7 Issues that Can Derail a Commercial Construction Project

An excavator scooping gravel on a construction site.

A commercial construction project functions like an ecosystem. There are hundreds of individual components, individuals, and decisions that can affect each part of the process. If something goes awry, such as long lead times or unexpected delays, the overall timeline can be impacted. While project delays can stem from a wide variety of root causes, there are a few common issues that can derail a construction project. 

At Crain, we’ve navigated nearly every possible issue that could derail a new construction or renovation project. After completing more than 4,000 projects, we’ve also learned how to anticipate and avoid these obstacles. In most cases, the issues that cause delays can be addressed and even prevented by making the right decision in the pre-construction phase of the project schedule. If unexpected issues do arise, we work quickly and creatively to address them. 

7 Issues that Can Derail a Commercial Construction Project  

Here are the most common issues that can derail a project, along with insights and best practices we’ve learned along the way:

1. Inadequate Planning 

In most cases, poor execution stems from poor planning. But commercial construction planning goes beyond setting the budget and project schedule. It includes identifying potential risks, developing site-specific safety plans, establishing contingency plans, coordinating site logistics, and lining up a procurement plan based on the realities of the current market. 

At Crain, we’ve found that working alongside clients during pre-construction is incredibly helpful in ensuring the overall success of a construction project. In addition to using our expertise to navigate potential issues, we also take the time to ask important questions before we start a project. We also make sure all of the key stakeholders are aligned on the overall vision and goals.

2. Poor Communication 

Communication is an important tool in any profession, but it’s especially important when there are million-dollar decisions being made, and work is delegated amongst various parties. A lack of clarity between stakeholders or unspoken expectations around project communication can lead to frustration for everyone involved in a project.

​Fostering open communication and candid discussions that seek to identify solutions and remove barriers is the best way to keep a project moving. We recognize that relationships matter — so we cultivate communication with owners, architects, and all the subcontractors we hire for a project. 

3. Environmental Permitting or Foundation Challenges 

Every property needs a safe and reliable foundation, but commercial buildings have more at stake. Environmental and structural issues like unsuitable soil or hazardous conditions can increase the cost of a project and push back the completion date. While you might not be able to control the type of soil your project is built upon, you can take action to minimize or prevent foundation issues.

As a contractor who is committed to serving Central Tennessee, it’s important for us to know how the environmental factors that are specific to our area impact commercial construction.

4. Long Lead Times on Materials

Procuring building materials and preferred finishes has become a significant challenge across the globe. Supply shortages and shipping delays have created longer lead times on everything from structural beams to electrical switchgear. Without proper planning, a project can be delayed while waiting on materials that need to be installed.

At Crain, our team has worked incredibly hard to navigate these challenges and mitigate the risk of supply chain delays. For example, when it came time to procure materials for the Ferrari Dealership project, our team proactively purchased important items and developed multiple contingency plans to obtain necessary materials overseas.

5. Unexpected Obstacles and Unforeseen Issues

In a perfect world, we could anticipate every obstacle or challenge, but that’s not always possible in the construction industry. Sometimes, issues arise that are outside of our foreknowledge and control. Anything from a natural disaster or job site accident could impact a construction project. 

When unexpected challenges arise, it’s important to embrace new and creative ideas. For example, during the construction of the Element Hotel in Nashville, COVID-19 slowed permitting. Then, the Christmas Day bombing kept inspectors occupied assessing building and elevator damage on 2nd Avenue. Rather than sitting around, our team found creative ways to obtain inspection approvals so that we could finalize the project. 

6. Permit Delays or Code Violations 

Many times, permit and building code representatives get a bad rap. In a city like Nashville, the employees in the permit department are bombarded with more requests than ever before. In addition, building codes constantly evolve, and contractors and employees must keep up with these changes. Failure to anticipate challenges or understand current code requirements could create delays in your project. 

Crain is proud of the relationships we’ve developed with city officials and the various departments in Nashville. Over the years, we’ve found multiple ways to ensure codes are met without delaying projects. For example, while constructing the Chelsea condos in Midtown, we developed creative nighttime and off-peak traffic hour lane closures to be respectful to neighbors and area workers.

7. Previous Defective Work

New construction isn’t the only type of project susceptible to delays. Delays can also happen during renovations. The most common issues include outdated or obsolete electrical systems, hazardous materials, concealed code violations, and defective work left from earlier projects. Each of these can impact a project and must be addressed quickly and accurately. 

As a company with experience constructing several adaptive reuse projects across Nashville, we’ve learned how to navigate the challenges of renovation. For instance, we were able to shore up the structure and bring the building up to code for Acme Feed & Seed. We also removed old mechanical equipment on the Fairlane Hotel project. In varying circumstances, we’ve learned how to assess and address common issues during renovation.   


We Can Help You Set Up and Execute Your Next Successful Project

When it comes to commercial construction projects, time is usually of the essence. Completing the project in a timely manner can be critical to the owner who has commissioned it, and construction delays can have a major impact on operations and profitability. As we work to be a partner for our clients, we want to do everything we can to ensure a successful project. 

Connect with our team to learn more about our approach or discuss your next project.

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