You don’t need to go any further than this Washington Post article to read about a delayed construction project where the parties are passing blame back and forth. The Silver Spring Transit Center is reported to be two years behind schedule and suffering from significant cost increases. No doubt the dispute will be resolved in litigation.
When contractors seek additional compensation for changes, design impacts, differing site conditions or other delays, they must convince the court or arbitrator of the amount they are entitled to be paid. Whenever these types of events occur on larger construction projects, there is usually a substantial loss of productivity. Yet, contractors are frequently unable to prove the appropriate amount.
The Measured Mile. One way to determine lost productivity on a project is by determining what is known as the measured mile—comparing the cost of “impacted” work with the cost incurred to perform the same or similar “unimpacted” work. Because the measured-mile calculation is based on comparing the impacted productivity and unimpacted productivity on the same project, it tends to be a more accepted approach.
Steps that Contractors Need to Take. Applying the measured-mile method is straightforward if the contractor has kept productivity records by location, type of work and crews.
- Identify and define impacted work, including the unit of measurement for the work. For example, certain aggregates designated by the agency as suitable for use in the concrete may not be suitable if the soils contain large lumps of clay. Under this first step, you need to identify and define the impacted work.
- Identify the impacted and unimpacted time periods and project locations for the analysis. Selecting the unimpacted (measured-mile) period and location for the project is crucial. Most common tasks on projects are constructed in different phases, at different times of the year and in different locations. In the above example, the contractor may be able to achieve a higher production after identifying and approving a different aggregate source.
- Carefully evaluate the difference between the two periods and select a representative unimpacted period. Remember that a potential challenge to this approach is the argument that the unimpacted selection is not representative of the project. This is because the measured-mile method assumes all work on the project would have been performed at the same rate as the unimpacted segment.
- Locate and assemble job-cost records, identifying man-hours, equipment and material used. Record keeping is critical to calculate and support any lost productivity claim. On highway construction projects, contractors must break the work down by location, activity and event. Review records for all unimpacted work periods. Field personnel need to maintain the records in generally the same manner for the impacted and unimpacted sections.
- Determine whether you will base the analysis on hours or dollars. Then develop an unimpacted benchmark productivity measurement. An hourly approach is based on the total crew hours required to complete a work task, such as yards of concrete paved. A dollar approach is based on the total cost to complete a task, including labor costs, equipment rental, operating costs and consumables that vary with time. Once you have developed the productivity factors and crew costs, simply apply these to the impacted work quantities.
A measured mile analysis is generally acceptable if based on reasonably similar work to the impacted work. The impacted and unimpacted work activities should draw on labor from the same labor pool, and both activities should involve similar skill level and effort. Identify and evaluate possible other causes for the claimed impact. Be prepared to explain why these do not apply.