Guide to Uncertainty Management in Construction

In the construction industry, uncertainties are caused by factors like unpredictable conditions, scheduling flaws, and business pressures. In some cases, uncertainty can be caused by labor shortages affecting the construction industry. Labor shortages can be attributed to younger generations not wanting to work in labor-intensive industries, creating a gap as older workers retire.

The level of uncertainty for each construction project will vary depending on the project\’s uniqueness. The more unique a project is, the more complex and uncertain it is to implement.

What is uncertainty in construction?

In the construction world, uncertainty can be described as informational gaps, making it difficult for contractors to make sound decisions. The concept of uncertainty is based on the notion of predictability and complexity. Because you cannot tell the future, you must depend on past projects to identify potential risks and develop mitigation strategies.

When dealing with complex projects, it is crucial to understand that the more complex a project is, the more money, time, and resources will be required. Regarding uncertainty in construction, there are several basic concepts that you can use to identify risks.

One of these concepts is the idea of known-knowns. Known-knowns imply that risks have been identified and a probability number has been assigned.

Another classification is known-unknowns. Although the risks are known in this category, a probability number has yet to be given because the likelihood of it impacting the project is unclear.

How to handle uncertainty in construction

Though contractors cannot completely avoid uncertainty in construction projects, they can devise ways to minimize it. The best way to do so is to plan well and ensure vital elements such as equipment, people, and other processes are prepared beforehand.

The right people, from project managers to subcontractors, can identify errors before they affect the entire project. So how should you handle uncertainty in construction projects?

Get the right tools

You will not be able to effectively manage uncertainties if you still use traditional tools like Excel and Whatsapp to manage construction projects. For starters, tools such as Excel are outdated and prone to errors. Excel also becomes tedious when having to simulate complicated construction projects.

It is also important to note that Excel does not provide multiple layers of security. A team member can easily change data without anyone knowing who and what was changed. Instead of using outdated tools, consider modern construction platforms like

ALICE is the first construction optioneering platform created for complex construction projects. Contractors can use the platform to organize linear projects, such as roads and skyscrapers. Using this platform, you can create simulations to advise you on the most optimal construction strategy.

An excellent example of this strategy can be seen in the case of renovating a major highway. Assume you are torn between closing two lanes or one lane. AI-backed technology can be used to create simulations and illustrate the effects of closing two roads based on traffic impact and completion rate.

Using this data, you can make an informed decision on the best construction route to take. In a nutshell, contractors can use AI-powered and optioneering platforms to reduce risks and help recover a stalled project by creating efficient schedules and ensuring limited resources are well optimized.

Digitize your construction processes

Another strategy to manage uncertainty is to digitize your entire construction business. As a contractor, you need to look at your processes and identify areas where risk is likely. For example, if there is low productivity at the construction site, you can use technology that monitors unproductive employees or registers data on those who come to work late.

If there is a risk of poor communication and collaboration, you’ll need to identify collaborative tools that everyone in your organization can use. These tools should have different security access levels and be mobile-friendly for easy mobile access.

Collaboration tools should also be able to send important messages, such as blueprints, and hold people accountable by having a task-tracking feature.

Peer review your construction projects

Peer reviewing involves having independent contractors review your designs to identify risks that may affect the project. Though some will argue peer reviewing can increase costs, it is important to remember that these costs are worth it. This is because it is cheaper to review a design at the onset, rather than redesigning a foundation when you’ve already built five floors.

Peer reviewing is also crucial because it lets independent contractors advise if the project is feasible and if the costs are realistic. Because peer review helps you identify risks, you can devise several options for mitigating them.

Sources of uncertainty in construction

Owners-driven changes

Owner-driven changes can cause uncertainties, primarily when the changes result in increased operational costs. A good example is when drastic design changes are made via a change order when the project is 80% complete.

Poor communication between stakeholders

Poor communication between stakeholders—including engineers, architects, and contractors—increases uncertainty. This is because poor communication can result in knowledge gaps, which can result in costly errors. A good example is when a change order is made for the design to be remodified.

When the design is remodified, it is supposed to be inspected by a structural engineer so that they can advise on the foundation work. If the engineer was not aware of the changed design, the foundation might not be strong enough to handle enough weight. If this happens, the project can end up being stalled, and millions of dollars worth of investment could be flushed down the toilet.

Accelerated construction schedules

Another cause of uncertainty is following an accelerated construction schedule. Accelerated schedules ignore safety precautions. They also overlook the importance of having the right construction permits, which can result in fines or the project being canceled altogether.