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Construction Delays and Concurrent Delays

Construction Delays and Concurrent Delays

Understanding Construction Delays

Delays can be considered as one of the common events encountered in construction industry, whereby majority of projects including in the Middle East, suffer delays.

Construction Delays and Concurrent Delays

Construction Delays and Concurrent Delays

Delays occur due to a plethora of reasons, either attributed to Employers, Contractors/Consultants, local Authorities, other stakeholders, site/project conditions or force majeure. The nature of construction projects being a product to be handed-over years after executing the contract, its complexity and multiplicity of its stakeholders drive such delays.

Delay is one of the fundamental issues that impinge projects due to its negative impact not only on time of delivery but also due to its associated ramifications, additional cost and losses.

Delays are always a center of disputes between the contracting parties due to its negative consequences. For which various techniques for delay analysis have been developed/developing over the years in order to identify the requirements to perform the delay analysis, its suitability, the methodology of analysis and its potential outcomes. However, delays’ issues/disputes are extremely complex, whereby various international standard forms of contracts, professional bodies/institutions and legislators tried to provide guidance and regulation for the same. The matter became more complex and exacerbated when concurrent delays encountered, in simple words, it is delays attributed to both the contractor and the employer running simultaneously, whereby concurrent delay can be considered as one of the utmost complex/controversial features of construction disputes.

Delay can be defined, in simple words, as a delay in performing works’ components/ activities, either a delay to start an activity or a delay to the period required to finish an activity.


Project Management & Construction Delays

Construction delays are a common challenge in the industry, significantly impacting project timelines, budgets, and stakeholder relationships. These delays can arise from various sources, including weather conditions, regulatory issues, material shortages, labor disputes, and changes in project scope. Understanding the nature and causes of these delays is crucial for effective project management and successful project delivery.

One particularly complex aspect of construction delays is concurrent delays. Concurrent delays occur when two or more independent delays happen simultaneously, affecting the project’s completion timeline. These overlapping delays can involve various parties and factors, making it difficult to determine responsibility and assess the impact on the project.

Managing construction delays, especially concurrent delays, requires a comprehensive understanding of project management principles, effective communication, and proactive risk management. By identifying potential delays early and implementing strategies to mitigate their impact, project managers can better navigate the complexities of construction projects and enhance the likelihood of timely and within-budget project completion.

In the context of project management, especially in construction, delays are a critical issue to understand and manage effectively. A delay can be defined simply as a postponement in performing the work components or activities. This postponement can occur in two ways:

1.      Delay to Start an Activity: This occurs when the beginning of a scheduled activity is postponed. For example, if the construction of a building’s foundation is supposed to start on June 1st but doesn’t begin until June 10th, there’s a 10-day delay to the start of that activity.

2.      Delay in Completing an Activity: This happens when the duration required to finish an activity extends beyond the planned schedule. For instance, if laying the foundation was supposed to take 15 days but instead takes 25 days, there’s a 10-day delay in completing that activity.

Understanding these types of delays is crucial for managing the project schedule, resources, and expectations effectively. It’s essential to identify the causes of delays and implement strategies to mitigate them to ensure the project remains on track.

Causes of Construction Delays

Construction projects are complex and multifaceted, often facing numerous challenges that can lead to delays. These delays can be attributed to various sources: the Employer or their agents, the Contractor, or neutral events beyond anyone’s control. Understanding these causes can help in better managing and mitigating delays in future projects. Below are some of the main reasons for construction delays categorized by their sources:

Employer and Agent-Related Delays

Design Delays and Deficiencies

One major cause of delays is related to design issues. This includes delays in finalizing designs and deficiencies in the design itself. When the design is incomplete or flawed, it can halt progress on the construction site as revisions and corrections are made.

Site Possession and Access Restrictions

Delays can occur if there are issues with site possession or if access to the site is restricted. This might be due to legal issues, disputes, or other administrative hurdles that prevent the contractor from starting work on time.

