Planning and Communication

How To Write A Construction Scope of Works

It’s not easy to plan a scope of work. There’s no fixed process you can map to every project, and when you start planning projects, nobody gives you an ABC guide. You just have to figure it out.

But over the course of 10 years spent as a construction engineer, I found this 8-step approach to be the best way to plan any scope of work.

1) Lay out a structure

Break the scope of work down into logical, manageable chunks. These usually (but not always) consist of physical components, like pile cap, headstock, bridge deck etc.

The important thing here is that you break the scope down in a way that makes sense to you. That way, the rest of the steps should flow.

FYI: Planners normally call this the ‘work breakdown structure’ or WBS, but who needs jargon?

2) List the tasks

Virtually build the components and get the steps down in order.

Don’t worry about relationships, durations, calendars or anything else at this stage. The goal here is to get the steps listed, and overanalysing each stage will only break your flow.

Once done, get the steps in order.

3) Add relationships

Next, link the tasks together to make a sequence. Whilst you do this, focus on physical constraints, or as a planner would say “hard logic”, rather than sequences of crews or equipment.

E.G. The road surface needs to be done between the line marking.

4) Estimate durations

Give your best guesstimate of durations for all the tasks. It’ll be wrong approximately 100% of the time, but you need to start somewhere.

If you are entirely at a loss, grab a foreman or site supervisor, they love estimating durations 😉

5) Add constrained resources

Don’t bother adding all of the resources each task needs (you don’t have the time). Chances are, you already know if your project has a limited concrete supply, if there are problems with getting enough electricians, or if there are space constraints on site.

Add this information to your tasks and check for conflicts.

6) Verify durations and optimise the sequence

Ok, now you need help.

Get the most experienced people in your team together. You can use your manager if need be, but supervisors and leading hands are better.

Walk through the sequences, and as you do so, validate durations and search for ways to pull things forward. This will usually kick off a discussion about crew sizes and their flow.

Add this information to your plan as you update the durations.

Ps. This step is super easy if you’re using Aphex.

7) Prepare the plan for communication

You have a plan that the right people have been bought into. Now you need everyone to understand it.

If you have subcontracted teams, assign them.

If you need QA inspector, assign them.

If you need… you get it.

8) Keep communicating

Host a briefing session to run through the plan, recap short-term sequences at pre-start meetings, and then consistently update the plan.

This usually takes place in your war room.

Make sure everyone gets a copy of the plan each time it’s updated. Keep repeating the plan until you’re sick of your own voice, then repeat it again. I can’t stress this part enough, it’s impossible to repeat the plan too many times.

Final thoughts

If you’re unsure where to start, this plan will do the trick. It works regardless of whether you’re planning in Aphex, or on a spreadsheet, or a whiteboard, for that matter. Follow these eight steps, and you’ll be alright.

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