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What are constraints in the construction business?

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There are many constraints in every industry. But there are instances where we become unaware of the existence of the constraints. Or we tend to put more emphasis on the goals of the project. 
The construction industry includes a multitude of parties that would bring complications in the management of the project. This could lead to conflicts and disputes which have cost consequences directly or indirectly to the clients and or contractors. It is therefore critical to identify the potential constraints to help decrease the loss of money and time due to inadequate planning. Controlling the possible constraints is a pre-requisite for the high performance of the project. 

However, constraints in the construction sector limit their ability to perform at a high-level. If we can understand constraints better at the onset, then the performance level of your business will improve. 
But before we go through the types of constraints let me explain what it is. According to, a constraint is a condition, agency, or force that impedes or limits progress towards an objective or goal in a given environment or context. It may cause undesirable consequences that are not supportive of the company’s goals.

Types of Constraints in construction

Design constraints are factors that limit the range of possible design outputs. Although, there is an argument that design constraints can be helpful in the creation and development of the design
The design constraints could include the budget, performance requirements, site boundaries, conditions from neighboring properties, site access, local structures, building regulations, completion dates, and local weather conditions. 

It is also possible that design constraints may be known at the early stages of a project while others become apparent at the latter design process. 

These types of constraints usually refer to the process involving the completion of construction activities. And they are often based on the practicality of building standards and methods. Other technical constraints are related to the tolerances of construction, the space required for builders to work, available handling or storage areas, site access, and the coordination of services. 
These constraints are all linked to health and safety, building regulations, control and client needs, and any architectural aspects. Some of these constraints will be small and may seem meaningless but it can have a large impact. 

An example of a technical constraint is the construction of the foundation. The site must be properly excavated. After this, the framework and the reinforcement can be placed before the concrete is poured. Each step or task must be completed before the next one can begin. Making the previous task a constraint to the next task. 

There are also a few technical restraints that can come from a restrictive site area and congested environments or surroundings. This can pose constraints in storage space, design, and transportation. These are usually recognized at the stage of design, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that all constraints can be readily overcome.

These relate to the budget of the project and the allocation of resources. If the budget is not enough or it is not allocated properly then it can have a negative impact on the quality, functionality, performance, safety, and success of the project.  
Generally, construction projects are balanced between quality and cost. Any change in one will directly impact the other two. 

However, these relate to not just the overall budget but also the flow of cash through the supply chain. Clients should have available funds to pay for works as they progress. Payments must be made on time through the contractual chain. 
Cash flow is one of the primary causes of bankruptcy in the construction business. and having to find new suppliers, contractors and subcontractors can cause a project to be delayed which would lead to additional costs. 

Due to budget constraints, the adopted system for the construction may not necessarily be the best option for achieving quality and project goals. If the budget is also not efficiently allocated it can hamper the progress of the project. In summary, if the economic constraints are not managed properly it can affect the product, performance, function, and quality of the project. 

This refers to regulations that the practices and activities in a construction project have to comply with. This usually involves safety requirements, employment law, building regulations, planning, and environmental requirements.

The process of complying with all these requirements and regulations can be time-consuming and it usually requires a complete understanding of complicated bureaucratic procedures. However, failure in complying with these regulations can have a negative impact on your project and business. It can affect the project by causing delays, remedial works, financial penalties and it can even cause criminal proceedings.

Any building will have to first get a planning permit and it has to meet certain criteria for approval. Planners can apply restrictions and or ask for improvements for your business to get permission. Building regulations have a set of detailed performance requirements or standards that the completed project must comply with. When your project or business can comply with all the requirements a certificate is normally provided or issued for insurance purposes. 

These include vital dates on a scheduled project or milestone. Conforming to these dates is usually important in terms of the overall project completion date. Penalties are normally given if a business is unable to meet the agreed dates.

But some delays are not necessarily the fault of a contractor. Of which they are usually granted an extension. Pushing the dates back.
Other time constraints can come from third parties. These third-party components can be anything from planning permission expiry dates to changes in legislation.

Contracts normally specify the earliest completion date, the date on which the task should be completed, and the exact date on which a task must be completed. Projects that have phases may include multiple starts and end dates. 

Are limiting factors that concern the following; Air, water, or ground pollution. Usage of hazardous or sustainable materials. Carbon emissions or energy consumption. Waste and water management, Dust, vibration, and noise. Preservation of ecology, traffic, and transportation, climate change resilience. Design for deconstruction and disposal.

These factors often can overlap with legal constraints but additional requirements can be provided by the client for environmental policies.

Public concern and pressure from the media can impose a limitation and greater scrutiny on a project. It can even sometimes result in the alteration of the original plans and completion dates. Social constraints include components that arise from the result of wider interest or opposition to specific projects.

Projects that are funded by the public are normally subject to social constraints because of the greater Interest it entails.
These types of constraints are often labeled as “not in my backyard” or nimbyism.

These kinds of constraints are directly related to the limitation of projects due to technology. It is defined as the logical relationship between activities that cannot be changed unless the technology is changed. This is the most obvious constraint, as the application of a machine or a piece of automated equipment can directly change the progression of activities that changes the nature of the work.

Lastly, are managerial constraints. These are related to resources such as materials, equipment, and workers. This happens when it is required to adjust the schedule of active resources for certain projects or operations which can’t be available as soon as they are needed.

Management needs to take into consideration many constraints that are related to the nature of the equipment and its corresponding management principles. Several factors can affect the planning and scheduling of activities for construction. Which can lead to impacting the productivity, operating time, and rates of production. Timing for maintenance of equipment, security programs, inventory of parts, workers schedules, are all elements of a managerial constraint that should be considered heavily. 

Shivendra helps construction companies and contractors win more projects and grow profitably. Regarded as a master of practical implementation, Shivendra has guided organizations such as Downer and Siemens as well as smaller contractors to achieve double-digit improvements to their bottom line.

Underpinning his extensive industry experience are qualifications in engineering and a Ph.D. focused on rapid cost improvement techniques. He is the author of two books, The Competitive Contractor and From Paper to Profit, host of the Competetive Contractor podcast, and the founder of Shivendra & Co and The Constructors Network. You can find more about Shivendra & Co on