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Getting the Building You Paid For

Your new building may have problems that won't become obvious until it's too late to fix them. Clearly defined deliverables and construction oversight can minimize the risk of unpleasant surprises.

Jun/Jul 08
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Maximizing Building Value Using Inchstones
To minimize these negative impacts on the building owner, a series of potential indicators can be used at various stages of the project to predict potential scheduling delays. These indicators - or "inchstones" - enable the owner to identify potential delays at points early enough in the schedule to correct and maintain the scheduled dates. We can define inchstones as contractual sub-tasks with associated tangible deliverables, which if not completely implemented will directly or indirectly lead to schedule delays and performance shortfalls. Tracking these deliverables during the project provides a finer degree of scheduling oversight for the building owner and gives the project team notification of potential delays early in the project when corrections can be more easily and inexpensively implemented.

The project deliverables associated with the inchstones are almost always standard components of the contract language in the large projects. However, a review of the specification requirements during the design phase of the project is highly recommended to ensure that all critical inchstones (deliverables) for a project are in place.

Examples of project inchstones during the construction phase of a project can include:

submittal requirement sheets and approval tracking;
• contactor plans (for installation, startup, balancing, training, etc.)
• point-to-point controls checklists;
• startup notification requirements.

All of these documents contain information critical to the proper specification, installation, and performance of equipment, and should be precursors to the proper startup, completion, and acceptance of building systems. Consequently, the lack of these key deliverables at certain points in the project should be an early warning that problems will occur later in the construction cycle. For example, if the schedule indicates that equipment startup is to begin in two weeks, yet no startup plans (the "what, how, and by who" of the startup) have been submitted, it is highly unlikely that the startup will be performed to client expectations or needs. This sets the stage for later equipment problems, project delays, voided warranties, and higher energy and maintenance costs to the owner.

Implementing Inchstone Management
Incorporating inchstones into a construction project is not a major effort. As the previous examples have shown, it's primarily a matter of tracking some key project deliverables. However, making the process work to its potential involves several important steps that the owner should follow:

• Ensure the contract contains the proper inchstones.
• Make your expectations clear to the construction team.
• Collect, organize, and disseminate deliverables.
• Hold the team accountable.

Experience on many projects has shown that any time the owner must occupy a new building before all systems have been completed and checked per contract specifications, the owner will incur a substantial cost to the project in added maintenance, wasted energy, voided warranties, and building reputation. By adding a tracking process for key project deliverables spread throughout the building process, the owner can take an active role in minimizing the likelihood of occupancy before systems are fully completed and tested, and therefore take full advantage of the new building.

Michael Della Barba is the director of commissioning services at Environmental Health & Engineering (EH&E), a Needham, Massachusetts-based environmental consulting and engineering services firm. For additional information, visit

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