Impact of Site Possession and Access Restrictions on Construction Projects

Delays in site possession and access restrictions can significantly hinder the start and progress of construction projects. Here’s how these issues impact the overall project timeline:

1- Legal and Administrative Issues:
Ownership Disputes: Legal disputes over site ownership can prevent contractors from gaining possession of the site, delaying the start of construction.
Permits and Approvals: Delays in obtaining necessary permits and approvals from regulatory bodies can restrict access to the site and halt project initiation.

2- Access Restrictions:
Physical Barriers: Physical obstacles such as locked gates, barriers, or restricted entry points can prevent contractors and workers from accessing the site.
Restricted Hours: Limited access hours imposed by local authorities or property owners can restrict the time available for construction activities, slowing down progress.

3-Stakeholder Issues:
Community Opposition: Local community opposition or protests against the project can result in access restrictions and delays.
Coordination with Other Parties: Coordination issues with other parties using the site or adjacent properties can lead to access delays, especially if their activities interfere with construction plans.

4-Site Preparation Delays:
Clearing and Grading: Delays in site possession can postpone necessary site preparation activities such as clearing, grading, and setting up temporary facilities, delaying the overall project timeline.
Utility Connections: Access restrictions can impede the setup of essential utilities like water, electricity, and gas, which are crucial for construction work.

5-Financial Impact:
Cost Overruns: Delays in site possession can lead to increased costs due to prolonged project timelines, idle labor, and equipment rental fees.
Cash Flow Issues: Extended delays can cause cash flow problems, especially if payments are tied to specific project milestones.

6-Contractual and Scheduling Implications:
Contractual Disputes: Disputes over site possession and access can lead to contractual disagreements between project stakeholders, further delaying progress.
Revised Schedules: Project managers must revise schedules to accommodate access delays, impacting the coordination of subsequent tasks and activities.

Mitigating the Impact of Site Possession and Access Restrictions:

Thorough Planning: Ensure thorough pre-construction planning and coordination to secure all necessary permits and resolve any legal issues before the project begins.
Stakeholder Engagement: Engage with all relevant stakeholders early to address potential access issues and negotiate solutions.
Clear Contracts: Include clear terms in contracts regarding site possession dates and access requirements to avoid disputes.
Contingency Planning: Develop contingency plans to manage potential delays due to site possession and access restrictions, including alternative access routes or temporary solutions.
Proactive Communication: Maintain open and proactive communication with regulatory bodies, local authorities, and other stakeholders to anticipate and resolve access issues promptly.

Payment Delays

Delayed payments from the employer to the contractor can severely affect the project’s timeline. Contractors rely on timely payments to manage cash flow, pay workers, and purchase materials. When payments are delayed, it can stall progress as resources become limited.

Payment delays are a significant factor that can impact the progress and completion of construction projects. Here’s how payment delays influence construction timelines:

Contractor and Subcontractor Payments:
Work Stoppages: If contractors and subcontractors do not receive timely payments, they may halt work until payments are made. This directly impacts the project schedule.
Labor Issues: Contractors may struggle to pay their workers, leading to labor strikes or workforce reduction, further delaying the project.
Material and Equipment Procurement:
Order Delays: Suppliers may withhold materials and equipment if they are not paid on time. This can disrupt the supply chain and delay construction activities.
Price Increases: Delayed payments can lead to increased costs for materials and equipment due to inflation or price changes, which might require budget reallocation and further delay the project.
Financial Stability:
Cash Flow Problems: Consistent payment delays can cause cash flow issues, making it difficult for contractors to manage daily operations and meet project milestones.
Credit Issues: Contractors facing payment delays might have trouble securing credit or loans, which are often needed to cover ongoing project costs.
Project Management and Planning:
Revised Schedules: Project managers may need to revise schedules and plans to accommodate payment delays, which can complicate project management and coordination.
Risk Management: Additional time and resources are required to manage the risks associated with payment delays, such as negotiating with stakeholders and finding alternative financing.
Stakeholder Relationships:
Trust Erosion: Persistent payment delays can erode trust between project stakeholders, leading to conflicts and a breakdown in communication.
Legal Disputes: Payment delays can result in legal disputes between owners, contractors, and subcontractors, further delaying the project.
Overall Project Costs:
Increased Costs: Payment delays often lead to increased project costs due to interest on overdue payments, penalties, and the need for expedited services to catch up on delays.
Budget Overruns: Managing the financial strain of payment delays can cause budget overruns, requiring additional funding and potentially delaying project completion.

