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The Significance of Schedule of Works in Construction Projects

Yancy Lassiter
Published Jul 21, 2023

A comprehensive schedule of works lays the foundation for success on virtually every construction job. It’s intended to document a project’s timeline, serving as an outline of the sequence and duration of job-related activities or milestones. The schedule also details project deliverables and task dependencies, helping to ensure jobs remain on schedule and within budget.

Much like a schedule of values and similar project documents, the schedule of works forms an integral part of the construction contract agreement. The details included in a schedule of works generally vary by the scope of the job, with a variety of methods and templates available for building a well-structured and comprehensive construction schedule. Regardless of the level of detail and manner with which the schedule of works is created, accurate estimates and realistic expectations are crucial components of any construction schedule and are key to the project’s success.

Purpose and Benefits

A proper schedule of works is integral to the project planning process, resource allocation, task coordination, and management of the job’s timeline. A comprehensive construction schedule addresses all of these elements, helping contractors maximize their productivity, streamline workflows, and eliminate project delays.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of maintaining a detailed schedule of works is seen during the planning phase of a project. The schedule establishes a roadmap for acquiring necessary materials and resources, ensuring sufficient quantities and on-time deliveries. It’s also an invaluable tool for determining the workforce required for a particular construction project. 

A good construction schedule is also vital in establishing the project’s budget and timeline. It’s essential to setting schedules, determining deadlines, and establishing expectations for team members. And the ability to manage and control these elements of a construction project helps to ensure improved productivity throughout the job.

The schedule of works also facilitates clear and transparent communication among all stakeholders. A well-written and regularly-updated schedule ensures that contractors, trades, designers, and project owners all maintain a consistent understanding of the job’s ongoing progress as well as any changes that inevitably arise along the way. 

Components of a Schedule of Works

The details and structure of a schedule of works generally vary according to the nature and scope of the project, and there are a variety of methods appropriate for building a construction schedule. At a minimum, every well-written schedule of works should include a breakout of resources and asset allocation as well as detailing all project deliverables. It should also list milestones for the specific tasks to be completed and any related task dependencies. The durations and deadlines for finishing each stage of the project are also necessary components of every construction schedule. 

Various templates and methods are available for assembling a construction project’s schedule of works. Some schedules can be put together relatively simply with just a spreadsheet, and the inclusion of an optional Gantt chart helps provide a quick view of a project’s progress and timeline. Schedules built in a spreadsheet program like Excel are generally easy to create and update, with an interface familiar to many computer users. 

Other methods for assembling a schedule of works include building a milestone chart detailing the specific stages, events, and deliverables of the job. Sometimes referred to as the critical path method (CPM) for structuring a construction schedule, this approach is one of the most commonly used because of its focus on essential tasks and required steps for completion.

Managing Time and Resources with a Schedule of Works

Among the many benefits of a properly-structured schedule of works is its ability to help contractors manage a construction project’s resources and timeline more efficiently and ensure on-time and successful completion of the project.

The construction schedule plays a critical role in task sequencing, serving as a checklist for the work to be performed and ensuring that the most important stages of the project happen in the correct order. From the design phase through pre-construction and construction to review and project closing, a comprehensive schedule of works is vital to keeping the job on track. 

A schedule of works also plays an important planning function related to resource allocation, helping contractors determine the materials, equipment, and labor required for each stage of the project. And, of equal importance, a properly-updated schedule tracks any changes that might significantly affect budgets and timelines. In this regard, the construction schedule is an invaluable communication tool, providing a clear view of the time and resources required by the project and identifying critical path activities and dependencies necessary to bring the job to completion.

Enhancing Project Communication

In addition to helping contractors manage time and resources on their construction jobs, the schedule of works plays a significant role in facilitating clear and transparent communication between all stakeholders. As every contractor knows, efficient and effective communication between contractors, trades, managers, project owners, and the design team is crucial to a project’s success. Without good communication in place to ensure all parties are on the same page regarding the job’s progress, misunderstandings, disputes, and delays are inevitable.

Construction schedules also function as important reference documents, providing project stakeholders with a clear view and thorough understanding of all details necessary to bring a job to completion. Specific project elements generally addressed and communicated through the schedule of works include progress status and updates, keeping all parties up-to-speed. Similarly, the construction schedule is an essential tool for budget and timeline tracking, as well as informing stakeholders of any change orders that might have occurred.

By providing a clear understanding of a project’s details and offering all parties a clear window into the ongoing status of a job, an effective schedule of works proactively serves to minimize the opportunity for disputes and helps to resolve any unavoidable conflicts quickly and efficiently.

Adapting to Changes and Delays

It’s important that the schedule of works on a construction project be seen as a living, flexible document. Done right, the schedule is meant to be updated on a regular basis in order to accommodate unforeseen project issues and circumstances. As such, the ability to easily adjust the construction schedule is essential for keeping projects on track and preventing or mitigating the impact of any unnecessary delays or disruptions.

In general, contractors should revisit the schedule of works every four weeks at minimum, updating it as necessary to reflect changes in project milestones, timelines, and budgets. It’s also a good practice for contractors to provide an updated forecast at weekly project meetings, comparing upcoming expectations with past progress to ensure the job is advancing without delay. This regular review carries the added benefit of enabling the early identification and proactive correction of potential problem areas. 

Ultimately, a well-structured and regularly updated schedule of works plays an essential role in helping to avoid budget errors, approval delays, and labor challenges over the life cycle of a construction project. And it functions as an effective communication tool, serving a vital role in ensuring a clear and transparent understanding of the job details by all parties to the construction contract.

Yancy Lassiter

Yancy Lassiter, a CPA with a degree from the University of Texas, has 12 years under his belt as a Controller and CFO in the construction industry; he’s your go-to guy for finance in the building industry.

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