Case study: How to restart a construction project

When it was announced that the Revel Resort project in Atlantic City received US$1.15 billion in February of this year to resume construction, it was almost unthinkable that it could be back up-and-running in less than two weeks and fully engaged in 60 days. But that’s precisely what happened and the project is to be completed in the summer of 2012 – just over a year later. So how did the architecture firm go about resuming construction?

In today’s economy, this is not an unusual question, as many projects were put on hold when the credit markets dried up. The good news is that as things are loosening up, this question will be on the minds of more and more developers, owners, operators, and design teams. Revel serves as a case study that others can follow to re-start construction on a project as efficiently as possible. Below are best practices that can be utilized for many hotels, resorts, and casinos.

Have a great team

The adage, “it takes three good partners to build a great building the client, the architect, and the contractor” certainly applies. In fact, additional stress of a significant schedule change makes it essential that all parties be excellent leaders and decision makers, have flexibility with the building type, and conduct them with patience.

Don’t stop the construction

Buildings that have suspended construction may have to meet a long list of codes and requirements as an unoccupied structure. This can be expensive. During construction, however, the building is not deemed complete and cannot be expected to be fully code compliant. For this reason, it is beneficial to keep the project at least partially under construction during the time it takes to identify funding. It is an investment to keep the team there, but the return can be worth it in an aggressive project. Of course, this only makes sense if that time is anticipated to be weeks or months, not years.

Document everything

Knowing where you are is crucial to knowing where you are going – especially if there is a length of time between the two. If you are anticipating a work stoppage or are in the midst of one, be sure you have complete and coordinated files for design and construction. These should include all architecture, interior design and engineering disciplines. That way, once work resumes, with the same conditions or different ones, everyone on the team will be on the same page and able to move forward quickly.  Additionally, presentation renderings and construction documentation are critical to securing additional funding.

Constantly communicate with the A/E team

As an Executive Architect, you are responsible for coordinating all the design, engineering, and construction teams. As such, it’s your job to make sure they are all aware of the status of the project. You should bein regular communication with them to ensure that they are ready and able to start back on the project the moment the ink is dry on the contracts. Finally, you must make sure there are revised and up-to-date statements of work, budgets, and timelines for all the partners so that there is no delay in getting them back to work.

Manage the money

With any project, managing the money in the budget is one of the most imperative goals. In projects that need additional capitalization, it takes on monumental importance. Getting a project moving again requires proactive budgeting and budget management by every partner. The level of scrutiny on every dollar and how it is spent is a 10 of 10. For that reason, it should be reviewed constantly – during stoppage, during negotiations, and during re-start. All partners must be as realistic as possible, as there is no room for delays or overages.

Change as you go

Pre- and post-stoppage projects are almost never going to be the same. Changing economic conditions, expectations of the new investors, government tax rebates, and a variety of other factors will require revised designs, plans, and construction timelines. The team must be totally flexible and creative in order to meet the shifting project priorities.


Re-starting projects that have been delayed due to the economic downturn of the past few years must be done with efficiency. Planning, communication, and flexibility are demanded from all members of the team. With that in mind, it is possible to get from 0 to 60 in a matter of days so that the project goals are still met with careful consideration.

Contributed by Michael Prifti, FAIA, managing principal, BLT Architects, Philadelphia