Robots on Construction Sites Are Raising Legal Questions

Peter Sheridan | Construction Executive

Mark Twain said that “good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” Aesop warns “be careful what you wish for….” But is there a good decision to be made now to employ robots on your next project? There is not a lot of experience to help us make that decision, and the robotic laborer that does not tire or need breaks or desire a raise or promotion looks like an option we might all wish for when planning our next project.

Are there pitfalls, traps for the unwary? Always. Spotting them is the trick. After a brief glimpse into the past for appropriate context, there are a few traps that need to be considered.


Three prior industrial revolutions, illustrated by the ages of the steam engine, mass production and electricity, and the emergence of digital technology, ushered in change at an ever-accelerating pace. Robotics is included by many observers as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  

The integrated circuit (IC) is what makes robotics possible (as it does for all modern computing). Gordon Moore, who in 1975 predicted the doubling each year of the number of transistors in an IC, might not have thought that today, in 2023, a single IC contains 58 billion transistors. 

Technology entered our industry long ago. For example, at a basic level, camera drones started inspecting bridges in 1995. Now, large projects typically have several drones flying each day to capture what progress they can of the job.  

Keep in mind that there is no race against these machines that can be won, as Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine, has said, “If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots.” Money is pouring into construction robotics as well, an indicator as to where our industry is headed.  

While the industry is still catching up to other industries in the sophistication of its robots, there are already many useful robots on the market and in daily use, including those used for repetitive work by programmable, mobile, strong, workhorse robots or data-gathering devices that can resemble small tanks or dogs.  

Giving the complexity and ever-changing nature of a construction site, with cluttered worksites, unforeseen conditions and revisions happening in real time, adding robots to the mix may make it easier, or harder, to control the project. Ask these questions: How do you integrate the robot into your team? How does the robot learn the experience your team already has? A few ideas on how to establish control and plan to use robots effectively are out there, and executives and counsel need to consider them not in five years, but now, as robots become more advanced with every passing day.


1. Suppose a data-gathering autonomous LiDAR robot (Doxel) crawls around your project on rubber tracks, goes upstairs on its own and knows the AUTO-CAD layout. It records the progress and tolerance compliance, or lack thereof, of your overhead MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing). That robot can be required in your MEP specs, triggering the duty of the design-build MEP subcontractor to use that robot and gather data and supply it to the general contractor and owner. In that vein, if the architect does not include the robot requirement in its draft specs, some may argue that not including it reflects the lack of the requisite professional skill and care ordinarily provided by architects working on modern, large and complex projects.

Now apply a similar standard to a general contractor looking for the right MEP design-build sub(s). The “good-and-workmanlike-manner” standard requires a quality of work performed “by one who has the knowledge, training or experience necessary” performing  in a manner “that is generally considered proficient…” Proficient in a world of robots means using robots, some might argue, so be prepared. Perhaps include in your contract that such robots are required or that not using them is considered for this project to nonetheless be proficient.

2. Your paper plan days are over, and a layout robot (Dusty) you required in the specs uploads the AUTO-CADs and then prints a digital full-size floorplan on the concrete deck of levels eight through 45 of your high rise hotel project. It even prints that plan on the dangerous edges of that project, which workers must avoid. Safety improves, but the operator of the robot has not properly programmed it or a bug in the processing arises, and floors nine through 15 are laid out incorrectly and delays in build-out and fit-out ensue.

The architect included use of this robot in the specs but did not include a verification protocol. The general reviewed the work on the eighth floor where it was first used, but not after, and the vendor/sub actually using and operating the robot blames the AUTO-CAD upload. Not your normal dispute, your counsel encourages hiring a programmer expert to come to the DRB during the project to help resolve this issue and ascribe blame. The DRB for your project has now become a venue for forensic review of robot programming, use and timely verification of accurate layout. Does the robot-using sub have insurance, or the general contractor, the architect, the owner, for this cause of loss? Is this form of loss a covered loss under your insuring requirements in the governing contracts or arguably excluded?

