5 Simple Ways to Better Manage Design and Construction Risk


You’ve been selected to design a new classroom. Plans are drawn up, backs are slapped, construction begins. Then, two months into construction, the client doesn’t like a certain wall … or wants to add a whole new wing. How do you keep the client happy, both in terms of deliverables and budget?

In my 11 years with Woolpert, I’ve gathered many great tools for keeping projects on track. Through that experience, I have found five simple risk management best practices to help guide your project to success—amid inherent change:

  • Be realistic.
    Do what you promise, and do it well. On the flip side, don’t over-guarantee. Failing to deliver as promised is a surefire way to break your client’s trust, and rebuilding that fragile trust is virtually impossible.
  • Adapt and evolve.
    Every project weathers change, especially during the early stages. You must field a flexible team that is up for the challenge of altering designs and adjusting expectations, yet committed to achieving project goals and meeting schedules and budgets.
  • Relate to your client.
    Put yourself in your client’s shoes and approach change from their perspective. Secure a client advocate and work to build relationships through that advocate.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.
    Regular, consistent and open communication will help you to remain synced with your client and enable you to better manage all the moving parts of complex projects. Whether through regular face-to-face meetings and/or online planning tools, transparency and timeliness in communication can make all the difference in project success.
  • Step out of the box.
    Don’t be afraid to incorporate new ideas, tools and technologies to meet your client’s expectations for what they think they deserve. BIM, 3D scanning, and virtual and augmented reality are cutting-edge tools that can help you bridge the gap between vision and reality.

One last word of wisdom—be honest. Increased scope requires increased budgets, and dancing around the topic will only lead to disappointment. Be frank, yet tactful, to ensure that you and your client are on the same page and hold matching expectations.


David Welling

David Welling is an architecture project manager specializing in leading multidisciplinary teams on large-scale higher education projects. He has extensive experience leading campus-wide design initiatives, facilitating collaborative planning sessions, and integrating the needs of multiple stakeholders with state and local requirements. Over the course of his career, David has managed over $1 billion worth of projects in North Carolina, including higher education and athletic facility design projects and large-scale state construction projects.


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