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When does scope creep happen in the construction industry?

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2024 | Business Law |

Scope creep is a term that’s often used in the construction industry. It refers to situations where the initial goals of a project begin to expand or change as the project goes on. In smaller projects, scope creep can result in additional tasks, pushing deadlines and potentially causing budget overruns.

However, for larger projects, the implications can be even more significant, leading to extensive delays, skyrocketing costs and a final product that differs greatly from the original plan.

Here are three instances of scope creep.

Unexpected changes in project requirements

One instance when scope creep occurs is when there are unexpected changes in project requirements. This can happen when a client decides they want additional features or improvements that were not part of the initial plan.

If project managers and teams don’t manage these changes properly, they can increase the project’s scope, extending the project’s timeline and inflating the budget.

Inadequate initial project definition

Scope creep can also occur if the project description is vague or incomplete. If the project team doesn’t thoroughly define and agree on the project’s scope from the start, it can create a lot of uncertainty. The project might begin well, but due to unclear original guidelines, additional tasks may sneak in.

In other words, a vague start could let the project’s scope quickly expand, exceeding the initial boundaries.

Unexpected site conditions

Unforeseen site conditions commonly cause scope creep in the construction industry. These could include:

  • Unexpected ground conditions
  • Hidden structures
  • Environmental factors

When construction discovers these conditions, it may be necessary to make changes to the project. These can often lead to expanding the project’s scope and changing what’s on the original contract.

Solving this dispute

It’s important to recognize when scope creep can occur. This awareness allows businesses to take preventive steps and ensure the project adheres to its initial goals and timeline. By setting clear and detailed project goals from the start, regularly communicating with all stakeholders and having a process for managing changes, they can prevent scope creep and perform what was originally on the contract.

However, if the issue continues, it can be beneficial to consult an attorney to get a better understanding of all available options in such a scenario.