3. Your specified site-inspection robot (Rover) on a cast-in-place structure, programmed to avoid damaging in-place concrete shoring and to avoid workers, nonetheless runs into several initial shores, and wet concrete from above falls and injures workers on the floor below.

Or your scaffolding robotic assistant (Atlas) throws a bag of tools to a worker and hits the worker, injuring him.

Robotics providers may not have the financial wherewithal to respond to these injuries. The owner and general contractor need to know all the contractual arrangements that bring the robots to the site and control for the risks created. Keep in mind that there are currently no OSHA standards for the robotics industry (according to the OSHA website). ANSI (R15.06), however, does set forth safety requirements; thus, your contracts might reference the correct safety requirements.


Robots will replace a certain amount of construction workers, like they have in other industries—a recent MIT Sloan Business School study says so, and it may come just before or alongside the heightening skills crisis in the key trades that nine of 10 construction businesses (studied in Europe) predict to occur by 2030. 

Think of it like this—after 2030, will there ever be another drywall apprentice? McKinsey thinks that by 2065 up to 44% of all construction jobs will be automated. Worldwide, that means 82 million jobs in construction lost to automation. 

So, trades companies, start training your apprentices in automation and programming. All responsible persons in this industry need to start adapting their contracts, their insurance and their mindsets to the present and increasing future use of robots on your projects. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here, so race with or ahead of the machines, not against them.

When one of your cases is in need of a construction expert, estimates, insurance appraisal or umpire services in defect or insurance disputes – please call Advise & Consult, Inc. at 888.684.8305, or email

1 De Haro: A Case Study on Successful Cross-Laminated Timber Design and Construction in San Francisco

Cait Horner, Allan Van Vliet and Adam Weaver | Gravel2Gavel

At the intersection of San Francisco’s SOMA, Potrero Hill and Showplace Square districts, a first-of-its-kind building offers an example of the potential widespread success of mass timber construction in the United States. 1 De Haro, a 134,000-square-foot, 4-story office and light industrial project built by Bay Area developer SKS Partners is not only the first cross-laminated timber (CLT) building in the San Francisco, it is also the first multistory mass timber building of its type to be fully executed in California and the first CLT project in the United States to be delivered via railways. We recently sat down with Yvonne Fisher and Lee Ishida of SKS to discuss the unique design process, marketing success and overall industry buzz surrounding one of their latest projects.

Earlier this year, we discussed the advantages of mass timber construction, including its durability, carbon sequestration and natural aesthetic. Those advantages are apparent in the completed construction of 1 De Haro. Its construction tells the story of innovation with respect to a new building material and a new building process within San Francisco. The site sits on soft soil, invoking important initial design conversations on how to manage weight—a challenge that SKS, in connection with the architecture, engineering and construction teams tasked with bringing SKS’ vision to life, met by turning to one of the world’s oldest building materials—wood. CLT utilizes “an old technology applied in new ways, in a market that hasn’t done it before. That is what makes it special,” says Lee Ishida, Senior Project Manager for SKS. “This isn’t your local Home Depot lumber.” Far from Home Depot lumber, the timber used to construct 1 De Haro was sourced from black spruce harvested from the boreal forest of Quebec, Canada. After touring the factory where the CLT was produced, the team was confident that the CLT method met the their structural integrity and light weight requirements (CLT as used in 1 De Haro’s construction is nearly 30 percent lighter than comparable concrete construction), with the added benefits of sustainability, faster construction time and an overall aesthetically beautiful design.

SKS also worked closely with the San Francisco Planning Department and Fire Department, coordinating with them on over 50 inspections to ensure the City was sufficiently educated on CLT and that the project was in compliance and met all standards of safety—from fire rating to structural soundness. While 1 De Haro was the first of its kind in San Francisco, it certainly won’t be the last. “San Francisco is a progressive city, and they want to embrace projects that are environmentally positive and less risky due to California’s heightened fire risk,” says Yvonne Fisher, Director of Asset Management for SKS. SKS blazed the trail with the 1 De Haro project, and their hope is to have created a path for other developers to construct new CLT projects in the city.

