Scope Creep in Construction Projects Cost Money

In my work as a contracts and claims manager for the construction industry, I have seen projects get delayed for weeks or even months on end. Usually, these delays were caused by additional “necessities” that weren’t included in the original layout. And delays in projects, regardless of the cause, will cost the contractor, developer, or the client money.

What is scope creep?

In general terms, scope creep covers the changes made to the scope of the project after it has been contracted, approved, and usually already underway. These changes may be demanded or requested by the client or developer, or by the contractor. Depending on whose shoulders the request falls unto, and the stipulations in the construction contract, the cost of these changes could be shouldered by either the contractor or the developer/client.

These changes are often referred to as creep because they suddenly creep up, wanting to make their way into the project.

There are various factors that call for changes in project scopes, from environmental issues to previously undetermined safety hazards, aesthetics, or a shift from the original intent of the project—a request often made by the client or developer.

While changes in the scope of a construction project while it is already underway are inevitable, they can be managed to prevent undue delays and exorbitant additional costs.

As the contractor or project manager, you should make a clear and detailed discussion of the project with the client in its entirety. Talk about everything, down to the smallest details, and ask questions about changes that might suddenly be needed. At this point, you can talk about the additional expenses or delays that might come with the changes.

When changes need to be made, make a written request and document it. Be very clear and specific about the repercussions of adopting such changes. As much as possible, take note of all the changes that need to be made in one go so you can discuss these with the client immediately. In other words, avoid changing the scope one factor at a time. Because for every change, cost and completion will be directly affected.

You can make a list of all the changes and divide these into “need-to-have” and “nice-to-have.” It is better to have everything itemized, including the estimated cost for each. If you are clear about the changes and the additional costs, you and the client can determine if the changes really need to be made or if they can be omitted with no negative effect on the project.

Managing scope creep entails clear communication among everyone involved in the project, especially between the client or developer and the contractor or project manager—whoever is in charge of the whole project.

Do you have questions about scope creep in construction projects? Or do you wish to share your own experiences or recommendations regarding this topic? Please don’t hesitate to contact me through this website. I will be more than happy to discuss this post with you further. This is Lisa Dudzik, by the way. I look forward to seeing you again here soon!