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There is a construction boom going on across the United States. Companies of all sizes are looking to expand by building new facilities, upgrading infrastructure or adapting existing structures to their needs. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is forecasting a 5.4% increase in spending for non-residential construction projects in 2022 and an additional 6.1% in 2023. With this increase in demand for new, upgraded or renovated facilities, a few different global issues are adding to the difficulties of getting a project started or completed on time and within budget.

One issue is that the COVID-19 pandemic constrained the global supply chain. Many factories worldwide were forced to close for pandemic-related lockdowns or because they could not acquire raw materials. Shipping was also affected by these lockdowns and port closures, impacting their ability to quickly deliver raw materials or finished products. These supply chain troubles created other issues; the inability of supply to meet growing demand. There was high demand across multiple sectors for materials; production costs soared as oil and energy prices spiked. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has made markets volatile. There is a labor crunch hitting nearly every economic sector due to the "Great Resignation." These factors have caused prices for construction materials like lumber, steel and even workers to skyrocket, in some cases doubling pre-pandemic costs.

Higher prices for commodities and supply chain constraints have led to increased costs for construction projects and added to the challenge of maintaining project timelines. This puts additional strain on CAPEX budgets and forces companies to choose a priority: focus on the cost or the schedule of a project. Furthermore, the complexities of delivery go above and beyond one professional’s remit or one particular skillset and necessitate a multidisciplinary approach. Because of this uncertainty, more and more companies are looking to bring in wide-reaching external expertise to provide solutions, mitigate risks and assist with this industry-wide challenge. These construction experts can help develop procurement, cost and project management, estimating and scheduling strategies.

Several construction experts have created a Center of Excellence (CoE) model to offer the most significant value to companies. These CoEs develop multidisciplinary teams of experts from across the business and centralize them in one location to disseminate knowledge, develop best practices, access cross-sector business intelligence and proffer benchmarking. This process has many benefits, including a more efficient service and superior client support, while allowing the next generation of experts to hone their skills and absorb professional knowledge.

Flexibility and efficiency

Previously, a client would consult with a construction expert who provided specific services for a project. These discussions would look at matching experience with the requirements of the project and the budget for professional services. However, with all the aforementioned factors increasing costs and timelines, most construction projects have become significantly more complex. Having the ability to tap into the knowledge of experts from different construction disciplines would provide a different and broader viewpoint for challenges and benefit the project immensely.

The CoE can help the client by facilitating access to experts in multiple disciplines who are up-to-date on the latest data and trends from across the construction industry. For example, the CoE can work with the client in the earliest part of the planning and design stage, to establish timelines and milestones that are realistic and match industry data. Support at this early stage could include advice on new procurement strategies or expanded supply chain options that can mitigate cost and time impacts caused by long-lead materials or heavily-inflated core commodities. By recommending more flexibility in design and the supply chain, clients can maintain more cost and schedule certainty or be able to appreciate the project challenges much earlier in the process.

CoEs provide clients with enormous flexibility and a deep bench of industry professionals to provide the required level of service. The client gets access to a blended team of specialists that allows tasks and deliverables to be completed in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Junior staff may complete the administrative data management tasks, while senior leaders provide oversight, and handle the quality assurance and data analysis. This combination of talent provides the most exceptional value-added benefit to the project since it can tap into whichever discipline best supports the various tasks required for the job.

The CoE grants clients access to additional services enhancements like quantitative risk analysis, schedule peer reviews and data visualization to serve their project needs better.

Scalability and improvement

For the consultancy, the CoE gives it the ability to easily and quickly scale up for large projects and provide a standardized service across the organization. It allows for data collection to update services on an ongoing basis while promoting the implementation of consistent guidelines and reporting tools.

This wealth of data and experience permits the consultancy to offer in-house training and improvements to junior employees to advance their careers, including the support of mentors. It can also expose more senior employees to a variety of project types and sectors, so they gain experience with new clients and sectors and thereby avoid stagnation.

The concept of Centers of Excellence has been employed by many different industries and businesses, from professional services to software. Companies that use them may develop expertise in their methods and techniques, from which best practices can be created and implemented across the organization. The company also gains customer insights, promoting the flexibility to scale up or down as the situation requires. These improved efficiencies and services are a rare win-win for both the company and the client.

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