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However, in the late 2008, the world economy as well as in the Southeast Asia sank into recession. Thus, project cost control became a critical issue for the developers as well as the construction companies in managing construction projects. A significant number of projects in the world had suffered cost overruns as the prices of materials are spiraling with no signs of abating in the near future.
Cost control is the activity which compares cost performance against the cost plan, adjusting one or the other dynamically by reference to the changing circumstances in the project's financial environment. It is a process that should be continued throughout the construction period to ensure that the cost of the building is kept within the agreed cost limits. The cost control can be divided into three major areas: the control of cost during the design stages, the control of cost during the tendering stages and the control of cost by the client once the construction of project has started.
In many large projects, professional construction consultants or senior quantity surveyors play a critical role in estimating construction costs, scheduling construction activities and implementing various techniques to complete the projects. During the current economic recession, the cost of construction tends to exceed the budget. This is one of the major problems that need to be addressed by clients, construction management consultants and contractors. To minimize cost overruns, client, project management and contractors need to improve their skills and abilities in dealing with project cost control. Recessions and poor economic times have put pressure on the average company for better cost control.
Mr. Nguyen Dang Thong Nhat made a case study on "An Owner's Project Cost Control Strategy for Building Projects" to identify the key components of cost control. How the owner in construction industry can become more efficient and respond better to the current economic recession with non-stop prices increase of material and labor cost.
His other objectives are to (1) identify the problems in cost control in an observed case study in Vietnam's building project and (2) develop a framework for owner's project cost control strategy that covers the entire project life span, from the conceptual stage to the construction stage.
Based on his study, there are three components that caused project costs overruns. These were (a) incomplete specifications and drawings; (b) requirements of the owner and; (c) changes from contractors. Although the project management team tried to coordinate all requirements and solve the above problems, there were several factors that made overruns inevitable and certain factors were beyond their ability and responsibility.
According to his research, no matter how good the cost and control system is, problems might occur. Below are common causes of cost problems:
â€¢ Poor estimating techniques and/or standards, resulting in unrealistic budgets
â€¢ Out-of-sequence starting and completion of activities and events
â€¢ Inadequate work breakdown structure
â€¢ No management policy on reporting and control practices
â€¢ Poor work definition at the lower levels of the organization
â€¢ Management reducing budgets or bids to be competitive
â€¢ Inadequate formal planning that results in unnoticed, or often uncontrolled, increases in scope of effort
â€¢ Poor comparison of actual and planned costs
â€¢ Comparison of actual and planned costs at the wrong level of management
â€¢ Unforeseen technical problems
â€¢ Schedule delays that require overtime or idle time costing
â€¢ Material escalation factors that is unrealistic
His conclusions for Owner' Project Cost Control
Design Stage - the project owner did not define the (a) project scope which is a crucial first step towards making the project a success; and (b) failed to set realistic expectation at the design stage.
He did not know how to manage expectations before going to the designer, consultant and contractors. And it became a struggle when he needed to meet changes along the way. Since he wanted to reduce the fees for architects and engineers, their input became limited and insufficient specifications subsequently caused many problems during construction. Also, he did not give the project management team, designer and consultants the authority. When the contractors suggested changing the amount of materials to be purchased and to import some materials that are out of stock, it resulted to project cost control problem and delayed schedule.
Tendering Stage - the project owner did not conduct face-to-face interviews with the bidders. As a result, the project bidders did not discuss directly with the project owner the changes that were made. A lack of understanding on the owner's expectations also hindered the process. He did not have any chance to negotiate price and costs with contractors as well.
Construction Stage - the project owner did not give some authority and responsibility to the project management team, designer and consultants. Therefore, they needed to get his approval before sending and approving any change orders.
The project owner did not establish project objectives and project expectations clearly and carefully from the beginning of project. He wanted to reduce the fees for architects, designers and engineer resulting to limited input, insufficient specification, and incomplete detailed drawings and project specifications. In addition, he did not understand clearly the benefits of investment license and he did not hire a third party to evaluate the design drawing to check the quality of site works as required by Vietnamese construction law.
Mr. Nguyen Dang Thong Nhat's recommendations for owner's cost control management improvement are: