Issues around Construction Communication

As a general contractor a few years ago, I was working on a tenant improvement project. One day I remember starting the demo on a wall. We took off the drywall and found out that there were all kinds of wires and pipes running through it. These did not show up on the drawings. So, I took some photos, wrote an RFI attached the photos to the document and sent it to the architect noting its urgent status. Then I waited, not knowing if he had even received the RFI. I called and left a voice message—and waited some more. Eventually I received a response to the RFI, but not without losing time sending and following up on the RFI.

While we don’t always encounter projects that require significant mid-stream alterations, there are nearly always questions that must be submitted, tracked, resolved and ultimately incorporated into the project. Because of the environment we work in, there are procedures to be followed, communication channels to be adhered to and processes that need to happen to keep things legal and everyone properly informed. In addition to the initial question, there is usually additional correspondence, drawings, sketches, submittals, email discussions, sub and vendor input, design team input, owner input, pricing and other information. This can be quite a pile of “stuff” to keep track of. All of these items, whether in an RFI, ASI, or other communication create an issue.

Some issues are easier to resolve than others, but for the ones that are more complex, involve multiple disciplines or take a while to resolve, it’s important to have an easy way to check on status. A lot of contractors track these issues in an Excel spreadsheet. While Excel is great, it takes time and energy to keep current. Do you have a quick way of finding all of your outstanding issues? Do you have a process for organizing, storing and attaching all supporting documentation for an issue?

Some, if not most issues revolve around document management and project team communication. Without good document management, you may lose emails, plans, sketches and correspondence related to the issue. Obviously, this can result in costly errors. In an ideal world, you should be able to search for an issue and see all of the supporting documents for that issue—without having to do multiple searches through files, folders and emails. What happens if one sketch or specification change affects multiple issues? How do you track that and how do you make sure that all issues have current information?

Do you have any tips or tricks for tracking issues? Let me know what your method is by commenting below.

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