4 Reasons why construction projects fail

4 Reasons why construction projects fail

Construction projects can be complex and involve many moving parts, requiring the expertise of project managers, contractors, laborers, and other stakeholders, which unfortunately puts them at high risk for failure. You may be wondering: what is the most common cause for the failure of development projects?

By knowing what factors into a plan falling apart, you’ll be able to better reduce the likelihood of a construction project failing. A successful project is generally one that’s wrapped up within budget and on time, and approved by the client, with all stakeholders receiving a profit.

When a project fails, it’s usually due to ongoing and unresolved issues that result in cost overruns and constant delays. Exceeding an expected budget is not uncommon in the construction industry, but it should be avoided at all costs since it cuts into profit margins. Additionally, every day that you’ve gone past a scheduled deadline is another day of monetary loss, with future projects being delayed since equipment and workers are occupied in finishing work that’s past due.

Ultimately, a project’s success relies heavily on how well a project management team organizes and oversees resources, timelines, and budgeting. With proper planning and management, even the most complicated projects avoid construction project failure.


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So what is the most common cause for the failure of construction development projects?

As it turns out, construction project failures result from a combination of factors. Here are the most common.

1.   Insufficient planning

Planning is one of the most difficult (but important) parts of a construction project and is a huge contributing factor to its fundamental success or failure. It involves several components, such as budgeting, scheduling, risk assessment, and consulting with suppliers, contractors, engineers, architects, and clients.

The more time put into planning, the more likely a project will succeed since there will be a strong foundation to operate on for when construction actually begins. Working with multiple collaborators to devise a clear plan that outlines the scope of work, client expectations, project milestones, and established schedules create a greater mutual understanding that ensures that everyone is heading in the right direction.

To prevent construction project failure, a project manager must also secure and plan for the delivery of equipment and materials, develop contingency plans, establish on-site safety measures, and come up with management strategies. Throughout the project, schedules must be constantly updated and adjusted as needed to reflect changes that occur (which they all too often do) until the project has been completed.

Needless to say, it’s a lot to plan for, but extensive planning is key to a project’s success. Oftentimes, poor planning leads to subpar and disorganized execution, which then leads to failure. To mitigate this risk, tasks and resources should be mapped out accordingly.

2.   Problems with productivity

Another contributing factor to construction project failure is problems with productivity, which are a prevalent issue in the construction industry. Each task should have a designated amount of hours for completion, but delays are frequently caused by worker injuries, employees having to focus on non-productive activities (such as searching for relevant project information), or excessive absenteeism due to internal issues.

These inefficiencies lower productivity levels, requiring additional workers to be hired, which in turn lowers profit margins. Especially with the construction industry’s already-existing struggle with a labor shortage, this problem proves to be one of the largest factors in a project’s failure.

A few solutions to stagnant productivity include ensuring that proper safety measures are put into place, making sure your employees are properly trained and provided with the necessary tools and information to complete the job, and assigning tasks on a day-by-day basis so each worker knows what they’re responsible for.

Preventing construction project failures in terms of productivity can also involve investing in technological solutions that increase efficiency and fill in labor gaps. Technologies that automate tasks and help project managers oversee tasks can reduce inefficiencies and improve output.

3.   Excessively changing a construction project’s scope

One of the construction project failure examples includes when a project’s initial scope changes from what was initially planned. Known as “scope creep,” it’s often the result of lacking communication, inadequate planning, or a client constantly changing their minds.

Change orders may be requested by a client, project owner, or contractors, and while it doesn’t always result in missed deadlines and additional expenses, an excessive amount of additions or deletions can be damaging to the project’s overall progress and profit margins. Generally, projects with incomplete plans or poorly-defined scopes should be avoided.

A construction contract should clearly outline the project’s expected scope of work, as well as any potential costs that may result in additional labor being required. Any extra work outside the intended scope should be requested through a written change order, with the new timeline agreed upon and the actual work documented.

Keeping subcontractors in the loop about changes and how it may impact their schedule can also be a key part of preventing construction project failure.

4.   Communication issues

Construction project failures frequently occur due to lacking communication. Especially for larger, more complex projects, effective communication is crucial for success.

Team members, for example, should be aware of their core responsibilities and kept up to date on changes. For project managers, developing a communication plan and assigning a main point of contact for stakeholders to connect with should be a priority.

All written correspondence and communication (such as emails, direct messages, weekly reports, change orders, invoices, meeting notes, and requests for information) should be well-documented for easy access. This will also ensure that if conflicts or disagreements occur, there’s a paper trail to settle any disputes.

When communication falls apart, it can lead to inaccurate reporting and scheduling issues, which can then cause delays and the need for additional reworks. Effective collaboration is one of the most important methods of preventing construction project failure.


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Mitigate risk with Bridgit Bench

Now that you understand what the most common causes for the failure of development projects are, you’ll want to be proactive in preventing missteps. Modernizing your project management process is the best way to mitigate risk.

Bridgit Bench is an all-in-one, cloud-based workforce management solution that helps you avoid planning, productivity, scope, and communication inefficiencies. Its organizational dashboard allows you to track project progress and manage human capital.

You can view your entire project pipeline, apply filters to narrow your focus, and manage all project roles, allocations, and dates. You can also plan your workforce strategically by viewing workforce utilization rates and prioritizing allocations.

Eliminate risk and ensure your construction project’s success by choosing Bridgit Bench today!


Brandon-Richard Austin

Brandon-Richard Austin is a writer and content strategist focused on the construction sector. He’s passionate about educating readers on construction management techniques and best practices.