While everyone was curious about the success of building with CLT, from city government to the carpenters’ union, the education and partnership did not come to fruition until SKS presented the 1 De Haro project. This close partnership has “absolutely streamlined the path for others” looking to work with CLT in San Francisco, according to Fisher. Because this method hadn’t been implemented before in San Francisco, or at this scale in California, SKS required its general contractor to develop a training protocol for installation, which has since been utilized by the San Francisco carpenters’ union for other Bay Area projects, benefiting the industry as a whole.

Any development project is only as good as its marketability to investors and potential tenants, and 1 De Haro excels on both fronts. It’s one thing to build it, but only when it’s operational and fully occupied can it be considered a true success. Tenants were immediately drawn to the project both in terms of its sustainability and its flexible framework. “As soon as we had entitlements, there was really strong interest in the market. We had three tenants that were immediately sending in offers, and the leasing team didn’t have to make any marketing efforts, really,” Fisher says. From an ESG perspective, CLT buildings are an easy sell for tenants looking to lighter, brighter, sustainable office spaces that meet their environmental, social and governance goals internally among employees and investors and externally to their clients and customers. Tenants in CLT buildings do more than just speak to sustainability—they embrace it from the ground up. “We’re in this change in our market right now in the way people are using their office space and hybrid work schedules,” Fisher notes. “Making your office environment even more welcoming is even more critical, but the space itself has a huge, positive psychological impact.”

Furthermore, 1 De Haro’s success can be defined in part by all its notable firsts and awards:

  • First CLT building in San Francisco
  • First multistory mass timber building of its type in California
  • First CLT project delivered by rail in the United States
  • Winner of Woodworks 2022 Design Award: Commercial Mid-Rise
  • Winner of AIA San Francisco 2022 Design Honor Award
  • Winner of Engineering News-Record CA 2022 Award of Merit: Excellence in Sustainability
  • Winner of Engineering News-Record CA 2022 Award of Merit: Office/Retail/Mixed-Use
  • Winner of 2022 Forest Stewardship Council Leadership Award

“Everyone knows about 1 De Haro. Even the other mass timber fabricators,” Fisher says. “They might not know us, but they know 1 De Haro. It’s created a lot of goodwill, and I think SKS as a company will always strive to do something that is going to be beneficial for the community.” 1 De Haro not only achieves that through its sustainability, but also in its design. And when asked if SKS would do another CLT building, the answer was a resounding, “absolutely!”

What’s next for cutting-edge industry leader SKS and the market generally? Ishida thinks the focus will remain on sustainability: “net-zero carbon and net-zero energy. We have to do that. There is a focus there.” Fisher agrees and notes that SKS has a project in the works that aims to push past net-zero, to further take away existing carbon in the environment through a blend of CLT and other approaches. “We’re always trying something new to be in front of the curve, to be positively and responsibly contributing to the built environment.”

1 De Haro was well ahead of the curve, and SKS’s utilization of CLT is certainly having an impact on sustainability efforts in San Francisco and the entire Bay Area. As industry standards continue to expand and shift, it is safe to say that SKS will continue to push boundaries and implement new technology to create energy efficient and sustainable projects that are not only successful buildings in their own right, but that provide a clear path to success for other developers looking to create sustainable projects in San Francisco.

An in-depth look at 1 De Haro, including the history of the site and the construction process, is available here.

