.

I hope you have a great 2012.  Resolving to keep expectations and reality in line during construction will help.

I am happy to hear any other items that should be added to the above list in a comment or e-mail.

As always, I welcome your comments below.  Please subscribe to keep up with this and other Construction Law Musings.

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6 Responses to Resolve to Set Construction Project Expectations Early and Often in 2012
  1. [...] contractors and (yes) construction attorneys come in.  The key to any construction project is proper expectations that are regularly updated throughout the project.  The earlier the owner is educated as to the cost, materials, feasibility and time frame of the [...]

  2. [...] contractors and (yes) construction attorneys come in.  The key to any construction project is proper expectations that are regularly updated throughout the project.  The earlier the owner is educated as to the cost, materials, feasibility and time frame of the [...]

  3. Construction Network
    April 10, 2012 | 1:25 PM

    Chris- I agree! Setting expectations both before and after the project is essential. Great tips!

  4. [...] a huge proponent of early access to a lawyer that knows a construction contract can assure that expectations among the parties are aligned up front.  I recommend that you read both Viewpoints and the comments to [...]

  5. […] orders can and should be set within the terms of that contract. The contract is the document that sets the expectations for the parties.  It is a document where you and the other construction business (whether GC, subcontractor or […]

  6. […] scope of work- Without the proper detail in the scope of work, the parties cannot properly set expectations and know what happens when things […]

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About Musings

I am a construction lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, a LEED AP, and have been nominated by my peers to Virginia's Legal Elite in Construction Law on multiple occasions. I provide advice and assistance with mechanic's liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.

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