Smart Budgeting, Good Communication Keep College Renovations Moving Smoothly

Smart Budgeting, Good Communication Keep College Renovations Moving Smoothly

Last of a 3-part article offering tips on how to keep major education projects on time and on budget

By Michael Beatrice  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Mastering Unique Challenges of College RenovationsPt. 2: Managing Scheduling Concerns During College RenovationPt. 3: This Page

Smart budgeting and good communication are additional major keys to success with college renovations. Here is a closer look at both.


As crucial as meeting deadlines is, it is equally important to stay within the budget. With all projects, particularly renovation projects on college campuses, there is a risk of budget overruns.

As always, it is essential to factor in the costs of all necessities including the temporary requirements such as cranes, personnel lifts, scaffolding, OSHA protection, construction barriers, and so on. It is also necessary to include floating costs into a contractor agreement, as there may be unforeseen situations that may impact the schedule, ultimately impacting the budget. For example, there are times when the construction scheduled for a certain time of day would disrupt the educational atmosphere. To maintain the desired environment, it may be necessary to work off hours or make scheduling adjustments which affect price. To avoid this issue, it’s advisable to team up with an acoustician to perform construction simulations to forecast which construction activities are likely to cause a disruption and plan the scheduling and budgeting accordingly.

Clearly, it is pivotal to prepare with the specifics of the project in mind to predict all potential expenses. Nobody wants budget surprises at the end of a project.

During the work on Chem ’73, the contractors brought any additional costs to the construction management firm’s attention immediately so that they could be brought to the university for approval before moving forward with any work. The relationship established between the construction manager and the university enabled the two parties to work closely to ensure that all extra work was both necessary and performed in the most efficient and cost- effective manner.

The most common issues that require additional costs are due to preexisting conditions that could not have been easily predicted during the design phase. Also, many of the unforeseen cost additions go hand in hand with the unpredicted impacts of scheduling. As modifications are made to the schedule, modifications also are made to cost. Due to the effective efforts of the design team, the Chem ’73 project had few unexpected cost events that originated as errors and omissions from the design process.

A few small steps at the outset can ultimately make a large difference in terms of keeping a project on budget and on schedule. As noted earlier, it’s important to identify possible constraints early and build them into a project schedule. Also, consider including these extra costs in the contractor agreement so the potential accommodations can be reviewed in a competitive environment. Be as proactive as possible in identifying potential changes that affect cost. To reiterate, it’s far better to outline and plan for potential impacts and not need to act on them than to bring up surprises toward the end of the project.

In addition, it is essential to establish a clear policy for handling cost impacts with the contractors, university, and staff.


Despite the hurdles faced during renovations on college campuses, fluid communication among the entire project team can help prevent or minimize the chance of problems arising. In fact, communication is the most powerful tool available for staying on schedule and on budget. The most important point to make is that any success related to a project is a reflection of the entire team’s shared efforts. The Chem ’73 project is a direct result of a team make-up that included the design team, the University of Pennsylvania, construction management personnel, and capable contractors that executed plans effectively and safely.

Michael Beatrice is project manager for Torcon, which was the construction manager for the Chem ’73 renovation at the University of Pennsylvania. Originally part of Torcon’s engineering program, Michael has had hands-on-exposure in a variety of construction management roles in his 11 years with the firm.

PHOTO: The proximity of athletic fields limited times when cranes could be used to replace air handling units for the University of Pennsylvania’s Chem ’73 project.

Continue Reading: Educational Facilities

Mastering Unique Challenges of College Renovations

Managing Scheduling Concerns During College Renovation

Smart Budgeting, Good Communication Keep College Renovations Moving Smoothly

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  posted on 7/23/2015   Article Use Policy

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