When one of your cases is in need of a construction expert, estimates, insurance appraisal or umpire services in defect or insurance disputes – please call Advise & Consult, Inc. at 888.684.8305, or email

Key Changes To Ohio Construction Law For Certain Public Entities Beginning October 3, 2023

Laura J. Bowman, Mark Evans PE, Brock Miskimen, Casey Rieth and Leah Thorsen | Bricker Graydon

Effective October 3, 2023, the threshold amount for rejecting bids when they exceed the original construction estimate will increase for certain Ohio public entities. Previously, Ohio Revised Code (ORC)153.12 specified that no public owner, including the State of Ohio (State), could award a contract to a bidder whose bid exceeded 10% of the construction estimate. Effective October 3, 2023, only the State must reject bids that exceed 10% of the estimated contract amount, while a “county, township, municipal corporation, school district, special purpose district, or other political subdivision or a public board, commission, authority, or instrumentality of the political subdivision” must reject bids that exceed 20% of the estimated contract amount. This change in the law does not impact ORC Chapter 5525 regarding bids that exceed 5% for road improvements or the authority of the Director of the Department of Transportation.

Additionally, the competitive bidding threshold for certain Ohio political subdivisions including public libraries, counties, and townships will increase from $50,000 to $75,000 through 2024, and will then increase by 3% annually. House Bill 33 created ORC 9.17, which sets a uniform monetary threshold for competitive bidding for several types of political subdivisions. Instead of including a numerical amount, the applicable bidding statutes will now specify that the bidding threshold will be “the amount specified in section 9.17 of the Revised Code.” ORC 9.17 provides for a $75,000 bidding threshold through calendar year 2024 with an increase of 3% for each calendar year thereafter, as determined and published by the Director of Commerce. House Bill 33 also explicitly prohibits certain political subdivisions from dividing projects in order to avoid the competitive bidding requirements.

Each type of political subdivision in Ohio has its own competitive bidding statute. The chart below summarizes the competitive bidding thresholds for various political subdivisions. However, this chart does not capture the full statutory requirements for each political subdivision, which are not the same. Additionally, there may be exceptions to competitive bidding requirements for specific political subdivisions. For example, the new law raises the estimated amount for when a county board of commissioners makes a determination that a real and present emergency exists from $100,000 to $125,000 as an exception to competitive bidding. Also note that different statutory procurement processes may be required to engage design professionals, construction managers at risk, and design-builders.

Political SubdivisionCompetitive Bidding ThresholdORC Citation
Cities and Villages*As defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly), and $50,000 when entered into by the legislative authority of the village§§ 735.05, 731.14, 731.141
Counties*As defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly)§ 307.86
County Sewer DistrictsAs defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly)§§ 6117.27, 307.86
Hospitals, County*As defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly)§§ 307.86, 307.92
Hospitals, Joint Township Hospital DistrictsNo threshold requirements are found in the Ohio Revised Code. 
Hospitals, Municipal$50,000 for construction projects subject to approval of the board of hospital trustees§ 749.26
Public Libraries*As defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly)§ 3375.41
Metropolitan Housing AuthoritiesAll projects, regardless of cost, are subject to competitive bidding.§ 3735.36
Municipal Utilities (Water, Sewer, Gas and Electric)*As defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly)§ 735.05
Port Authorities$150,000§§ 4582.12(A), 4582.31(A)(18)(b)
Public School Districts$50,000§ 3313.46(A)
Regional Airport Authority*As defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly)§ 308.13(A)
Regional Sewer DistrictsAs defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly)§ 6119.10
Regional Transit Authority$100,000§ 306.43(E)(3)
Soil and Conservation DistrictsAs defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly)§§ 940.06(H)(1), 307.86
State of Ohio and its agencies$250,000 (effective 1/19/2023; to be reviewed and adjusted every five years)§§ 153.01; 153.53
Townships*As defined by ORC 9.17 ($75,000 through 2024, increased 3% yearly) for most projects, but requirements vary depending on the purpose of the contract§§ 505.37, 511.12, 515.01, 515.07,521.05, 505.35, 505.50

* The law now explicitly prohibits this subdivision from dividing projects in order to avoid the competitive bidding requirements. However, it is implied and recommended practice for all public entities to refrain from doing so as well.

Each political subdivision should review the applicable statutory requirements and its own internal policies in consultation with legal counsel to determine the proper procedures for procurement, including bidding for construction contracts and other types of purchases.

