Maximizing Masonry Project Success: How Early Involvement of Consulting Experts Mitigates Risks and Resolves Disputes

Words: Cass Stern

In the complex and ever-evolving world of construction, particularly in masonry projects, the expertise of consulting professionals can be invaluable. We spoke to James Gallagher, a seasoned consultant, who sheds light on how involving experts early in the project planning phase can mitigate risks, aid in strategic development, and resolve disputes efficiently.

Bringing in an expert at the onset of a project can significantly reduce potential issues. Gallagher emphasized that the role of consultants extends beyond legal advice. His firm provides experience in managing projects and starting them from a conceptual standpoint, continuing through project closure, with the depth of their involvement, from witnessing and testifying in various project scenarios, equipping them with a vast knowledge base. Gallagher explained, "By bringing in an expert such as us upfront, we get to take a look at different things—controls, language, and planning—from the perspective of what has resulted in problems in the past." This proactive approach helps identify best practices that minimize potential disputes and enhance project visibility for owners.

Consulting experts are critical in developing project strategies, particularly when dealing with different contract delivery systems. "When we get involved with some contractors, we learn that they may be very knowledgeable in one area or with one type of contract delivery system, but they're not involved or experienced in other contract delivery systems," Gallagher shared. By educating contractors on the nuances of various systems, such as design-bid-build or design-build, consultants help them understand the shifting of risk and added responsibilities. This knowledge is crucial for record-keeping, managing subcontractors, and addressing unique project issues.

Understanding these differences can significantly impact risk management. For instance, consultants help contractors grasp what the shifting of risk means concerning added responsibilities, how to manage their records properly, and what they need to address or keep in their repository. Additionally, when hiring trades or subcontractors, contractors must be aware of unique issues and concerns that need to be addressed. By filling these knowledge gaps, consulting firms ensure contractors are well-prepared for any challenges.

Throughout the lifecycle of a project, consultants offer continuous support, providing a sense of security. "As an expert, throughout the project, what we do is make ourselves available to clients, including owners, contractors, subcontractors, and designers whenever issues arise," Gallagher explained. He then shared an example involving public works contracts, where significant changes required rethinking aspects of the project. His firm was brought in to help advise, review documentation, and adjust plans. This advisory role is essential in navigating complex situations, ensuring minor issues do not escalate into major problems. His firm’s involvement helps address these issues before they become more significant problems that can significantly impact the project timeline and budget.

Consultants' expertise becomes particularly valuable when disputes arise on the job site. Gallagher recalled a project where the main issue differed from the one the parties argued over. "They were arguing over structural steel components, but the real issue was the expanded footprint of the building," he explained. "As we brought that to the table, it changed the whole discussion and allowed the parties to focus more and resolve their differences." By identifying the core problem, consultants can shift the focus of the discussion and facilitate a resolution. This shift in perspective is crucial to the successful completion of a project.

Engaging experts before litigation can prevent significant issues and save time and costs. Experts aim to mitigate and avoid any significant issues from arising. Often, consultants are brought in after problems have escalated. Still, early involvement could have resolved these issues sooner because "a good expert can help resolve issues when the problem is identified,” Gallagher said.

In these cases, consultants help craft responses and frame the real issue for resolution. They may not always agree on who is responsible once specific steps are taken, but they ensure they are necessary and undertaken as a team. This collaborative approach fosters quicker resolutions, allowing the project to proceed smoothly.

Expert reports are another critical aspect. As Gallagher explained, "One of the things that happens with us when we get retained, especially if it's at the end of the project, and if it's earmarked for trial, we have to prepare what's referred to as an expert report.” After the report is prepared, he added, “sometimes it's surprising to find out that this may be the first time that the other side truly understands what the positions of the party that hired us are."

To illustrate this point, Gallagher provided an example of a contractor his firm has worked with extensively. He explained that issues with tilt-up panels or soil conditions underneath the slab often arise in warehouse construction, and these soil conditions can result in slab cracking and mis-uniformities. He said the core issue becomes identifying who should have been responsible for determining the soil conditions, whether the work was done correctly, or if it was an unforeseen condition.

In this instance, the contractor recognized the benefits of proactive expert involvement. By bringing in consultants during the project and after the fact as part of a claims expert, they were able to address these issues effectively. Consultants helped craft letters and responses to the owner, frame the real problem, and determine the necessary steps for resolution. This collaborative approach ensured quicker resolutions and allowed the contractor to focus on completing the project.

In conclusion, consulting experts' involvement in masonry projects involves resolving disputes, strategic planning, risk management, and ongoing advisory support. James Gallagher's insights reveal the multifaceted role of consultants, emphasizing the importance of early involvement and proactive measures. By leveraging their extensive experience and expertise, consultants can help ensure that masonry projects are completed successfully, on time, and within budget while minimizing risks and disputes.

Through early engagement, continuous support, and effective dispute-resolution strategies, consulting experts play an integral role in the success of masonry projects. Their ability to identify potential issues, educate contractors, and provide ongoing advisory support ensures that projects run smoothly and efficiently, ultimately contributing to the overall success of the construction industry.

Westlake Royal Building Products™ Expands Partnership with Boise Cascade® for Cedar Renditions™ and Versetta Stone® Distribution

Westlake Royal Building Products™ (“Westlake Royal”), a Westlake company (NYSE:WLK), today announced an expanded partnership with Boise Cascade®, a leading manufacturer and distributor of building materials throughout North America. Strengthening Westl

Four Different Types of Natural Stone Used For Masonry

Natural stone has been a staple in masonry for centuries. Before it was used to transform home and landscape designs on residential properties, it was used for historical buildings and some of the most iconic destinations in the world.

Advice to the Beginners

The best advice I could give anyone that is starting a career in masonry is that first and foremost, you must "know" yourself. What do you like to do? What would you like in a working environment? Do you like to be outside? Do you enjoy physical activity

About: Featured
Masonry Safety Inspections

The look of confusion and utter loss on people’s faces when I tell them that I’m a safety inspector for a masonry company is often hilarious.

About: Safety