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Challenges for Life Sciences Projects Means Early Engagement of Project Managers

Jason D'Orlando • 7/22/2022
In this current global economy with supply chain hurdles and inflationary pressures, planning a construction project can be challenging.
Supply chain constraints have reverberated across every industry and sector, with both residential and commercial projects experiencing increased costs, delays in materials and shortages in labor. These challenges are expected to continue, according to a recent Cushman & Wakefield survey of general contractors (GCs), who based their predictions on the past six months of operations: 98% indicated an increase in supplier costs and material lead times, and 75% indicated increased project execution timelines. Though GCs expected supplier costs and project execution timelines to continue, they were slightly more optimistic about the trajectory of material lead times.
Lead Times & Supplier Prices Increasing
Lead times and supplier prices are expected to continue to increase over the next six months. 
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Despite challenges, development in the life sciences sector continues, with nearly 21 million square feet (msf) of projects under construction—more than double the pre-pandemic square footage. With this robust pipeline, which includes 32 msf of proposed projects in Boston and the San Francisco Bay area alone, competition for materials and labor will persist through the end of the year.  

Life sciences construction, which is particularly vulnerable to backlogs in materials, will continue to experience delays in the following supplies:    

  • AV and security systems: microchips, logic boards  
  • HVAC equipment: AC units, air handlers, specialty equipment 
  • Electrical: light fixtures, electrical switch gear (ATS, UPS, generators)  
  • Doors, frames and hardware: solid core wood doors, electrified hardware  
  • Elevators  

"Companies should engage project management partners early in the process to plan, project and potentially revise critical timelines, strategies and goals."

Sound planning with clearly defined strategic goals allows for a more certain measure of true risk profile and a better prediction on a project’s cost and estimated time of delivery.   

Experienced project development teams make every effort  to ensure delays caused by material and labor challenges are planned. In this current environment, however, project managers must be brought aboard early to revise  timelines,  reduce risk and deploy new tactics, all strategic efforts that will increase the likelihood of meeting a project’s budgets, milestones and timelines.  

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Preprogramming is the key to running a successful and on-time project in 2022 compared to 2019. Early material procurement and expediting the early works package while you are still in the location analysis and concept planning phases saves time and prevents cost overruns.
General contractor sentiment from Cushman & Wakefield’s survey indicates that challenges will continue into the next six months, with 96% of GCs expecting future supplier costs to remain elevated and 73% anticipating project execution timelines to increase slightly to significantly. Although 12% of GCs don’t expect any change in material lead times, 88% expect lead times to increase slightly to significantly in the next six months. Working through these challenges will require innovative planning and risk mitigation strategies to ensure that projects are completed on schedule.

Monte Carlo Simulations for Project Risk Assessment

To solve for risks in planning, Cushman & Wakefield project managers typically employ Monte Carlo simulations, risk-based models that reliably predict a project's outcomes and help to increase the likelihood of meeting realistic financial and timeframe goals, by knowing the major risks up front and setting up sound mitigations early. Of the past five major projects (more than 10 million square feet) modeled by Cushman & Wakefield, 80% had less than a 10% probability of hitting their original targets for schedule and cost requirements. 
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