Construction Projects: Failures and Remedies

Written on . By CPM Solutions

Guest Author: Vivien Goldstrong 

The construction industry is one of the most important, crucial and on-going industries in the world. With the continuous increase of population, construction projects are essential for providing homes, work places, underground transportation and homes’ essential facilities (such as: water, gas, electricity, drainage, etc ). Furthermore, the construction industry holds the record for the most projects with probable failures because of their complexity that increases with time. On the other hand, the highest rate of employment goes to this industry; due to the accelerating increase in the number of construction projects and the large urbanization happening all over the world.

When a construction project takes place, it goes through various phases. These phases are Design, Planning, Execution and Operation. However, most of the problems appear in the execution as it is the core phase of the project. Here we are going to talk about the main and most probable failures that could happen in a construction project.

  1. False Estimation of The Needed Resources:

One of the most common mistakes in construction projects is the false estimation of the resources (Labor, Equipment & Material) needed to finish the project within the planned duration. This mistake could lead to a massive delay in the project’s time schedule and inadequate quality in delivering the project’s scope of works. Furthermore, this mistake could result in unexpected additional costs to remedy the failure in delivering the scope of work with the required quality.

However, such mistake could be avoided by accurately estimating the needed resources taking into considerations the following two main points:

  • Depending on actual historical data about the labor, Equipment & sub-contractors’ production rate.
  • Using a reasonable safety factor when calculating such estimations to minimize the potential risks.
  1. Neglecting Proper Soil Investigation:

At the start of any construction project, a soil investigation takes place to determine exactly the type of the soil in the area of construction. However, the common fault that happens is not giving enough care to this action and doing it as a routine thing just to proceed to the next step of the project, unfortunately this results in massive losses and fatal collapses in the constructed elements (specially the concrete elements). Therefore, in order to avoid such fatal mistake, a proper and accurate soil investigation should be carried out with multiple tests and reports from verified Geological centers to determine the exact type of the concerned area of soil which enables the project executer to take his precautious actions against any probable obstacles.


  1. Project Management/Control Failure:

All projects need professional project management in order to be executed properly and in time. In the construction industry, project management is divided into three main categories which are: Planning & Scheduling, Cost Control and Contract Administration. However, multiple companies do not acknowledge the importance of project management and start their projects without a planning/cost control team which leads to huge delays in the project, bad coordination between the project parties, random sequence of work in the site/field & massive additional unnecessary cost. However, to avoid such disasters, a planning & cost control team should be assigned to the project to do the following:

  • Produce a reasonable and accurate cash flow to avoid any cost-related obstacles; this should be done by linking with the project’s time schedule through Excel and Primavera P6.
  • Execute a well-sequenced and detailed time schedule on “Primavera P6” or “MS Project” (P6 is favorable in construction). The schedule should take into consideration the productivity rate of each resource in the project and should contain the most accurate number of resources to be used in each activity.
  • Carry out a daily/weekly/monthly progress follow-up to successfully be aware of the actual progress on site and to solve any problem in the minimum possible time. To properly do this, multiple reports should be executed comparing what’s planned with what actually happened; these reports will depend on the “P6” time schedule, and for better results; “PrimaverReader” can be used to produce a very specific, practical and deadly accurate reports to follow up the project’s progress properly.


  1. Coordination between Design and Execution:

As mentioned before, the design phase represents the start of any project, and in this phase the designer puts all his ideas and every detail related to all disciplines of the project. As a result, in the execution phase the contractor should take into consideration all of the designer notes and special instructions to execute the project properly. However, most of the contractors do not review all the details mentioned in the design and this might lead to massive failures while executing the project, in fact some of the failures might not appear until the operation phase; which will lead to tremendous losses. Accordingly, to avoid such mistakes, the contractor’s technical office should thoroughly review the design to ensure that it can be really executed and that it does not contain any fatal mistakes.


  1. Coordination between Work Disciplines:

One of the most common obstacles in any construction project is the bad coordination between the work disciplines (Civil, Architectural, Mechanical, Electrical …etc). Multiple delays happen and a massive amount of rework because of this issue. The worst part is that the problems caused by bad coordination only get discovered in the execution phase when a step is scheduled to take place after another step from another discipline (i.e. Mechanical after Civil). It is at this time the site engineer finds out that the first activity’s drawings & calculations were not coordinated with the second one. However, this could be avoided by:

  • Assigning skilled personnel with previous experience in related projects in the technical review team to make sure they have witnessed this kind of problems before and know how to avoid it.
  • Producing a detailed and precise “Shop Drawings” to be revised by all teams to make sure that all disciplines are well coordinated.
  • Review for the last time to be conducted by the site engineer right before the execution of the activity.


Eventually, the reasons for a construction project’s failure are a lot and they have different levels of complexity. However, a big part of them can only be known by experience and as we continue working in the construction industry we will keep finding more and more types of failures but we will also have enough knowledge that enables us to solve and avoid the failures.


About the Author

Vivien Goldstrong is a consultant, project controls and planning manager, with expertise in implementation and consultancy related to Oracle Primavera P6. Currently works on development of Primavera Reader software. She’s been part of the project management industry for more than 20 years. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.