How to Mitigate the Impact of Delays in Construction


Construction delays are one of the most disruptive events for a project. The good news is that you can mitigate the risk of and/or avoid many of them by understanding what might cause a delay in construction. This post outlines common causes of delays, as well as methods for mitigating their impact on the overall project timeline.

Common Causes for Delays:

The reasons for delay are as varied as the projects themselves. Common causes include:

  • bad weather conditions
  • soil contamination, which can lead to legal issues
  • equipment malfunctioning or being damaged in transit (or even before it arrives) and requiring replacement
  • labour shortages affecting the construction team’s ability to work on site at full capacity

In many cases, though, construction delays are caused by mistakes made during planning and design stages. For example: missing or incorrect data; funding delays; budget inaccuracies; poor scheduling of resources; discovery of hazardous materials during excavation activities (which may necessitate a complete redesign).

Bad weather

  • Impact of bad weather on the workforce.
  • Impact of bad weather on suppliers.
  • Impact of bad weather on materials.

Soil contamination

Soil contamination can cause a delay in construction, and it can result from many different sources. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Construction waste (including debris, concrete, brick, and other building materials) that has not been properly disposed of
  • Waste from construction activities (e.g., paint) left behind by workers
  • Waste from the demolition of old structures (e.g., asbestos insulation or lead paint).

Equipment malfunction

When equipment is not able to perform as expected, it is important to understand if the problem is with the equipment itself or how it is being used. Equipment problems can include:

  • The machine’s design (or specification) did not meet expectations. For example, a crane was specified for use on a project but turned out to be too small, making it unable to lift loads that would normally be handled by larger cranes.
  • The machine has been incorrectly configured for its intended use and therefore does not work as designed. For example, a compact excavator may have been specified for use in digging trenches instead of digging foundations because there was no room for any other kind of excavator on site due to space constraints; however, this compact excavator could not handle the loads required and broke down frequently during use because its capacity was far less than what was needed.

Labour shortages

  • Labour shortages are a problem in the construction industry.
  • These delays can be caused by a number of factors, but one of the most common is labour shortages.
  • To mitigate this risk, you’ll need to have a good supply of labour at your disposal. You should also be able to retain them and manage their expectations so that they’re not leaving before finishing their jobs. An ideal way to avoid a shortage altogether is by having enough capacity in place as well as enough workers who already know what they’re doing on site (and don’t need training).

Inexperienced General Contractors, Construction Managers or Subcontractors

  • Inexperienced personnel including site superintendents, project managers and support staff.
  • Inability to manage budgets, schedules, change orders, change directives, supplemental instructions, meetings, meeting minutes, site instructions, drawings, submittals and all other documents that form part of executing a successful construction project.
  • Inability to assign personnel on a full-time basis.

Inexperienced General Contractors, Construction Managers or Subcontractors

  • Lack of experience with the type of building to be delivered and ability to design and or deliver schematic designs, design development drawings or contract documents.
  • Inability to manage drawing coordination functions.

Construction mistakes

You can mitigate the impact of delays by anticipating potential problems. Mistakes in construction can be caused by a lack of knowledge, experience or training; a lack of communication between different parties; and a lack of resources.

For example, if you hire an inexperienced contractor who doesn’t know how to build apartments out of reinforced concrete, you may have to pay extra money for redesigning and rebuilding your building. On the other hand, if your designer doesn’t know how to design apartment buildings out of reinforced concrete but he’s using good materials and working with qualified contractors, there should not be any major setbacks in his work.

Missing or incorrect data

The first reason delays can be caused by missing or incorrect data is that someone has made an error. The second reason is a lack of communication between everyone involved in the project: construction, contracting, and even your client. This can lead to confusion about who needs what and when, which can result in faulty workmanship or delays from one part of the team not being able to work because they don’t have all their materials yet.

The third reason is a lack of training for new employees on how things are done at your company—they may not know exactly where everything is stored or how things are organized at this point so they need help from someone else who does know those things (a manager, perhaps). Or perhaps there just aren’t enough trained people available within your organization right now; if so then hiring more people might be necessary before starting any new projects until they’re trained sufficiently enough individually throughout every step along way through completion–which could take weeks depending on complexity level/time frame before being completed.