Mitigating the Impact of Payment Delays:

Clear Contract Terms: Ensure that contract terms regarding payment schedules and penalties for delays are clearly defined and agreed upon by all parties.
Regular Communication: Maintain open and regular communication with all stakeholders to address payment issues promptly.
Financial Planning: Develop robust financial plans that include contingencies for potential payment delays.
Escrow Accounts: Use escrow accounts to ensure that funds are available and released according to the project’s progress and milestones.
Legal Recourse: Have legal measures in place to address chronic payment delays and enforce contractual obligations.

Approval Delays

Construction projects often require various approvals from different authorities. Delays in obtaining these approvals can halt or slow down the project. This includes permits, licenses, and other necessary endorsements.


Changes or variations requested by the employer during the construction process can lead to significant delays. These changes may require additional design work, new approvals, and adjustments to the construction plan, all of which take time.

Variations or changes requested by the employer during the construction process can significantly impact the project’s timeline. Here’s how these variations contribute to delays:

Design Modifications:
Additional Design Work: Changes often necessitate revisions to the original design, requiring architects and engineers to develop new plans. This can be a time-consuming process that delays construction activities.
Re-Approval: New designs often need to be reviewed and approved by regulatory bodies and stakeholders, adding to the overall timeline.
Planning and Coordination:
Revised Construction Plan: Variations require adjustments to the existing construction plan, affecting scheduling and resource allocation. This involves re-planning and re-coordinating activities to integrate the changes.
Impact on Sequencing: Changes can disrupt the planned sequence of construction activities, leading to inefficiencies and delays.
Procurement of Materials and Equipment:
New Material Requirements: Variations might introduce new material specifications that were not part of the original plan. Procuring these materials can cause delays, especially if they have long lead times.
Supply Chain Adjustments: Adjustments in the supply chain to accommodate new requirements can also result in delays, particularly if suppliers need time to meet the new specifications.
Budget and Financial Adjustments:
Cost Implications: Variations can lead to increased project costs, necessitating budget adjustments and potentially requiring additional funding. Securing this funding can take time and delay the project.
Financial Approvals: Additional financial approvals might be needed to cover the costs associated with the changes, further delaying progress.
Labor and Resource Management:
Workforce Reallocation: Changes may require reallocating labor to different tasks, which can disrupt workflow and productivity. Training or reassigning workers can take additional time.
Resource Availability: Ensuring that the right resources and equipment are available for the new requirements can also lead to delays if there are shortages or scheduling conflicts.
Stakeholder Communication and Decision-Making:
Increased Communication Needs: Implementing variations often requires increased communication and coordination among stakeholders to ensure everyone is aligned with the new plans.
Decision-Making Delays: Delays can occur if there are disagreements or slow decision-making processes among stakeholders regarding the proposed changes.

Mitigating the Impact of Variations:

Change Management Process: Establish a robust change management process that includes clear procedures for requesting, evaluating, and approving changes.
Impact Analysis: Conduct thorough impact analysis before approving changes to understand their implications on the project’s timeline and budget.
Stakeholder Engagement: Engage stakeholders early and frequently to ensure that all perspectives are considered and to expedite decision-making.
Contingency Planning: Include contingencies in the project plan to accommodate potential changes and their associated delays.
Efficient Communication: Maintain efficient and transparent communication channels to quickly address and resolve issues arising from variations.

Subcontractor Nomination Delays

Delays in nominating and appointing subcontractors can also stall progress. Subcontractors are crucial for specific tasks, and any delay in their engagement can have a ripple effect on the overall timeline.

