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Whether it is within your control or not, construction projects frequently encounter circumstances that lead to delays. These delays can occur due to various reasons, ranging from weather conditions to inadequate planning. Irrespective of the causes, construction delays can have significant financial implications for projects. Even a single-day setback in a critical activity can disrupt the project schedule and incur costs.

Forensic delay analysis is employed by analysts to determine the cause of delay and its impact on the project. Once established, if necessary, a claim can be filed to recover damages resulting from the delay. Multiple methods are available for analyzing delays, and the selection of the appropriate one depends on several factors, including contractual obligations, availability of source data, complexity and size of the dispute, and the dispute resolution process.

The following provides an overview of commonly used and industry-standard delay analysis methods.

What is forensic delay analysis?

Forensic delay analysis refers to the process of assessing how the project schedule was affected by one or more events that occurred during the project, as well as identifying the causes and parties responsible for those events. A delay analysis report typically includes:

– Quantification of the overall delay

– Identification of specific activities that caused the schedule delay

– Definition of events or causes that impacted those activities

– Assessment of responsibility for the impacts and allocation of project delay

Contractors utilize this type of analysis to request time extensions for uncontrollable events or impacts, or to seek reimbursement for costs incurred due to project extension. Owners commonly employ this analysis to respond to contractors’ requests or to evaluate liquidated damages for delays in facility utilization. In either case, a comprehensive analysis is necessary to clarify the causes of delays and assign responsibility.

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delay analysis
delay analysis

Common causes of delays

There are several common causes of construction delays that may necessitate a forensic delay analysis. The following are a few examples:

– Unforeseen site conditions: Unexpected conditions, such as subsurface issues, that were undisclosed or unknown during the bidding phase.

– Contractor-related issues: Poor work planning, inadequate workforce, subpar workmanship, safety concerns, or other deficiencies that hinder project progress.

– Owner impacts: Actions or inactions by the owner that affect contractor performance. This can include frequent changes, limited access to necessary areas, delays in providing approvals, or other hindrances to the contractor’s ability to perform.

– Weather impacts: Inclement weather conditions often disrupt construction work, including excessive rain, snow, floods, ice, or droughts. These conditions reduce productivity and may pose safety risks, resulting in significant delays.

– Other external factors: Delays can also occur due to factors beyond the control of the contractor or owner, such as funding issues for manufacturers, labor strikes, labor shortages, or similar circumstances.

Types of delay analysis methods

Various techniques exist for conducting delay analysis. AACE International, the Society of Construction Law, and other industry organizations have each defined different methods for performing schedule delay analysis. The choice of methodology depends on several factors, including contractual obligations, availability of source data, complexity of the dispute, and the purpose of the analysis. Here is a brief overview of the five most commonly used methods and their operational principles.

Impacted as-planned methods

The impacted as-planned method incorporates delay events by introducing impact activities into the original baseline (as-planned) schedule. These impact activities, also known as “delay fragnets,” are created to represent actual events that occurred during the project and their relationship to the planned activities. By integrating the impacts into the schedule, it can be recalculated using scheduling software to determine the extent to which the events affected the project completion date.

The as-planned completion date is then compared to the impacted completion date in order to quantify the number of days attributable to the delay events.

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This methodology is relatively straightforward to execute and comprehend, and it does not necessitate contemporaneous schedule updates or an as-built schedule. However, it is hypothetical in nature and disregards the shifting critical path throughout the project.

Impacted as-planned methods
Impacted as-planned methods

Collapsed as-built (“but-for”) method

The collapsed as-built method is, in some aspects, the opposite of the impacted as-planned method. It involves analyzing the as-built schedule and determining the completion date that would have been achieved “but-for” the identified impacts.

To accomplish this, the impacts are removed from the final as-built schedule, and the schedule is recalculated using software. The difference between this modeled completion date and the actual completion date provides a quantification of the associated delay.

This method is user-friendly and comprehensible, and it does not require an as-planned schedule or contemporaneous schedule updates. However, it can be manipulated depending on the sequence and logic of activity deletions. Furthermore, since it is based on modeling, the “but-for” schedule is purely theoretical and may not accurately reflect how the contractor executed the work during the project.

Aa-planned vs. as-build methods

The as-planned vs. as-built method is relatively straightforward and, unlike the previously discussed methods, purely observational. It involves sequentially comparing individual planned and actual activities. By conducting this comparison, you identify the reasons for observed variances (such as late starts or extended durations) and use them to quantify the associated delay.

This method offers advantages as it is usually quick to perform the analysis, easy to understand, and can be carried out with basic schedules. It works best for simple projects with short durations and a consistent critical path throughout the project. However, it becomes challenging to account for a changing critical path during construction, which reduces accuracy in such situations.

Time impact analysis

The retrospective time impact analysis is a modeled approach that quantifies each impact event based on the most recently accepted schedule update before and after the insertion of the delay event. The difference in project completion date between the non-impacted and impacted schedule updates determines the amount of delay.

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This approach is similar to the prospective time impact analysis that might be conducted during the project to support a time extension request. The primary difference is that it is performed retrospectively and incorporates the actual durations of impacts.

The time impact analysis method is often referenced in contractual provisions and may be more familiar to the parties involved. It requires consistent and reliable data for each impact, making it unsuitable if such information is unavailable. However, it is considered hypothetical in nature and can be overwhelming to perform when there are numerous delay events.

Time impact analysis
Time impact analysis

Windows analysis method

The windows analysis method divides the total project duration into shorter analysis periods called “windows” and quantifies the delay within each period. It is an observational approach that compares the planned work at the beginning of the period with the as-built work during that period. Each period typically ranges from one to six months, and delay allocations are determined by measuring late starts and extended durations of activities.

A significant difference between windows analysis and as-planned vs. as-built analysis is that the windows analysis considers the dynamic nature of the critical path through the analysis of schedule updates. Therefore, this method requires reliable periodic updates of the schedule for calculation. While the windows analysis method is highly comprehensive, it can also be time-consuming and necessitates detailed project records.

Engage Asia Pacific Projects for dispute delay analysis

Asia Pacific Projects diligently assists clients in resolving construction delay disputes. Our in-depth analyses provide meticulous documentation of productivity, time, and financial losses. Our team of construction delay specialists adopts a comprehensive methodology, scrutinizing every aspect of disruption claims. Our services span the entire duration of your construction project, offering support at every stage.


Please send information or requests that you need to consult for Asia Pacific Projects via:

NGUYEN THI HIEU | Local Relations

Mobile phone: +84 918 331 489

Email: hieu.nguyen@appmvn.com

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