Funding delays

While construction delays are often caused by a variety of factors, the first thing you should look at is funding. Construction projects are often funded via loans, grants or other sources of capital. If there’s a delay in securing the necessary funds to begin your project, it can throw off your schedule and lead to missed deadlines, which will have a negative impact on your project overall.

If you’re waiting for a construction loan from a bank or an investor who’s providing all or some of the money needed for your project, this may slow down the entire process because these lenders tend to be conservative about releasing their money until they’re sure that everything’s been completed correctly and on time. Likewise, if there are delays in getting approval from government entities like local zoning boards or city councils (which can happen), this could also cause delays in starting construction due to red tape issues like zoning laws and regulations

Budget Inaccuracies

Budget Inaccuracies

  • Under budget: This is the best-case scenario, but one that doesn’t happen often. If your budget turns out to be lower than expected, it’s because your team did a great job estimating costs and you were able to deliver the project for less than expected. But if you realize that you have extra money in the bank after all is said and done, it may be tempting to start thinking about how else it can be spent. We recommend putting any extra capital toward additional phases or new projects so as not to lose momentum on existing ones.
  • Over budget: Unfortunately, this is more common than an underbudgetshowing up on construction sites—and sometimes due to factors beyond anyone’s control (such as natural disasters). When this happens, try asking yourself whether there were any early signs of trouble with the project’s cost estimates. If so, how could those issues have been addressed? If not, what could have been done differently during design phase or construction process itself?

Poor Scheduling

Poor scheduling is a common cause of delays in construction. Scheduling is the process of planning and organizing work tasks and resources, so that the work can be completed in the desired amount of time. It’s important to understand this process because poor scheduling can have lasting effects on your project. One way to mitigate the negative impact of poor scheduling is by using an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) model. This method combines design-build and design-assist processes into one integrated project delivery approach that synchronizes planning activities. By doing this, you eliminate potential conflicts between contractors or subcontractors while reducing costs associated with change orders due to miscommunications between parties involved in different phases of construction

Discovery of Hazardous Material

The discovery of a hazardous material at your construction site should be taken seriously. A variety of professionals can discover hazardous materials during site work, but each case is unique and requires a specific set of procedures to ensure the safety of all involved parties.

  • What is hazardous material? Hazardous materials can be any number of things, including chemicals or liquids that are flammable, toxic or explosive. In some cases they may even include biological agents such as viruses or bacteria that pose a risk to humans and the environment.
  • Who can find hazardous material? Many different people might have contact with these substances throughout their day-to-day activities on site. For example: excavators working with earthmoving equipment could come into contact with oils or other substances that are highly volatile; drywall installers might accidentally cut through an old asbestos pipe hidden within wall studs; painters could run into lead paint while painting over windowsills; electricians could encounter cables containing high voltages while installing lighting fixtures in hallways; carpenters cutting wood may hit nails embedded in walls that contain lead or other poisonous metals; etcetera…
  • How do you know if there’s something dangerous at your building site? There are several ways for workers to recognize possible signs of hazardous materials: appearance (e.g., dark stains), odor (e.g., musty) and even taste (e.g., oily). These qualities may signal potential risks from exposure so it’s important not only for workers but also managers like yourself who oversee operations on site!

Poor Communication of Critical Information

Communication is the key to a successful project. It is important to communicate with your team and ensure they know what they need to do, what they are doing, who their clients are and what the project goals are. Communication also needs to be clear on where the boundaries of work lie so that everyone knows what will not be included in the project scope.

Understanding what might cause a delay in construction is important.

Failure to understand what might cause a delay in construction can have a significant negative impact on the overall project timeline. A delay is defined as any event that causes any part of the project to be delayed, even if it’s only by a day.

For example, if you don’t know why something was delayed, you won’t know how to prevent another one from happening. If a delay does occur and it isn’t resolved quickly enough or correctly enough, it can lead to other delays in other parts of the project.


We hope that this article has helped you to understand some of the common causes of construction delays. By being aware of these causes, you can take steps to prevent them before they happen and avoid their impact when they do occur. The GeoFocus Group’s personnel and their unique/niche experience in turning around (“fixing”) and completing delayed and troubled projects has been an asset to developers, contractors, receivers, lenders and quantity surveyors in addressing delays either in real-time or before they occur.


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