Dec. 10, 2021

5 Tips for Delivering Building Services Projects

Sharing lessons that I learnt from my recent project


I recently had the chance to deliver a project to replace most internal hydraulic pipes in a commercial building.

Here are my 5 tips for those who are working on hydraulic or other building services projects. I will keep this post high level to avoid disclosing any sensitive information.

1. Request a list of recommendation of contractors from your consultants

For this project, I was working with a consultant who's been in the industry for a long time. The consultant was previously a contractor himself. And as a consultant, he worked with many different contractors.

When we were approaching the tender phase and were deciding on who to invite, I asked my consultant for recommendations. We got a few recommendations, all of which our organisation had no previous experience or relationship with. The resulting tender submissions were quite good and in the end, we selected a contractor who was capable and delivered the project well.

As a start, get recommendations from people you've previously worked with and who you trust. Don't be swayed by the fancy marketing materials on their website or their salespeople.

2. Allocate storage space for your contractors

Before going out to tender, allocate and secure enough storage space for contractors. It is especially crucial for a whole of building hydraulic upgrade. There will be lots and lots of pipes you’ll be taking out.

Don't gloss over the importance of allocating space. It is difficult for contractors to do their job if there aren't any dedicated space allocated to them. This issue will come back to you as the client and may affect your cost and/or program and affect your relationship.

Usually, tenderers would always put in their "Assumptions" that there are spaces allocated for storage. As client-side project managers, you may overlook this issue and assume it could be resolved when it hits construction. Yet, from my experience in working in different buildings and organisations, allocating space is always such a sensitive issue and takes time to resolve. If required, this issue needs to be escalated to the senior executive level.

3. Program and Coordinate shutdowns to minimise disruptions

The building we were working in was still operating even during the Lockdown. We still had to be very careful about service disruptions and ensure people would still have access to water and use the bathrooms.

For our project, the consultant suggested a construction methodology in the tender documentation to ensure occupants still had access to cold water whilst cold water pipes were being modified.

If your project involves working on services, there will most likely be shutdowns.

Throughout the tender design, discuss with the consultants the program and methodology to minimise shutdowns.

Throughout the tender, advise the tenderers of program intent and request for them to confirm or propose alternatives.

Communicate to contractors that minimising shutdowns will be both beneficial for clients and the contractors.

4. Have a communication strategy in place

In this project, several organisations were working in this building. There wasn't an "All Building Occupant" group email that we were able to use.

The strategy for this project was to communicate to the key executive personnel for each of the departments along with the office contact.

Tailor your "communication plan" to your projects. If there are disruptions, make sure you give stakeholders plenty of notice - days if not weeks notice.

Ensure that the message is being sent to relevant key people. This might be senior managers and key contacts for each floor who can distribute the message. Or if it's solely an office building, there might be an all building occupant email you can use. But check with your Project Sponsor and Senior executives your communication strategy.

Ensure it's in an understandable language that is free of jargon (think, would a person not in your field understand this?)

5. Prepare for random issues

In our project, there were random complaints throughout construction. For example, we received a complaint that the kitchen water was white (it was aerated). Also one of the dishwashers wasn't working (the installed connection part had a random weird defect in it).

Make sure all the occupants and stakeholders know who to contact if they encounter an issue(probably will be the Facility Manager or the Project Manager).

Ensure the site manager is proactive and communicative. For this project, we had a stellar site manager who was responsive and attended to these random issues straight away. 

Ensure all these issues are closed out and make sure it's not part of a major design or quality flaw.

These lessons might seem obvious but hope these tips help for your hydraulic projects and your other projects!

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