By Sean McDowell, PE, Project Engineer
Collaboration efforts should be made at the onset of planning a project. All the major players should be part of the decision-making process including owners, architects, engineers, and contractors. By getting the team in place early on, you will be able to agree on the details of the project and plan for issues that arise.

Waiting to include major players in the process could increase total project costs, delay your project, or even keep the project from ever happening. Let’s run through a few examples to illustrate the importance of collaboration in land development.

Example 1: The owner purchases a property, then hires a civil engineer to survey the lot and begin the local permitting process. It might have been in the owner’s best interest to invest $1,000 for a civil engineer to prepare a due diligence report on the property prior to purchase. The due diligence work may have determined several local zoning variances required for the development, the property covered with wetlands, it is home to several endangered species, and/or the property has poorly drained soils. Had these issues been identified upfront, maybe the owner would have passed on the property or factored these land development hurdles into the purchase price.

Example 2: The owner expresses a tight construction schedule for redevelopment of an elementary school. The construction must be completed before school resumes in September. The contractor was on board during the design process and informs the team that due to COVID, manufacturing and shipping for certain items, like a transformer, is taking longer than usual. The design team provides the transformer information to the contractor before the design is 100% complete to place an early order. The order was placed 6 weeks earlier than usual and keeps the construction schedule on target for a September opening.

Beyond just project planning, land development is a competitive industry. Each stakeholder tends to have their own agenda, which might include making a name for themselves, earning profits for the company, or reducing liability. Team members are frequently more interested in meeting short-term individual and project goals rather than long-term end goals.

Most land development projects follow the traditional design-bid-build method. This often defines how to work on individual segments of the project but does not tie the individual effects together cohesively. This gives team members different, and often narrow, perspectives that foster adversarial solutions. Each member of the team is forced to compete with the others to earn a profit.

Don’t think short-sighted when it comes to your project. From initial project planning through construction can take years on a single project. When teams work well together, they may choose to work together again and again, potentially lasting your entire career. Use a long-term mentality and build strong relationships with other members of the team.

Just knowing the benefits of collaboration won’t improve the outcome of your land development projects, it’s time to act!

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