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10 Construction Change Order Best Practices – A GC’s Guide

Construction Change Order Best Practices & Why they Matter


In construction projects, it is common for changes to occur throughout the construction timeline. These changes may include modifications to the blueprints, alterations to the material selection, or additions to the project scope. These changes are known as change orders and require specific procedures to ensure a smooth transition.

What is a Change Order?

A construction change order is a written document that formalizes the changes made to the construction project. This document outlines the modifications made to the original plan and serves as a contract between the client and the contractor. Change order management in construction ensures that both parties agree to the adjustments and that there is a clear understanding of the updated cost and timeline.

Change orders in construction are necessary to maintain transparency and accountability in construction projects. Without change orders, any changes made could lead to confusion, disputes, and legal issues. Change orders provide a clear record of alterations to the project scope and protect both parties from potential risks.

Common Challenges of Change Orders

One of the major challenges of construction change orders is the lack of clarity in documenting the proposed changes. If the change order documents are ambiguous or incomplete, it can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts between the project stakeholders e.g. missing lien waivers. It is essential to have a clear and detailed scope of work that clearly defines the changes requested and the impact on the project schedule and budget.

Construction change orders can also significantly impact the project’s budget and schedule. When changes are introduced, there is often a need for additional materials, labor, or subcontractors, which can lead to increased costs. Additionally, these changes may require rework or modifications to already completed work, causing delays in the project schedule.

To address these challenges, it is crucial to establish a robust change management process. 

This process should include thorough documentation of change order requests, including detailed descriptions, the rationale behind the changes, and their potential impact on project milestones and costs. This documentation should be reviewed and approved by all relevant parties to ensure that everyone has a mutual understanding. These top change order management practices will help ensure that general contractors can speed up the change order process, measure impact, mitigate risk, and save money.

Top 10 Change Order Practices

Change orders are a crucial part of any construction project. They provide an avenue for project stakeholders to adjust the scope of work, timeline, and budget as the project progresses. However, change orders can also lead to costly delays and disputes if not managed properly. 

Here are the top 10 change order practices that can help you avoid these issues and keep your project on track.

Establish a clear change order process. From the start of the project, establish a clear change order process that outlines the steps for requesting, reviewing, approving, and implementing changes. This process should be communicated to all stakeholders and adhered to throughout the project.

Document everything. Every change order should be documented in writing, including the scope of the change, the reason for the change, the cost impact, and the timeline impact. This documentation should be stored and easily accessible to all relevant parties. Lean more about GCPay’s Construction Collaboration & Compliance Cloud-Based Solution Here.
Include a timeframe for change requests. The change order process should include a timeframe for submitting change requests, such as a deadline for submitting requests before a specific phase of the project.

Prioritize changes. Changes should be evaluated based on their priority and impact on the project. Changes that have a high priority and large impact should be addressed first, while minor changes can be addressed later.
Assess the impact of changes on all project aspects. Each change order should be evaluated for its impact on the project’s budget, timeline, schedule, and resources. This analysis can help determine whether a change is feasible and how it should be implemented. It is essential to evaluate the proposed changes thoroughly. This evaluation should include a comprehensive cost estimate and an analysis of the potential impact on the project schedule. It is crucial to communicate these impacts clearly to the client to manage expectations and seek their ap
Communicate changes to all stakeholders. Once a change is approved, it should be  communicated to all stakeholders, including the contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and the project owner. This communication should detail the scope of the change, its impact, and any specific instructions for implementation. It is essential to establish a clear communication plan that outlines how change orders will be communicated, reviewed, and approved. Regular project meetings and updates should be scheduled to discuss any potential changes and their implications. Having a centralized system or platform to track change orders and communicate updates can also help streamline the process and ensure all involved parties are kept informed.
Obtain written approval from all parties. Each change must be approved in writing by all relevant parties, including the project owner, contractor, and subcontractors. This mitigates the risk of disputes or misunderstandings down the road.

Keep track of project progress. As work progresses, it’s essential to keep track of how changes are affecting the project’s timeline, budget, and resources. This information can be used to identify and address any issues that arise during the project.

Make changes in a timely manner. Once a change is approved, it’s crucial to implement it in a timely manner to avoid further delays. The project team must work together to ensure changes are implemented efficiently and with minimal impact on the project.

Document project closeout. Throughout the project, documentation should be kept that reflects all changes and modifications. This documentation should be kept in a central location that is easily accessible. This information will be essential for project closeout and can be used to settle any disputes that may arise.

In conclusion, change orders in a construction project are inevitable. They serve to formalize the modifications made to the original plan, outlining the updated cost and timeline. By establishing clear procedures and documenting everything, both parties can ensure a seamless construction process and avoid disputes. How change orders are managed and executed can have a significant impact on the project’s overall success. By following these top 10 change order practices, you can minimize avoidable disputes, keep your project on track, and ensure its overall success. An easy step to accomplish most best practices is to find payment application software that automates, communicates, and documents change orders between general contractors and subcontractors. GCPay can complete these things and much more! Feel free to contact GCPay to schedule a custom demo to see just how the right software can accomplish multiple goals at once.

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