Construction Stress

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A building project can be a traumatic experience.  It does not need to be but many factors contribute to elevated stress levels during the building of any home or cottage.

As a rule, our clients are successful people. They are successful in their careers and in their family lives. Our clients can be describes as people who are in full control of their lives. They embark on a project and a very confidant that they can “handle it”.

Some times too much confidence in an area where one does not have a lot of experience, or even worse a little bit of experience, can be dangerous.

With every project we try to prepare our clients as best we can on what they are going to experience in the months to come. We educate them on “be aware of what you don’t know”. Emotions can run high during the course of a project, as the “unknown” details and technical requirements are often over run by speed and budget demands.   Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of the details and technical requirements can, and often does lead to more delays and cost over runs (almost certainly every time) as short cuts, as a rule, are not a good idea.

If you do not respect the complexity and the details of the project, stress only goes up.

Here are some factors that often lead to unnecessary stress and pain…

  • Infrequency of building projects. One does not build a home or cottage every day and even if you have in the past, that current experience may not be relevant today. Building codes change, technologies change, costs change. If you make an assumption that what you did 10 or 20 years ago applies today, you may be in for a surprise. It is the surprises that elevate stress.
  • The nature of a construction project. Often construction projects have long durations and include a series of interrelated activities that essentially set the table for what could be an “emotional roller coaster” if not managed properly. Construction projects take time with multiple phases and many external factors that can impact a project’s timing can impact on stress levels without proper preparation. Without true understanding, stress levels rise as unrealistic expectations are not met.
  • A lack of a genuine understanding of the process and the complexity of the project as well as the complexity of the individual tasks.    As an example, we started a project in the spring with a client, which required drafting, site testing, and design and budget modification among a few others of the pre construction activities. The client asked in September “When we were going to start?” In the intervening months, we had been working the project non-stop for three months.  The client did not understand or value many key elements of the process that are essential to the effective execution of the construction of her home. This lack of comprehension led to unnecessary stress and yet and without the pre construction activities, the project would have incurred many heartaches later.

This lack of understanding raises stress levels unnecessarily both before and during a project.

  • A feeling of a lack of control over the process. A complex project that requires many team members with distinct skills and functions, tied together by a timeline and plan, can often feel like a helpless proposition for a client. Building projects are complex. Weather, supply chain, multiple service providers, builder departments, neighbours etc. can create a feeling of a loss of control and requires a strong plan and an experienced and trusted leader to navigate the emotional roller coaster with the client as many factors buffet the project along the way.
  • If something goes wrong it could be bad…really bad. There are major consequences if something goes off the rails on residential project and that simple fact makes the emotional landscape of a residential project very volatile.  Planning, more planning and realistic, experienced trusted advisors that you respect, can greatly reduce risk and stress.
  • A lack of communication creates stress when a clear communication plan and a discipline approach can eliminate much of the anxiety. “Not knowing” trumps “ the reality that everything is on schedule” every time. Communicate, communicate and communicate more..

Here are some key strategies we use to help clients navigate through the stress of a project…

  • We work with the client to develop their ideas and budgets and pricing before they hire us. We believe that through this process our clients can get an understanding of who we are as people and professionals and decide for themselves if we are trustworthy. Trust is foundational to reducing stress in a construction project.
  • We assume and the leadership and responsibility of the project. We believe because of the complexity and the technical requirements of a project requires that someone needs to be accountable and lead the project. If the sub trade is a client recommendation or not, the project is our responsibility. We take charge of the project and all elements of the project fall under our leadership.
  • Empower the client with information. We provide the client with on line access of project timelines, up to date budgets and access to  the project leader at all times.  We try to meet the client concerns as quickly and easily as possible.
  • Answer the question “what’s next?” relentlessly. Projects that have long duration sometimes need a reminder to focus on “what’s next”, not “what’s happened?” or even “When will we finished? If we keep focused on “What’s next” anxiety levels drop as progress is surely made. Anxiety can slow projects down and we need to help the client stay focused on the task at hand.
  • We assign a “trusted advisor” who acts as the point person of communication. The client always knows that this person is working hard on keeping them informed and moving the project along. There should never be any doubt on whom to call for reassurance.

Simply put, we attempt to teach the client about all aspects of the project on an on going basis. We tailor the process to their needs, whether it is the design, budget, timing, method or amount of communication during the project. Ultimately, we take charge of the process to ensure that our clients feel confident that their project is on time, on budget and completed to the highest standards.

We want our clients to feel that they are being taken care of by an experienced professional and not to worry.

It is a tall order and we work very hard every day to make sure our clients can relax, not only when their home or cottage is complete, but also when they find themselves in the midst of the project.