Daily management

20 June 2019

Standard Task List: successful collaboration in construction

The construction sector is making efforts to professionalise the collaboration between the different players. The Standard Task List (STL), a document listing all the assignments and responsible parties of a project, may be the way forward.

In a nutshell

  • The Standard Task list is a digital matrix which lists the tasks in the various phases of a project and indicates the party responsible for executing each task.
  • The STL is the result of three years of collaboration between the main umbrella organisations for architects (G30), engineering offices (ORI) and contractors (ADEB-VBA).
  • The STL should lead to lower failure costs.

Fierce competition

The failure costs in construction amount to 10% of the turnover realised. This is huge when you consider that the average gross margin in the sector hovers around 4%. A building project may well be a complex process involving many different parties, but even so… Does construction have a cultural problem?

Even though the need for better cooperation and greater trust is obvious to everyone concerned, in practice this is often superseded by mutual distrust, frequently fuelled by fierce competition. Yet construction companies are shooting themselves in the foot because of this. Luc Hellemans, CEO of Lantis: “One third of all massive projects are never realised and another third turn into a financial fiasco. So, the price of the lack of cooperation is very high.”

Greater precision thanks to (self-)control

Wim Straetmans, Director at BAM Belgium and driver of the STL project: “Our sector does not set the bar high enough. Poor planning and execution cause a chain reaction from one mistake to the next. It costs a huge amount of money and energy to put this right afterwards. In addition, these mistakes result in discussions that reflect negatively on all companies involved in the construction process.”

“We must all strive for greater precision and the only way we can do this is with systems of (self-)control. BIM (Building Information Management) achieves this by managing projects virtually and by applying the principles of Lean Manufacturing, with end-to-end thinking even in the design and process of a building project. But it takes true collaboration and good communication, and that is also the objective of the STL initiative,” says Straetmans.

"We must all strive for greater precision and the only way we can do this is with systems of (self-)control."

Digital matrix

In itself, the STL is not a revolutionary concept. It is a digital matrix which lists the tasks in the various phases of a project and indicates the party responsible for executing each task. Some companies may use their own list. The STL makes a difference thanks to its completeness and uniformity. This is because the STL is the result of three years of collaboration between the main umbrella organisations for architects (G30), engineering offices (ORI) and contractors (ADEB-VBA).

Standardisation should increase recognition and ensure trust. Though, standard does not mean unchangeable: users can take the list and create their own templates for various types of projects. 

Users can take the list and create their own templates for various types of projects.

Structuring a project

Ideally, the client takes the initiative to use the STL. The best way to look at the STL is as a starting document that allows the client to structure his or her building project. The STL should be the basis for the contracts with the various parties involved in the project. The STL is also the ideal preparation for digital management via a virtual BIM model. That is because it contains all the project information and facilitates optimal preparation, execution and monitoring of the tasks.

The STL needs to become established

The STL was presented in the ING auditorium in early April. There was great interest, but for the use of the list to have a real impact it needs to become widely established. Didier Cartage, General Manager of ADEB-VBA: “As one of the initiators, the VBA will do all it can to promote the matrix among its members and stakeholders. So, one of the things we have done is create an instructional video on how to use the matrix, and we are preparing social media posts with best practices.”

“In addition, the STL is relevant not just to the parties involved in the execution of a building project, but also to those who need to translate the project financially and contractually. Ideally, law firms and banks will also use the document, but it would be really great if they encouraged their customers to use it,” concludes Cartage.

Binding and connecting

The STL can be added voluntarily to any contract that is concluded within the framework of the project, such as the architectural and engineering assignments and the building contract. In this manner, the matrix certainly fulfills a connecting role. But the STL will only be legally binding if this is explicitly agreed.

What is the point of a non-binding list? Wim Straetmans: “There is reflection and cooperation before the operations actually begin. The STL creates clarity regarding the responsibilities of all parties, which in principle will lead to greater convenience and fewer mistakes. Besides, I find accountability a more positive incentive than strict legal liability.”

"I find accountability a more positive incentive than strict legal liability."

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