Part 1:  Dear Diary…

Hindsight is 20-20 they say, but the benefit of hindsight comes from being able to look back with clarity. The view looking back can get obscured when developing construction claims at the end stages of a project if the right information wasn’t captured during course of the work. Substantiating delays and impacts to the work relies upon the ability to analyze historical project data, to demonstrate what happened and when, and to determine the impacts to the schedule, productivity and costs. A lack of detail captured during the course of construction can make those tasks difficult, which can jeopardize the integrity and success of a claim.

One simple tool that is often overlooked for its value is the site diary, or daily work report.

In general, the site supervisor uses their diary to capture daily happenings, but more often than not does not have a guideline as to what kind of information is important to capture.

Without a standard format and procedure for site diaries, the content and the quality of information captured can vary widely from site to site within the company. What one person considers an important event to chronicle is not the same as another’s. Beyond the basics such as date, weather, manpower and general activities, site diaries often contain subjective information that can be of dubious qualitative value, and limited quantitative value.

The use of a standard form for site diaries can take some of the guesswork out of what to capture, and provides some uniformity from day to day and from project to project. When the site supervisor sits down at the end of a long day to do the last thing they want to do (paperwork), filling in a standard form can make it easier and can help prompt them about what they need to document from the day’s events. A written procedure accompanying the form is also helpful in giving the site supervisor an understanding as to the importance and value of capturing specific data and information.

Project management software has built-in modules for recording of daily work and events which makes data capture easier. In the absence of such software, a simple spreadsheet or hard copy form will do. Whether using pre-packaged or an in-house developed form, the fields of information should be customized to suit the company and project.

Fields of information to include on a form and in the accompanying procedure document can vary depending on the role of the company (i.e., owner’s rep, site engineer, general contractor, or subcontractor, etc.), and on the nature of the contract (turnkey, lump sum construction, unit price, etc.). I will often customize forms and establish specific procedures for a client to use on a particular project that has a more complex contract or cost control structure.

Generally, the following fields should be included: 

  • Date
  • Weather
  • Manpower
  • Equipment – Rented and Owned
  • Subcontractors on Site
  • Start Time/Finish Time
  • Area Worked: identify the specific area as per contract price breakdown, schedule activity breakdown and/or cost control structure.
  • Work Performed – Contract: specific to each Area Worked. The value of recording activities daily in a format or breakdown that is consistent with other project data such as revenue, cost and schedule, is that it makes various analyses necessary for claims, including delay, productivity and impact of changes, more efficient and more credible.
  • Work Performed – Extra: specific to quote, change directive or change order number. Allows for tracking and verifying extra work costs and efforts, as well as identifying the exact time periods when extra or changed work was performed for claims’ analysis purposes. Include acceleration efforts to recover schedule delays.
  • Material/Equipment Ordered/Delivered
  • Delays/Interruptions to the Work: important to document issues daily with respect to areas or activities on hold and why, and to follow-up with any written notices of delay in accordance with timing stipulated in the contract.

Verbal Directives/Requests from Others (owner, engineer, architect, general contractor): it is important to document such directives daily, and having a specific field reserved for this serves as a reminder to follow up with a written confirmation, quotation and/or request for change order

Even if the project doesn’t appear to be at risk of substantial claims while underway, the fact is that disputes can arise by the end of the project, and by then it can be difficult to look back and substantiate what happened and when. Other benefits of capturing detailed data during the course of the work include the ability to use that data internally to evaluate project performance for future estimating and bidding.

Detailed, formatted daily site diaries are good practice. Successful construction claims, as well as success in defending against claims, depend on good documentation.

This blog was authored by ICCP Fellow, Adele Wojtowicz, Construction Claims & Risk Management Consultant, ProEdge Construction Services Inc

Related articles written in this series on Proactive Tips To Increase Your Success Rate of Claims can be found here:

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