Delays in nominating and appointing subcontractors can significantly stall construction progress. Here’s how these delays impact the overall project timeline:

Specialized Task Execution:
Critical Path Delays: Subcontractors are often responsible for specialized tasks that are on the project’s critical path. Delays in their appointment can directly affect key milestones and the overall project timeline.
Work Sequence Disruptions: Specific tasks must be completed in a particular sequence. Delays in subcontractor engagement can disrupt this sequence, causing further delays in dependent activities.
Planning and Coordination:
Schedule Adjustments: Late nomination of subcontractors necessitates adjustments to the construction schedule, which can be time-consuming and complex.
Coordination Challenges: Integrating subcontractors into the project later than planned can create coordination challenges, requiring additional meetings and adjustments to workflows.
Resource Allocation:
Labor and Equipment: Delayed subcontractor appointments can lead to underutilization of labor and equipment allocated for specific tasks, causing inefficiencies and potential cost overruns.
Material Procurement: Subcontractors often handle procurement for their specialized tasks. Delays in their nomination can postpone the ordering and delivery of necessary materials, further stalling progress.
Quality and Compliance:
Standards and Specifications: Ensuring that subcontractors understand and adhere to project standards and specifications can be rushed if they are appointed late, potentially compromising quality.
Regulatory Compliance: Subcontractors need to comply with various regulations and standards. Delayed nomination can reduce the time available for ensuring compliance, risking non-compliance issues.
Financial Implications:
Budget Impact: Late engagement of subcontractors can lead to increased costs due to expedited work or last-minute changes. This can strain the project budget and necessitate financial re-evaluations.
Payment Schedules: Adjusting payment schedules to accommodate late nominations can create cash flow issues and complicate financial management.
Stakeholder Relationships:
Client Confidence: Persistent delays in appointing subcontractors can erode client confidence in the project management team’s ability to deliver on time.
Subcontractor Relations: Delays can also strain relationships with subcontractors, who may have committed to other projects and thus face scheduling conflicts.

Mitigating the Impact of Subcontractor Nomination Delays:

Early Planning: Identify and plan for subcontractor needs early in the project to allow sufficient time for their nomination and appointment.
Clear Criteria: Establish clear criteria and processes for selecting subcontractors to streamline the nomination process.
Contingency Plans: Develop contingency plans to address potential delays in subcontractor engagement, including alternative subcontractor options.
Regular Updates: Maintain regular updates and communication with potential subcontractors to keep them informed and prepared for their roles.
Contractual Clauses: Include clauses in contracts that specify timelines for subcontractor nomination and penalties for delays to encourage timely appointments.

Contractor-Related Delays

Resource Shortages

A shortage of resources, whether it be labor, equipment, or materials, can cause delays. Contractors must ensure that they have sufficient resources to meet project demands.

Financial Issues

Financial problems, such as cash flow deficits, can severely impact a contractor’s ability to maintain progress. This issue can arise from poor financial management or delayed payments from the employer.

Subcontractor Delays

Delays from subcontractors, who are often responsible for specialized parts of the construction, can also affect the project’s schedule. Issues with subcontractor performance or availability can cause significant setbacks.

Defects and Poor Workmanship

Quality issues, such as defects and poor workmanship, require rework and corrections, leading to delays. Ensuring high standards of work from the beginning is crucial to avoid these problems.

Slow Progress Due to Contractor’s Default

Sometimes, the contractor’s own defaults, such as poor planning, inadequate supervision, or inefficient work practices, can slow down the project’s progress.

Neutral Events

External Stakeholder Delays

Delays can be caused by external stakeholders such as local authorities. Issues like inspections, compliance checks, and other administrative processes can take longer than expected.

Unforeseen Adverse Climate Conditions

Extreme weather conditions that were not anticipated can halt construction activities. These include heavy rains, storms, extreme heat, or cold, which can make it unsafe or impractical to continue work.

Unforeseen Site Conditions

Unexpected site conditions, such as discovering archaeological remains, underground utilities, or contaminated soil, can cause delays as the site is prepared for construction.

