Mystery Schedules

Schedules of expected operations and mileposts for a job being estimated are increasingly important for many tasks, not the least of which is assuring that the company’s assets are used wisely. This is especially true as projects grow in volume and costs, while allowed construction time is decreased, and the competition grows.

When reviewing the bid documents such as the general and special conditions, the length of time for a project is an important piece of information to consider. As an example, if a project’s timeline were indicated to be 180 days, some estimators may consider that to be a six-month period. Using calendar days is not always accurate.

More realistic is the schedule based on actual workdays. There’s more like 240 days per year, based on 52 five-day work weeks and reducing that sum 10 holidays and 10 days of vacation or miscellaneous down days per year.

Many IBEW pension trusts base a year on 1,750 hours per year, which translates to 109 days of actual work for a six-month period. The value used should be based on prior experience. It’s important that a realistic approach is used.

Liquidated damages are financial penalties assessed against a contractor when, in the owner’s or general contractor’s opinion, the contractor fails to meet the project schedule. These damages can be unilateral, unrelated and totally unrealistic. Some can be avoided, but it’s important that a schedule take into account the financial effect of such damages. With a schedule prepared for calculating crew sizes and attached to the estimate documents, mileposts can be compared. If the delay is caused by something other than the electrical contractor, then specific notes should be taken about the delay and its cause for possible claims activity or to defend against enforcement of liquidated damages.

The schedule depends on the construction methodology used at the construction site. As an example, consider the construction of a six-story building to be used for a university science building. The building has a poured-in-place concrete center core for the utilities and elevators and two wings. The “normal” construction expected would be that the center core would be constructed at the outset of the project, with the wings following. When the project was actually constructed, the wings were built first and then the center core. There was no schedule provided by the general contractor prior to bid time, so the sub-contractors had no warning of the unusual construction process. This obvious case of considerable cost overrun (associated with the unusual schedule) started a long claims process.

Producing a realistic schedule requires experience in construction and some knowledge of the general contractors expected to bid the project. The schedule also needs to consider the firm’s ability to meet any schedule expected of the overall project.

Although always a cost concern in an estimate, and especially so since Sept. 11, 2001, security time constraints must be considered in the schedule. Increasingly, work sites have become more security conscious with the resulting changing procedures. The procedures used to assure security should be an important topic when the estimator goes on the job walk. A reasonable time frame has to be built into the schedule especially if the task is one that can take several days per employee.

Along with security concerns, the location of the work site must also be taken into account. The length of time it take for crews to get from the site entry, or the point at which the hourly wages go into effect at the actual work station is a cost item that will vary with the site. In particular, downtown sites can be difficult for work crews as well as material deliveries and must be considered in any schedule prepared for the estimate.

There are additional important concerns such as the ready availability of a predictable labor base. The effects of weather on the project schedule is another concern, especially in geographic areas where the weather has been know to cause construction delays. Of considerable concern are the financial impacts of a misinformed schedule. These topics will be covered in next month’s column. EC

DAVID is a professor of electrical technology at Long Beach City College, Calif., a consultant and an expert witness. He can be reached at 562.597.1877 or by e-mail at


About the Author

Eric David

Freelance Writer
Eric David is a professor of electrical technology at Long Beach (Calif.) City College, a consultant and an expert witness. He can be reached at 562.597.1877 or at .

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