What is a Fast Track Project?

In a number of previous articles, I have talked about how rushing through phases of work is detrimental to a project.  Speeding through any phase of work adds cost and time to a project.

Despite this, the old adage “time is money” continues to be true.

As such, Owner’s almost always want the work to be done faster.

Today I want to share with you the fastest delivery model of them all.

It also happens to be one of the most misused terms in construction.

The term “fast-track” refers to a method of delivering a construction project where the construction work begins before the design is complete.

Unfortunately, this term is often confused with “design-build” and is most often misused to describe a project that skips steps or is accelerated by side stepping some part of the process.

I say it’s unfortunate because when a project is delivered in a true “fast-track” method there are no skipped steps.  In fact when it’s delivered by a skilled team, fast-track projects can actually be more thoroughly conceived and more expertly designed than other projects.

In order to execute a fast track project, it’s important to develop a design and lock it down early in the process.  With this model, a slightly longer and more thoughtful schematic design phase is critical.  Design changes in latter phases of work are not only difficult, they are costly, so ensuring that you are happy with the design is of paramount importance.

Once the design is locked down, the design team and the construction team will work in concert to execute the work.  You must have both teams onboard by the time you complete your schematic design.  This ensures that the construction team has time to mobilize and place material orders in preparation for the first phase of construction.

In a fast track project the construction work is started while the drawings are in development.  The first set of drawings may be nothing more than a grading plan that shows where the building will be located and how the ground will be sloped.  The construction team can then start prepping the site and excavating the area while the foundations and footings are being designed.

The design team may release a footings and foundations package just as the grading and site prep is completed.  This allows the construction team to begin formwork, installing rebar, and pouring concrete, all while the design team is designing the structural frame and the building envelope.

And so on, the design team and the construction team work collaboratively and in quick succession delivering one portion and then another until you have a complete project.

It’s truly an amazing and incredible way to deliver a project.

But it takes great skill, coordination, and a team that is experienced not only in fast track project, but also with each other.

Fast track projects are not for everyone.  This goes for designers, builders, and owners.  Changes in latter phases of work can cost up to 10 times that of a more conventional project.  As such, investing a little extra time 2 or 3 more weeks in the schematic phase is well worth the effort.

This method of delivery can save 50% of the time of a conventional project.

On the flip side, it does cost more!

You should expect to pay 30% to 50% more in design fees.  This is due to the additional number of design packages and additional man-power needed to execute a project this way.  On the construction side, costs could stay relatively flat assuming there are no delays in the progress of the work.

Keep in mind that each drawing package will need to undergo it’s own permit approval phase.  Consider visiting your local authority well ahead of filing for permits to let them know what you are doing.  They may be amenable to expedited reviews but ONLY if you include them in your project planning and share your schematic drawings in advance.

All in all, fast track is a great way to deliver a project assuming that schedule is by far your number one priority.

So how many of you have ever delivered a fast track project?  How many have misused this term?  What did you think it meant?

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this content, please feel free to browse my previous articles and please like, share, comment, and subscribe.  This helps promote my content and is greatly appreciated.


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