Three representatives of the Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario (CDAO) recently offered a sneak preview of a report due out soon that will provide solid evidence as the alliance addresses what’s viewed as growing problems with the quality of design documents, cost overruns and other construction document issues in the sector.

Representing three member associations of the 19-member CDAO, Ontario Association of Architects executive director Kristi Doyle; Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Ontario executive director Bruce Matthews; and Ontario General Contractors Association president Giovanni Cautillo were in Toronto to outline key findings of the report, prepared with Ryerson University and due for publication in January.

The study looked at public sector projects, Cautillo noted, because that is mainly where the problems are rooted.

The Dec. 1 Buildings Show panel was billed as Enhancing Project Delivery through Pre-project Investment. Sandra Burnell, senior consultant with Revay and Associates, served as moderator.


Three panellists representing the Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario, (from left) Giovanni Cautillo, Kristi Doyle and Bruce Matthews, share a laugh during a recent Buildings Show panel discussion on project planning and documentation.

“It ruined relationships,” said Cautillo of the perception of increasingly poor quality of contract documents, an issue that was initially flagged by the CDAO in 2017.

Doyle recalled, “Certainly there was lots of finger-pointing going on.”

“We had this endless supply of anecdotal issues and examples of all of the problems that we had in procurement, but we have nothing that really was evidence-based that was comprehensive. One study that demonstrated a baseline effect and how it would affect all parties involved,” said Cautillo.

Research began in April 2018 with a broad representation of the construction and design sectors consulted across the country.

Matthews laid out the key findings at the Buildings Show. The study confirmed, he said, the important role that owners play in upfront investment in pre-project planning and design work, and specifically the report identified two major findings.

First, owners and stakeholders need to spend more time and effort to ensure they adequately scope the project before it goes to market.

Matthews said it was determined there is a positive correlation between the clarity, completeness and accuracy of the initial information provided in an RFP and other project documentation with a lower incidence of client-initiated scope change or further budget change during design and delivery.

The second major finding is that there is a need for commitment on the part of owners to allow time and budget for design reviews, checks and verifications to be undertaken throughout each phase of the design process, Matthews noted. Design documents that are incomplete or unclear or have internal conflicts from one page to the next have a “serious impact” on efficiency during construction.

“The survey has demonstrated that the results of pre-planning by owners or pre-planning investment by owners are going to significantly improve the quality of those design documents which will then result in improved delivery,” he stated.

“The survey confirmed that the design quality issues are rooted in issues of inadequate time being provided for design effort, inadequate fees and inadequate information about existing conditions. These are the issues that…are the root cause of schedule delays and cost increases during project delivery.”

The surveys indicated 60 per cent of respondents said the quality of project delivery is getting worse.

There are multiple lessons for architects to learn, Doyle said, with the first being the importance of collaboration among teams. The findings about the importance of pre-planning validate what architects have been saying for years.

“We embarked on the study as a collective group,” she said. “We’re communicating the results of this as a collective and really with the intent of improving the procurement process for a better end result.”

Cautillo said those early investments, in planning time and money, add up to one major benefit for contractors — clarity.

“We can only go by what the scope is,” he said. “So if you’re giving us, and I’m going to use the term ‘garbage in,’ we get garbage out and that’s when there’s friction.

“I’m going to pull something from the study. Research demonstrates that an error that costs $100 to address during pre-design could cost $1,000 to address during the design phase and $10,000 during the commencement of construction.

“Do I have your attention now?”

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