The parameters of construction have changed drastically over the past few years, and it’s only natural that these changes have been reflected in how the work is completed. Technological advancements provide industry professionals with the tools to boost efficiency and, as a result, have helped to speed construction using innovative approaches.

The impact of the COVID-19 virus on businesses and communities has made stimulating the economy an important focus. As the country moves through phased re-openings, many construction projects are either delayed or just restarting due to provincial guidelines. However, given the right criteria, fast tracking construction can help realign these projects with their original schedules and budgets.

What is fast tracking?

Fast tracking is a construction methodology that can help shorten the overall project schedule. This is achieved by overlapping a project’s programming, procurement, design, and construction phases, so that some of the work can be done concurrently rather than waiting for all design work to be done before construction begins.

Applicable to nearly any project, fast tracking is used most often when private or public sector projects have pre-determined or demanding timelines, including those in the municipal, education and healthcare sectors. Projects that are impacted by ongoing operations or have less flexibility due to service requirements have been among the first to adopt this approach as a way to speed construction and achieve delivery goals.

Fast tracking is most effective when introduced at the beginning of a project and before design is complete. It can enable owners to reduce a project schedule by weeks, if not months. Fast tracking requires a multi-phased approach to construction and a high level of coordination between each tendering package.

DBB vs FTD infographic original WHITE

Advantages of fast tracking

Fast tracking your project offers several advantages – not only for owners, but also for consultants and contracting teams, including:

  • Shorter project delivery times: By overlapping and taking a multi-phased approach to design and construction, construction teams can work concurrently to compress the overall project schedule. This in turn enables new facilities or spaces to open faster and begin operations sooner.
  • Getting projects back on schedule: Projects facing schedule delays are generally considered at risk. By implementing fast-tracking techniques, projects can regain stability and make up for time lost due to delays, or in the case of COVID-19, stop work notices.
  • Avoiding increased project costs: Inherent to a reduced delivery timeline is a reduced project cost. Risks associated with cost escalation and general overheads are generally well contained in comparison to a project which has longer delivery timeframe.
  • Ability to free up resources: Shorter project schedules and more efficient tools enable owners to complete the work in less time, thereby freeing up resources to take on new projects. When successfully applied, fast tracking enables owners, as well as consultant and contracting teams, to handle a higher volume of projects in a shorter time period, thereby making it possible to generate more economic stimulus.

For example, an owner is under a time constraint to develop a new distribution warehouse to meet higher demands for locally sourced products as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Working with the project management team, the owner develops an RFP outlining a fast-track schedule to complete the project in a much shorter timeframe. By incorporating fast tracking in the planning and procurement stages, owners can:

  • Obtain all permits and approvals early to mitigate delays and speed the overall schedule;
  • Decrease the average timeline of the project;
  • Provide clear and detailed bid documents to the design consultant as to how the design will be developed and managed; and
  • Provide clear and detailed tender documents to the contractor so construction can be managed alongside the design.

Design and construction tasks are carried out in parallel rather than sequentially, with careful coordination of each phase of design and construction development. By implementing this approach in the planning stages, the project can be delivered much earlier than if a more traditional Design-Bid-Build construction methodology was adopted, leaving the owner in a position to meet shipment demands.

Planning for Success

As with any construction methodology, fast tracking must be executed properly. Owners should be mindful to assign a project manager or project team experienced in fast-tracking techniques. By adjusting an RFP to include fast-tracking requirements, the project team can plan for a phased distribution of the workload, mitigate risks and deliver the fast-tracked project successfully.

Fast tracking not only provides a solution to recover projects affected by COVID-19 restrictions but increases familiarity with the methodology within the construction industry. Making the decision to implement fast tracking more frequently allows industry professionals to become more experienced with the approach and enables them to mitigate risks, speed construction and maintain quality.