How to Improve Communication in Construction Estimating


A profitable construction project starts with an accurate and precise estimation.

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We discuss the challenge of communication in construction and how the right process can make your projects faster and more effective. But if you want to skip to the tech – check out our recent guide to the best construction job costing tools and software

Good communication in construction might seem pretty self-explanatory. But the reality is that many a project has blown its budget because information hasn’t been passed to the right people in the right way at the right time. 

Here’s the challenge: In an industry with so many different stakeholders and companies, it can be difficult to understand where information needs to travel. 

So, how do you define lines of communication? How can you avoid missing important updates - or else waiting so long to find out that the damage is already done? 

Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. 

Poor communication in action

Let’s pretend you’re working on a residential project. Should be fairly run-of-the-mill, you think. After all, you’re not exactly the first person in history to build a 3-bedroom house. 

But, of course, the devil is in the details and poor communication can send even the most seemingly straightforward projects flying off the rails. Little do you know, the client wants a very specific custom-made kitchen cabinet, which wasn’t properly outlined at the start of the project. 

And by ‘not properly outlined’, we mean: ‘mentioned as an off-hand comment in the twentieth entry of an unnecessarily long email thread’, which let’s be real, the contractor was never going to pay much attention to. 

It’s some weeks into the project before the client realises. By now, it’s too late and the non-custom cabinets have long since been fitted. 

So here we have a dilemma. The problem is the client and contractor didn’t agree a clear method of communication at the start of the project. And to be fair to the client, they did let the contractor know before building started – albeit in the most infuriatingly unhelpful way possible. 

Now the options are 1) Let the client down, or 2) Delay the project by starting again. It’s not clear who’s fault it is or who’s going to pay for it. Only one thing is for sure: The client really wants those cabinets. 

The challenge of poor communication

“Bad communication ruins projects. Period. I can’t tell you how many times timelines and budgets have been blown by a simple inability to deliver information to the right people. Outlining expectations and defining modes of communication at the start of the project can make a huge difference. And even if they don’t listen, the worst-case scenario means your back is covered.”

Danny Mitchell, Archdesk Head of Content and former Construction Estimator

Poor communication lies at the heart of so many issues in construction, causing: 

  • Confusion
  • Unnecessary delays
  • Frustration
  • Budget overruns
  • Safety issues
  • Stakeholder frustration
  • Damaged client relationship

Let’s return to the cabinet example for just a moment. There are two reasons that poor communication makes it so difficult to keep projects on track. The first is obvious: The client got the wrong cabinets and they’re not delighted about it. Putting that right requires delays, pushbacks and construction budget overruns. 

But communication also plays a key role in accountability. If the contractor had established a clearer process for requests, it would obviously not be their fault. The client would then have to decide whether to pay for the change order or live a life of near-abject misery with their sub-par kitchen cabinets. In short, it’s their problem. 

But without that process, it’s not clear who’s at fault. That could mean unnecessary arguments, further confusion and ultimately, the contractor picking up a bill they probably shouldn’t have to. If that doesn’t convince you to clear up your comms, then nothing well. So how do you get it right? 

How to achieve effective communication in construction estimating

We now know why clear communication in the construction industry is so important. But how do you get it right? It all starts with ensuring everybody is on the same page at the start of the project. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Set clear communication processes

Clear communication processes can make a huge difference to both your original estimates and the later project. Whether its drawings, specs, construction change orders or ad-hoc requests, all stakeholders need to be on the same page about how, where and through which mediums you’ll communicate. Make good use of your contracts to lay out these processes – and leave no room for debate. 

  • Create a comms chain of command 

It’s also important to be clear about who is responsible for telling what to whom. Who does the architect need to report design modifications to? Who’s in charge of change orders? What happens if the contractor needs to clarify details? 

With a definitive answer to these questions, it’ll become much easier to avoid disputes and keep track of what’s happening. 

  • Choose the right communication methods

Whatever communication method you choose, it’s vital that everybody’s on the same page. For construction change orders or other requests, you might require a particular document to be filled out and sent to a dedicated email address. You could also use instant messaging groups or the built-in communication features of specialist project management tools. Either way, clarity is the enemy of confusion.

  • Report, report, report

Regular reporting is the lifeblood of any construction project. At key milestones, it’s important to review the estimates against your actual spend, including any change orders, to see whether you’re on track and within the construction budget. 

Crucially, this information needs to be shared with project owners, contractors and accountants – so everybody can agree a way forward. And though you might be tempted to keep your cards close to your chest, it’s always good to share as much information with the client as possible. If they’re going to hear bad news, it’s best to hear it from you first. 

  • Check, audit and train 

There’s no good having a process that nobody follows. To avoid this, hold regular training sessions so everybody’s clear on the processes you’ve set. It’s also important to hold regular checks to make sure the process is being followed. To do that, go over all the communications of your project to check whether:

  1. Information is flowing to the right sources and through the right channels.
  2. Documents are accurate and adequately convey information.
  3. Regular meetings are taking place between stakeholders.
  4. The client is satisfied with the detail and frequency of updates.
  • Define your project scope

You and the client need to be on the same page about what’s doable within the time and budget specified. If they change their mind, or really want some fancy cabinets, they need to be clear on who’s going to pay (them). Make sure to outline clear project specifications at the start of the project and include a detailed scope of work or similar document to codify this agreement. 

  • Be clear and factual 

This one speaks for itself, but it’s always worth recapping. The words you choose make a massive difference to how clearly you’re understood and the quality of the relationship with the other person. 

There’s no point communicating regularly if you waffle and talk rubbish. So, make sure to talk clearly and succinctly. 

The right tech for the job

It won’t be news to you that construction projects are infamously complex, involving many moving parts. That means keeping track of every construction change order and quick clarification can be a minefield without the right software. 

Luckily, tools like Archdesk can make this much easier. Here’s how: 

  • Record all phone calls with high-quality audio, so you can maintain a detailed record of all conversations. 
  • Associate calls and SMS messages with specific clients, giving you a top-down overview of all correspondences. 
  • Receive alerts and smart notifications, so you never miss important messages or fail to resolve urgent issues.
  • Use integrated reporting, which makes it much easier to equip key stakeholders with the information they need.  

Archdesk makes construction communication a breeze. Give it a try today

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  • What are the communication types in construction?

Communication in the construction industry can take place through conversation, email, instant messaging or documents. Make sure you have a clear process for how, when, to whom, and through which channels communication should take place. 

  • What is the problem of communication in construction?

Poor communication in construction can lead to project delays, uncertainty, frustration, safety issues and construction budget overruns. It’s important to lay clear lines of communication, including which channels to follow, which documents to use, who to communicate with and at what intervals. 

  • What is good communication in construction?

Good communication in construction follows established processes. It should be clear which stakeholders are responsible for what, which channels to communicate through and what processes to follow for common challenges like change requests.

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2024-04-16 01:44:00