Construction Scheduling. Including Inspection, Testing, and Commissioning Activities in the Construction CPM Schedule?

Are you including activities for the testing of equipment and systems, inspections for acceptance of systems and areas, and the commissioning of systems when you develop your baseline schedule?

People often focus on the “construction” activities when developing the schedule.

But the construction activities are only a part of the plan to execute the project. There are submittals and procurement, permits, and the closeout process.

One of the areas often overlooked is the inspection, testing, and commissioning process. There will be all kinds of inspections for the acceptance of specific work and entire systems. While it’s not a good idea to try and add all the specific installation inspections and tests that occur on an almost daily basis. We should include the inspections and tests for systems.

It makes sense to include an inspection and pre-operational test for the fire alarm system, fire suppression system, elevator, security system, electrical system, and mechanical system for a specific area or structure. There may be more for your specific project… Unfortunately, I see schedules that only have an activity at the end of the schedule named “commission” or “punch list inspection”. These activities are vague and can’t really address the need to test the systems individually and as necessary, in conjunction with each other. (Think Fire Alarm and Elevator or Fire Alarm and HVAC system zone controls).

Sometimes, the schedule specifications will include specific requirements for the inspection, testing and commissioning processes. Usually, the specification requirements are more general. Regardless, it is in the best interest of the project to include activities for these quality assurance activities in the schedule.

Not having a series of activities for the development, submittal, review, and approval of a fire alarm test plan or mechanical system commissioning plan creates a large risk for the schedule. While everyone may understand these plans are necessary and the testing is required before substantial completion can be obtained, many project teams don’t include the entire process in the project schedule. We also need the actual start-up and pre-operational inspection and testing work, the commissioning of the system, and the performance testing in the schedule. Depending on the size of the project and system, these may or may not occur at the same time. For a smaller renovation project, it’s not unreasonable to expect the inspection, testing and commissioning of a system will all happen at the same time over the course of a couple of days. On a larger more complex project, there may be a third-party commissioning agent and the system may be large and complex enough that the inspection and pre-operational testing will take several days with additional coordination with other systems.

Not including activities for this work will create a delay situation at the back end of the project, when you can least afford it.

We need to put a lot of effort into looking at the end of project QA and closeout work to make sure we include everything we need. If we do not have the time for this work allocated at the beginning of the project, we will certainly not have any room to execute this work at the end of the project.

I’m sure many of you have comments or additional insight into this subject. Please share!

I’d love to hear what you think!

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Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP