Construction is characterised by Uniqueness, Complexity and Uncertainty. The hardest characteristic to argue with is Uncertainty!

Starting with the prospective client, they have a requirement for a new building, extension or renovation to an existing structure. They begin to formulate an architectural design but there is uncertainty as to whether or not the plans will be approved. They are uncertain as to whether the ground will support the building or how much the sub-structures may cost them prior to forking out loads of cash for geotechnical surveys and structural engineers. Even after the building has been completed 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 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. Assuming they do, they then face the uncertainty of what their new client is going to be like to work with along with uncertainty about any sub-contractors they appoint. Once they start on site they are immediately faced with the eternal uncertainty – our British weather! And then the uncertainties really start piling up! Reliability of suppliers; design changes; co-operation of consultants; ground conditions; intervention of officialdom; neighbour disputes; ……. The list is endless!


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. Then 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!

How do you handle uncertainty in your projects?

Blog written by Stuart

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