Fast Track Construction is more than merely building quickly or overlapping each trades’ schedule, it is a construction methodology where construction begins before the design is finalized. To some building owners, that may sound reckless and it is not in the least. The key is two-fold, engaging a construction manager in the design phase (aka preconstruction) and secondly, designing the structure in phases. For example, in most cases, a building’s foundation design is determined early enough to allow site preparations to begin while the rest of the structural design and aesthetics are still waiting to be finalized.
If you’re familiar with the time savings derived from Design-Build over Design-Bid-Build, think of Fast Track Construction as an expedited variation of Design-Build. When using the Design-Bid-Build construction delivery method, the project works like a relay race where the architecture and engineering team completes the entire design, the building owner (or architect) bids out the project and selects a contractor, and finally, the construction team builds the structure based on the complete drawings in phase 1. The Design-Bid-Build method is safe, linear, and slow.
Design-Build integrates the construction team much earlier on in the process and they actively work with the design team to shape the design, budget, and construction schedule to provide more value engineering, fewer surprises, and a better experience for everyone involved. While the Design-Build process can expedite schedules over 30% compared to Design-Bid-Build, the shovel usually doesn’t hit the ground until the design is completed and approved by the owner. That’s where Fast Track Construction is different.
Fast Track Construction requires a knowledgeable construction manager, a structure that can be designed and built in phases, and a reason the expedite the timeline.
Benefits of Fast Track Construction:
- Reduce Time to Market and Accrue Profits Sooner – a faster schedule means the owner/tenant moves in faster and creates revenue sooner providing a faster ROI (Return On Investment).
- Reduce Impact of Inflation – combat potential increases in materials costs by procuring them sooner.
- Save Overall Costs of Construction – the compressed schedule usually reduces labor costs and stabilizes material costs.
- Lower Financing Risk – because of the aforementioned benefits, Fast Track Construction can reduce the cost and risk of financing these projects. In some cases, Fast Track Construction makes a project viable because of the quicker return on the investment.
Use Cases for Fast Track Construction:
- Multi-story Structures and Multi-building Complexes – Expediting the schedule for Multi-family, Hospitality, & Mixed-Use projects of this size can drastically save the real estate developer or building owner millions of dollars or generate revenue from a project sooner.
- Light Industrial – An ideal use for Fast Track Construction because of the vast amount of site preparations required and steel can be erected in most areas while designs are finalized.
- Disaster Recovery – When disaster strikes, time is of the essence for recovery efforts. Creating housing, healthcare, and public assistance quickly is more important than aesthetics.
- Government Projects – This sector may sound unlikely since many government agencies may be averse to the risks of Fast Track Construction, yet it may make a big impact to alleviate overcrowding in public housing, add hospital beds to combat a pandemic, or open a school before the school year starts.
- Pending Weather Delays – In some climates, you cannot build year-round and aspects of the structure must be completed before snow, ice, or hurricanes are expected to impede or shut down construction.
Drawbacks to Fast Track Construction:
- Requires a Partnership, Not Finger Pointers – the client, design team, and construction team need to work as a single team with one goal otherwise each hiccup can cause a serious time delay. Ideally, the architecture, engineering, and construction teams have worked together already and have a solid cultural fit.
- Good, Frequent Communication is Vital – so many aspects of the project are changing simultaneously, it requires regularly scheduled and ad hoc communication to make quick decisions and to keep everyone on the same page.
- Hard on a Novice Developer – these projects move fast and require an experienced developer/owner that can envision the final product before it is fully designed.
- Harder on the Design Team than Construction – although it is called “Fast Track Construction”, the construction team is not necessarily condensing their work schedules as much as the design team is. The architects and engineers have no cushion and always have deadlines looming and can’t rework designs ad nauseam like they can with Design-Bid-Build projects.
- Potentially More Work Change Orders – since some decisions are made (and in place) before the final designs are approved, things like moving a wall may need to occur after they were already built. Usually, the cost savings from utilizing the Fast Track Construction process drastically outweigh these costs, work changes are more likely to occur with Fast Track projects than with Design-Build projects.
Not every project needs to utilize the Fast Track Construction delivery method. For many real estate developers and building owners, Fast Track is an attractive option that generates revenue faster. The key is the integration of the design and construction teams. The more those two phases are separated, the longer the project takes.