How to handle uncertainty in construction

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construction site with crane

construction site with crane

Construction is characterized by Uniqueness, Complexity and Uncertainty. The hardest characteristic to argue with is uncertainty, as it can affect  a construction project in every possible way. However, if you manage to detect all the different points of concern within a project you can remarkably optimize the management of the whole process.

For that reason, we gathered below all the different uncertainties that may emerge during a construction project from the very beginning to its completion.

Uncertainty in construction

The client

Starting with the prospective client, they have a requirement for a new building, extension or renovation to an existing structure. When that requirement pops up, there is a number of different issues that may appear across the way:

Approval of the plan

They begin to formulate an architectural design but there is uncertainty as to whether or not the plans will be approved. There’s too much paperwork and so many different parameters that should be taken into consideration.

Ground Support

They are also uncertain as to whether the ground will support the building. This is probably one of the most fundamental concerns before the beginning of a construction project. If the ground can’t accommodate that structure, then the whole could be in serious danger.


The cost of the sub-structures is also a significant point of concern. A wrong estimation at this point can have a huge impact on the budget of the whole project. That is prior to using money on geotechnical surveys and structural engineers.

Efficiency of the Building

Even after the completion of the building there exists uncertainties, whether or not despite all the input and negotiations, both in-house and with their consultants and contractors, their project will meet their current and future needs. Time alone will tell!

When the job is put out to tender

Tender Uncertainty

Return of Investment (ROI)

When the job goes out to Tender; main contractors invest large sums to submit theirs. Uncertainty prevails as to whether or not they’ll get a return on that investment.

The Client’s Profile

Assuming they do, they then face the uncertainty of what their new client is going to be like to work with. An irrational client can always create problems along the construction management process.

The Selection of Sub-contractors

Unless you are working together with someone who you know well, there are always some worries around the selection of the right sub-contractor. This uncertainty concerns both the experience and personality of the selected sub-contractor. It goes without saying, that the higher the experience the smaller the risk that you actually take.

Check out also: Modernise or Die: The Need for Change in Construction

On Site Uncertainties

Once the contractors start on site they are immediately faced with the eternal uncertainty. Weather! Severe weather phenomena can lead big project delays and considerable budget overruns.

Reliability of Suppliers

Supplier reliability can be one more obstacle for your construction project. Delays in material deliveries or overly priced services can impede your effort. For that reason, you have to be extra careful, when choosing suppliers.

Design Changes

Last minute changes on the existing design can be a problem. The scheduling of your whole project may fall behind due as you will be seeing the final bill to increase.

Co-operation of Consultants

Juggling between different consultants can be harder than it sounds. Good coordination and honest communication between all sides is definitely required.

Intervention of Officialdom

Bureaucracy can also create serious problems to the conduction of a project and be the reason for numerous delays.

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Neighbor Disputes

Neighbor disputes can also prove to be a pain during the conduction of construction projects. It’s true that a construction site isn’t the most quiet place in the world. In that sense, you may have to face various troubles if your neighbor isn’t the most easy-going person.

Last Practical Issues

Handover approaches and there is uncertainty about whether agreement will be reached on practical completion. Uncertainty as to settlement of any contractual claims. Uncertainty as to when, and if, final payment will be received. And uncertainty as to whether they will have a “delighted client” – one who automatically comes returns to them for their next project.

Finally, the biggest uncertainty of all; will the site staff get invited to the clients building opening party?


There, uncertainty isn’t that hard to justify after all, it’s just that we never think about it because we live with it and manage it on a daily basis. Better planning and the use of reliable project management tools can be a great help in minimizing the risk and wipe out some of the above mentioned uncertainties.

How do you handle uncertainty in your projects?

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Topics: Digital construction

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