Labor Department’s Davis-Bacon Act Final Rule: Changes for Federal Contractors

Rosalie DiFlora and Brian Lewis | Jackson Lewis

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Updating the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts Regulations final rule includes hundreds of pages of changes to the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) standards and is estimated to impact over 1 million construction workers. The final rule will go into effect on October 23, 2023.

The DOL also published Frequently Asked Questions on the final rule. 

While compliance with the DBRA will be more complicated for employers, the DOL advises that the updates come after “an increased number of federally funded projects,” as well as the need to “provide clarity to contracting agencies, contractors, and workers, to enhance the effectiveness and consistency of the administration and enforcement of the DBRA.”

All contracting agencies and contractors should review the final rule in its entirety.

Does the DBRA Apply?

The DBRA applies to federal contractors and subcontractors performing on contracts in excess of $2,000 for construction, alteration, or repair of public buildings or public works and requires employees be paid no less than local prevailing wages and fringe benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area.

While the final rule does not modify the types of projects subject to DBRA standards, it provides several clarifications regarding the types of industries subject to the DBRA. Still covered under the DBRA are: 

  • Solar panels, wind turbines, broadband installation, and installation of electric car chargers if they are built as a part of a contract with a federal agency or otherwise covered by a Related Act;
  • Demolition and removal activities when such activities in and of themselves constitute construction, alteration, or repair of a building or work; 
  • Survey crews and flaggers who perform primarily physical or manual work while employed by contractors or subcontractors on a DBA- or Related Acts-covered project on the site of the work immediately prior to or during construction in direct support of construction crews; and 
  • Delivery drivers for onsite time related to offsite delivery if such time is not de minimis. The DOL has issued guidance to determine if a project is de minimis.

New Provisions: How They Apply

Key revisions include:

New Definition of “Prevailing Wage.” The DOL has redefined the term “prevailing wage” and returned to a three-step process for determining what the prevailing wage will be for certain classifications in certain geographic areas. First, if the majority of workers in the classification in the area (both union and non-union) are paid the same rate, that rate is the prevailing wage. Second, if no majority rate exists, then the wage rate paid to at least 30 percent of workers in the classification in the area will be the prevailing wage. Third, if no wage rate is paid to at least 30 percent of workers, then the weighted average rate in the classification is considered to be the prevailing wage. This modification in calculating the prevailing wage (or wage floor) will likely lead to higher pay for employees.

Adjustments for Non-Collectively Bargained Rates. The final rule adds a provision for periodically adjusting certain non-collectively bargained rates. These periodic updates will be based on total compensation data from the Employment Cost Index data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The DOL provides that these rates may be adjusted no more than once every three years, no sooner than three years after the date of the rate’s publication, continuing until the next survey results in a new general wage determination.

Adoption of Wage Rates Set by State and Local Governments. A new provision allows the DOL to adopt wage rates set by state and local governments under certain circumstances. To do this, the DOL explains that four criteria must be met:

  1. The state or local government must set prevailing wage rates, and collect relevant data, using a survey or other process that generally is open to full participation by all interested parties. 
  2. The state or local wage rate must reflect both a basic hourly rate of pay and any locally prevailing bona fide fringe benefits, and each of these can be calculated separately.
  3. The state or local government must classify laborers and mechanics in a manner that is recognized within the field of construction. 
  4. The state or local government’s criteria for setting prevailing wage rates must be substantially similar to those the DOL administrator uses in making wage determinations.

Codification of Annualizing Fringe Benefits. The final rule codifies the requirement that fringe benefits should be annualized. Annualization, according the DOL, “prohibits contractors from using fringe benefit plan contributions attributable to work on private projects to meet their prevailing wage obligation.”

Increased Recordkeeping Requirements. The final rule requires that payroll and other basic records be maintained for at least three years after all work on the prime contract is completed. It adds that the last known telephone number, email address, correct classification(s) of work actually performed, and hours worked in each classification must be kept on file for each worker.