Force Majeure

Events classified as force majeure, such as natural disasters, wars, or pandemics, are beyond anyone’s control and can cause significant delays. These events are typically unforeseen and unavoidable.

Changes in Legislation

New laws or changes in existing regulations can impact construction projects. Compliance with new legal requirements can delay progress as adjustments are made to meet the new standards.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the most common causes of construction delays?

The most common causes of construction delays include design deficiencies, site possession issues, delayed payments, approval delays, resource shortages, subcontractor delays, and unforeseen adverse weather conditions.

How can employers minimize delays in construction projects?

Employers can minimize delays by ensuring timely design finalization, securing site possession early, making prompt payments, obtaining necessary approvals in advance, clearly defining project scope to avoid variations, and appointing subcontractors promptly.

What steps can contractors take to prevent delays?

Contractors can prevent delays by maintaining adequate resources, managing finances effectively, ensuring high-quality workmanship, planning thoroughly, and monitoring progress closely to address any issues promptly.

How do unforeseen events impact construction schedules?

Unforeseen events such as extreme weather, unexpected site conditions, force majeure events, and legislative changes can significantly impact construction schedules. These events are typically beyond the control of both the employer and contractor, making them challenging to manage.

What role do external stakeholders play in construction delays?

External stakeholders, such as local authorities, play a crucial role in construction projects. Delays in inspections, compliance checks, and approvals from these stakeholders can impact the project’s timeline.

External stakeholders play a significant role in the progress and potential delays of construction projects. Here’s a breakdown of their impact:

Regulatory Bodies:
Permits and Approvals: Regulatory agencies must approve permits for construction to begin. Delays can occur if there are issues with the application or if approvals take longer than expected.
Compliance: Ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal regulations can slow down projects if new regulations are introduced or if there are changes to existing ones.
Suppliers and Vendors:
Material Availability: Delays can result from late deliveries or shortages of essential materials. Supply chain disruptions can severely impact project timelines.
Quality Issues: Receiving substandard materials can lead to additional time needed for replacements or adjustments.
Funding Delays: Issues with securing or releasing funds can halt construction. Financial difficulties of stakeholders can lead to budget constraints and project delays.
Community and Public Groups:
Opposition and Protests: Public opposition or protests against the project can result in legal battles or forced pauses in construction.
Local Impact: Concerns about environmental impact, noise, and traffic can lead to additional studies or alterations in plans, causing delays.
External Consultants and Experts:
Inspections and Reviews: Delays can occur if inspections or expert reviews are not completed on time or if issues are identified that require rework.
Specialist Input: Waiting for specialist input or adjustments based on their recommendations can extend project timelines.
Weather and Environmental Conditions:
Adverse Weather: External stakeholders such as meteorological services can provide forecasts that influence construction schedules. Unexpected weather conditions can lead to delays.
Environmental Protection Agencies: Concerns or regulations from these agencies can result in project adjustments, potentially causing delays.
Utility Companies:
Service Connections: Delays in connecting essential utilities (water, electricity, gas) can halt progress.
Relocation of Existing Services: Moving existing utility lines or infrastructure can be time-consuming.
Managing External Stakeholders to Mitigate Delays:

Effective Communication: Regular updates and open communication channels can help anticipate and address issues early.
Stakeholder Engagement Plan: Developing a comprehensive plan to engage and manage stakeholders can identify potential risks and mitigation strategies.
Risk Management: Incorporating stakeholder-related risks into the overall risk management plan ensures they are monitored and managed proactively.
Flexibility and Contingency Planning: Building flexibility into the project plan and having contingency plans can help manage unforeseen delays.


Construction delays are a prevalent issue in the industry, driven by the complexity and multiplicity of stakeholders involved in these projects. Delays can arise from various sources and have significant negative impacts on project timelines, costs, and stakeholder relationships. Concurrent delays, where both the contractor and the employer are simultaneously responsible for delays, add an additional layer of complexity to dispute resolution. Understanding the causes and analysis methods for these delays is crucial for managing and mitigating their impact on construction projects.



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