From the pandemic to Brexit, the construction industry has faced countless challenges in the last six years. Whether it’s supply chain battles, budget inaccuracies or labour issues, these challenges often lead to significant delays on projects across the UK.
But that’s not to say these hurdles didn’t exist before – in 2016, we asked construction professionals to complete a survey about their experiences of delays in major construction projects. The survey found delays impacted over 85% of those in the construction industry, leading to additional build costs and longer delivery times.
Of course, a lot has happened since 2016 and we thought it was time to re-assess whether delays are still causing issues.
So, we sent out our survey again this year, and almost 80% of respondents said construction delays have changed in the last few years. Consultants, designers, principal contractors and sub-contractors all answered our survey on their experience in the current climate. We wanted to know about the cost implications, extended deadlines and whether delays are having a bigger impact now than back in 2016.
In this post, we will be comparing our findings from 2016 and 2022 to find out how delays in the construction industry have changed.
Respondents reported more projects under delay in 2022
A whopping 91% of those who responded in 2022 said that, in the last few years, they had been involved in a project that had experienced delays. In the last few years, an increase of 6 percentage points compared to 2016.What could be causing this?
With the demand for new homes and other buildings continuing to rise, it is stating the obvious to say that there simply aren’t enough construction workers to meet this high demand. Since the UK left the EU there has been an overall shortage of skilled labour leading to widespread recruitment difficulties. This has resulted in fewer projects being completed on time, as contractors struggle to source materials and labour.
In addition, the UK government has recently announced plans to tighten construction regulations and increase scrutiny of building projects, resulting in further delays for contractors who need to comply with these new rules. As a result, more contractors are facing long delays when it comes to completing their projects.
How do these results compare to 2016?
We asked, “What % of projects, in general, do you estimate are subject to a delay?”
In 2016, the vast majority of respondents said that less than 30% of projects experienced delays.
Worryingly, 28% of respondents in 2022, estimated that more than 50% of construction projects now experience delays of one kind or another, compared to just 15% in 2016.
These figures illustrate a shocking increase in the percentage of construction projects being delayed and in recent years, leading to higher costs and longer timelines across the UK.
Are delay periods getting longer?
Our survey tried to identify what the average amount of time that delays adds to construction projects. The question asked: Thinking of the last delayed project you have been involved with: What would you estimate the delay to be (as a % of the original estimated delivery time)?
In 2016, the most popular answer to the question was “less than 10%” with 28% of respondents choosing that answer.
In 2022, the most popular answer was 21-30% with 27% choosing this answer.
Most notably, in 2022 those answering less than 10% had dropped to only 11%.
Also, those answering that their last project had been delayed by between 21-50% had significantly increased.
Reasons for this could include the fact that projects are becoming increasingly more complex and expensive, resulting in a longer delivery time.
There has also been an increase in demand for quality materials, which means that suppliers are taking longer to supply.
In general, 2016 saw the most delays adding just under 10% of the original estimated delivery time to a project. In 2022, far more projects are experiencing longer delays that are likely to have larger cost implications.
All of these factors contribute to an overall increase in construction project delays, making it difficult for contractors to meet clients’ expectations and make a profit.
Did delays cost companies more or less six years ago?
In 2016, we asked, what would you estimate the additional cost due to delays to be? The most popular answer was less than 10%, with 31% of responders choosing that answer. By 2022 this had reduced to 26%, now sharing the top answer with 21-31% which also had 26% of the vote.
At the top end of the spectrum, we saw a 20 percentage point increase in the number of responders estimating delays to be adding more than 20% to the cost of the project. This increased from 27.7% in 2016 to 47.56% in 2022.
Furthermore, in 2022, 5% of survey respondents said their last delayed project cost over 50% more due to delays, compared to just 3% of respondents six years ago. As expected, delays are having a greater impact on build costs in 2022 than they did in 2016.
Rising prices, particularly in common building materials and labour, have been a significant factor in the overall cost of building projects. Similarly, delays from weather and other unforeseen issues can cause contractors to miss deadlines, which become more costly when they take longer to resolve.
What are the particular reasons for construction delays in 2022?
We’ve established there are more projects and professionals experiencing delays in the construction industry now, compared to six years ago. But why is this happening and what can we do about it?
We asked respondents to choose their top three reasons for delays and weighted their answers to create the following graph.
A look at each in more detail….
Poor original planning and unrealistic scheduling
In 2022, 31.4% of respondents said poor original planning and unrealistic scheduling were the number one reason for construction delays. Down only 2 percentage points from 2016 but still the number one reason for delays.
This is likely because some contractors failed to properly consider the project scope, budget, timeline and resources needed before they began work.
As a result, they often fell behind schedule or ran out of money before completing their tasks. Additionally, many contractors set unreasonably optimistic timelines and deadlines, ignoring the fact that it can be difficult to predict exactly how long a project will take.