Anti-Retaliation Provisions. The final rule includes an anti-retaliation provision intended to improve the DOL’s enforcement mechanisms, employer compliance, and relief to make workers “whole” following retaliation resulting from a DBRA complaint. Added remedies include:

  • Reinstatement to former employment; 
  • Front pay, back pay, and interest;
  • Compensatory damages; and
  • Posting of a notice to workers that the contractor/subcontractor agrees to follow the DBRA requirements. The final rule updates the standard poster to include anti-retaliation information.

Wage Determination in Current Contracts

Under the final rule, for contracts created on or before October 23, 2023, current wage determinations will apply for the life of the contract. However, according to DOL guidance:

if a contract is modified to include additional, substantial construction, alteration, and/or repair work not within the scope of work of the original contract or order or requires the contractor to perform work for an additional time period not originally obligated, then the most recent version of any applicable wage determination(s) must be incorporated into the contract.

When one of your cases is in need of a construction expert, estimates, insurance appraisal or umpire services in defect or insurance disputes – please call Advise & Consult, Inc. at 888.684.8305, or email

Extreme Weather Events Show Why the Construction Supply Chain Needs a Risk-Management Transformation

Brad Barth | Construction Executive

A perfect storm of recent extreme weather events has exposed the fragility of North America’s construction supply chains amid an increasingly fluctuating, fast-changing risk landscape. Supply chains that were already reeling from resurgent demand for raw materials coming out of the pandemic have been further disrupted by major storms such as recent tornados in Arkansas and Mississippi. Such events can have a ripple effect across many distinct supply lines as exemplified when the 2021 Texas freeze caused railroad closures and knocked out both petrochemical and semiconductor plants, causing shortages that affected construction and many other industries. 

The wide-ranging reverberations from these events demonstrate how stakeholders across all stages of capital projects increasingly share common vulnerabilities. Crucially, the way in which disruption from extreme weather events has caused project delays and cost overruns shows how time, cost and scope are increasingly interlinked and equally vulnerable to systemic risks. 

Traditional project-management methods where risks are not collectively managed and mitigated by all stakeholders are becoming increasingly inadequate, as risks to cost, time and scope are often considered in isolation. The domino effect of supply-chain disruption across capital projects similarly shows the inadequacy of project-management models where suppliers are not afforded a key stake in the project (or sometimes even a seat at the planning table). This traditional model cannot adapt to sudden, systemic risks that disrupt multiple suppliers and ripple out across all stakeholders, deliverables and project-management metrics. 


A slew of recent extreme weather events demonstrated the increasingly fluctuating risk climate in which capital projects operate, and the increasingly wide-ranging nature of the threats to capital projects due to global supply chains being interconnected. Hurricane Ida affected semiconductor and plastic production and saw many logistics trucks diverted for relief aid, while atmospheric rivers in British Columbia knocked out a major oil pipeline and shut down road and rail links to a port. By affecting numerous logistics chains for key commodities for capital projects, these storms showed how supply-chain risks increasingly affect projects in unexpected ways and can have massive reverberations across time and cost. The recent tornados in Mississippi similarly left a 170-mile trail of destruction affecting multiple separate transport links.

The wide-ranging effect of extreme weather events illustrates the need for more holistic, upfront risk planning to create more agile, adaptable and resilient project plans. Integration of risk-management responsibilities with procurement planning across all parties, from suppliers to contractors, is now key as those parties increasingly share common vulnerabilities. 

Achieving risk-adjusted procurement will require a fundamental transformation from a siloed, opaque and proprietary project-management mentality to one that embraces collaboration, openness and data sharing. It will also involve an evolution toward cloud-based project-management platforms and connected data built around enabling project-wide collaboration and visibility. 


