Why Site Work is the Riskiest Phase of Construction

There are many unknown variables during the site work phase that, without proper planning and mitigation, can derail project schedules and drive up costs.
No items found.

There's a reason why builders say that site work is 10% of the budget, but 100% of the headaches. This phase of construction carries a multitude of risks that have the potential to derail construction schedules and drive up project costs. What makes the site work phase so unique, as compared to vertical construction phases, is the level of uncertainty that exists in the soil and what's underground. These unknown factors require construction teams to proactively manage risks like poor soil quality, unforeseen site conditions, safety and environmental concerns, and inefficient sequencing that contribute to delays and cost overruns. In this article, we examine the biggest risks during the site work phase and how they impact construction outcomes.

Contaminated Soils

Even when soil undergoes thorough testing, construction projects are still at risk of soil quality issues. Contaminated soil, for instance, is incredibly expensive to off-haul, costing as much as $140 per cubic yard. This material requires special attention to ensure adequate disposal and avoid environmental citations. If contaminated soil is not handled correctly, the project can be shut down, which ultimately leads to project delays.

Soil Behavior & Site Balance

Even on sites where the soil isn't contaminated, it can still be difficult to predict the soil's behavior, meaning how it will bulk and shrink as it is moved. Maintaining dirt balance is an important goal of site development due to the high costs of importing/exporting material. Builders must conduct regular site balance checks in order to ensure the project is built according to design to avoid major (and expensive!) delays.

Unforeseen Site Conditions

Despite advancements in underground scanning technology, construction projects are always at risk of what's in the ground. Hidden wells, sunken ships, old utilities, ancient fossils, concrete slabs...you name it, and it has been found. Unforeseen conditions can present extraordinary schedule and cost risks depending on their severity. Something like an old concrete slab might be a small hiccup in a construction schedule, whereas a sunken ship can impact the schedule by several months.

Environmental & Safety Concerns

Soil conditions and rain during site development can create major challenges with environmental compliance due to runoff, erosion, and sediment. Projects without appropriate SWPPP and other environmental mitigation plans in place can face citations, delays, and even legal charges. Additionally, excavation creates enormous safety hazards including potential trench cave-ins or improper sloping that can cause equipment or people to fall. When site work is poorly managed, there are catastrophic risks, not only for the project, but also for workers.

Poor Sequencing

Construction sequencing is critical in preventing delays and increasing productivity on project sites. In the site work phase, builders must coordinate each activity strategically to ensure that equipment, materials, and labor forces are available when needed. Poor sequencing can result in schedule slips or even stop construction altogether. If construction must be halted to fix a sequencing issue, construction costs increase for every additional day the project is delayed.

How can site work risk be mitigated?

The construction site work phase is fraught with a variety of risks, and builders must be proactive in managing these risks to avoid cost overruns or sequencing issues that can derail the construction schedule significantly. Looking ahead with a risk mitigation plan is a good measure, and adopting a site work intelligence platform is even better. TraceAir provides frequent aerial site surveys and volumetric data to empower builders with the tools to track and measure contaminated soils, calculate site balance with ease, measure slopes and areas for environmental and safety plans, and plan sequencing efficiently. To learn more about how our solution can help with the riskiest parts of site work on your projects, reach out to our team to see a demo.

See how TraceAir works
with an in-depth product tour

Discover more about TraceAir's solution
in our free brochure


Get a Copy

Keep reading:

Keep reading:

No items found.