Unfortunately, this lack of foresight led to many projects being delayed or even abandoned due to financial constraints. Fortunately, proper planning and realistic scheduling can help prevent these issues from occurring in the future. By ensuring that contractors consider all the relevant factors before beginning work, delays can be avoided and projects completed on time.
Resource availability (Labour and Supplies)
Resource availability came out, overall, as the second most popular reason for delays in 2022, with 20% choosing it as their number one reason and 18% choosing this as their second choice.
This showed the biggest increase compared to 2016, with only 5% of responders choosing labour and supply shortages as a reason for delays back then.
With industries everywhere struggling to keep up with demand in the wake of the pandemic, materials like timber, steel and aluminium can be hard to come by. This means that supply shortages can cause delays that were otherwise unforeseeable or unavoidable.
At the same time, labour is in short supply as skilled construction workers have been laid off or shifted to other industries. This puts additional strain on the construction industry and can lead to delays in projects. In short, resource availability is a major factor causing construction delays today – but was not a prominent cause of delays in 2016.
Lack or delay in information
In 2016, 34% of respondents said a lack or delay in information was the number one reason for construction delays. However, only 16% of respondents agreed that this was the main reason for delays in 2022.
These figures suggest that in 2022 there are more prominent issues that contribute to construction delays, like resource availability and unrealistic scheduling.
Increasingly complex regulations have made it harder for contractors to complete projects on time, as they must devote extra effort to understanding and adhering to updated safety requirements or navigating around changes in the way land and buildings can be developed. Investing in staff training or outsourcing these tasks could definitely help to reduce the delays they inevitably cause.
Who took the blame?
Whilst this question is entirely subjective it does shine a light on relationships within the industry and how people very rarely blame themselves for anything.
How can we mitigate delays?
We asked respondents to choose their top two reasons for delays and weighted their answers to create the following graph.
In 2022, 34% of our survey respondents said improved monitoring and regular updates were the best way to mitigate delays.
And 29% chose improved information such as site investigations such as site drawings and plans, before the start of work.
Also, in 2016, 34% of respondents said better scheduling and project management would be their first choice to mitigate delays. This was overtaken in 2022 by Improved monitoring and regular updates with all parties involved.
The best ways of mitigating delays seems to have remained reasonably constant over the last 5 years, with one particular factor standing out.
Both in 2016 and 2022 responders agree that harsher penalties are the least effective way to mitigate delays in the construction industry – with just 4.5% of respondents selecting this method in 2022 and 8% of respondents in 2016.
Let’s take a closer look at the different ways we can mitigate delays in 2022.
Improved information, such as site investigations and drawings
Going into a construction project with as much information as possible can help to make sure work runs smoothly and without delays. Site investigations, such as an analysis of soil conditions and existing infrastructure, can provide valuable insight that helps inform the design process.
Detailed drawings which definitively identify material assortment, locations and sizes can also help everyone be on the same page before any construction begins. By taking the time to research and plan, projects can move forward without worrying that something wasn’t thought of. Investing in quality information helps keep everyone productive and efficient.
Receiving up-to-date information about the whereabouts of buried utilities is also key to a well-managed project.
Improved monitoring and regular updates
In 2022, a quarter of our survey respondents selected improved monitoring and regular updates with all parties involved. When it comes to construction projects, delays can be a major source of frustration for everyone involved. But the good news is that improved monitoring and regular updates between all parties involved can help ensure deadlines are met and keep everything running smoothly.
By regularly tracking progress, communicating any issues as soon as they arise, and keeping stakeholders in the loop with regular updates, everyone can be on the same page and make sure that potential delays are quickly identified and addressed. This kind of proactive approach to communication and coordination can go a long way in helping a project stay on track and within budget.
It is clear that both the number of projects experiencing delays and the cost of these delays are on the increase. It is also evident that most people know the solutions to these issues. The bottom line is that it’s essential for everyone involved in the construction process – from contractors and vendors all the way to clients – to keep communication lines open and to ensure that, where there is a consensus, action is taken to minimise delays to save money now and in the future.
By taking proactive steps such as keeping detailed records, staying up-to-date on regulations, and planning ahead for potential issues, everyone involved can avoid costly delays and get projects done faster than ever before. With effective planning and communication, construction projects can be completed on time and with minimal cost increases. As someone once said, “Prior planning prevents poor performance”.
Brought in to help take the business to the next level, Jim’s role is to improve lead generation and customer satisfaction from over 3,500 registered clients. Jim loves interacting with potential and existing clients and has a wealth of marketing and sales experience through his previous roles at O2, the RAC and TalkTalk. Jim holds a BA (Hons) Business Studies degree majoring in Marketing. He has also become a regular visitor to the UEFA Champions League final of late 😉