Traditionally, the burden of capital project risk assessment has been shouldered almost entirely by the contractor, with little proactive involvement from key suppliers. Those in the best position to identify supply-chain risks—the suppliers themselves—often have minimal incentive to surface potential risks and, in fact, might be disincentivized to do so, in order to avoid creating doubt in their ability to deliver. Traditional design-bid-build models also leave very little room for collaboration in risk planning across owner and contractor, as contractors are encouraged to compete for projects largely on cost, with no contractual expectation to risk-adjust those costs. A contractor is encouraged to use a cheaper supplier to reduce costs even if the supplier is more vulnerable to risks that could cause project delays. 

Perhaps in response to the rising prevalence of systemic risks, the construction industry is moving to more iterative and collaborative contracting models that prioritize risk management with a wider distribution of responsibilities among all project stakeholders. In these shared-risk construction delivery models, major stakeholders share the burden of monitoring and mitigating project risks on an ongoing basis, with contractual mechanisms to account for risk-based contingencies. These models encourage project partners to behave as a collaborative coalition, sharing and integrating risk data to produce a holistic risk picture that encompasses all project stages and stakeholders. 

While these shared-risk models don’t always include suppliers, the trend is heading that way. The approach long taken with power plants—where everything from the design to the construction schedule revolves around the turbine supplier—is slowly making its way to other types of construction. The process of identifying supply-chain risks associated with the major components required for successful completion of a construction project is occurring earlier and earlier, with the aforementioned shared-risk contracting models providing proper incentive for all parties to be proactive in that effort. 

As an example, a major transportation project in Toronto was recently awarded using a project alliance agreement. Such agreements utilize a single contract signed by multiple parties, including the owner, designer, contractor and key suppliers. Alliance agreements generally call for all parties to mutually identify—and share—risks throughout the project lifecycle, with regular risk-assessment events to quantify the contractual impact of those risks.

Enabling this trend hinges on the construction industry moving from siloed planning tools and technologies toward interoperable project-management systems and connected data that can unite separate stakeholders and democratize risk planning. Shared risk and other collaborative contracting models are exposing those silos and, in so doing, are accelerating the adoption of integrated, cloud-based project controls systems that can be accessed by all parties. The alliance coalition working on the transportation project in Toronto is utilizing such a system from InEight to perform ongoing cost and schedule risk assessments. 

Ultimately, early visibility to potential risks is key. Evaluating supply chains, and how events such as storms can have a domino effect on those supply chains, leads to alternative scenario planning that can enable swift and nimble reactions to keep projects on track. Modern project controls systems facilitate planning around not just the most likely case, but also the worst case and best case as well. As projects move through their lifecycle and more and more data is captured, turning more assumptions into knowns, those scenarios can be continually assessed to help navigate around unplanned events. Plans built using spreadsheets are typically point-in-time constructs, not updated continually with current progress and risk data. Project controls systems, on the other hand, can be set up to accept a steady feed of as-built data so that the current plan can be validated in near real time.

Another benefit to collaborative project controls systems is that data can be captured consistently across projects, creating a knowledge library that can be used to make risk planning progressively smarter over time. Historical data related to costs, schedules and risks from past projects can be leveraged when planning new projects, which not only makes the planning process more efficient, but also enables organizations to scale effectively as less experienced personnel can tap into institutional knowledge. This way, lessons learned on one project can feed into improved planning for subsequent ones. Integrating past and present data—including supplier performance—can additionally facilitate a benchmark-based, risk-adjusted planning process that creates more realistic expectations for project cost and schedule outcomes. 


In a globalized economy, an extreme weather event on one side of the globe can affect projects far away. The interconnected nature of supply chains means that key materials and components often flow through different regions so that understanding the procurement risks associated with critical materials is more important than ever. Risk planning can no longer be confined to individual project stages, or even to individual parties. Modern project controls systems along with connected data can form the missing link that enables the industry’s move to more collaborative, more transparent construction delivery models.

When one of your cases is in need of a construction expert, estimates, insurance appraisal or umpire services in defect or insurance disputes – please call Advise & Consult, Inc. at 888.684.8305, or email