The 3 Core Pillars for Redefining Construction Handover 

best practices for construction handover

Handover is often thought of as happening only at the end of a project. It’s generally considered just another box to check or tasks to get through. But project handover really spans the lifecycle of a project as it involves multiple stakeholders, processes, and activities within that lifecycle. 

For that reason, it’s critical to get handover right from the very beginning. Nailing handover from the start requires a true redefinition of what handover means, entails, and the steps it requires throughout a project. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of handover, its current state, and how the industry can rework its definition for the better. 

Why Handover Isn’t Just Another Box to Check

Handover doesn’t just begin at the end of a project; it starts all the way in design. It’s a continuous process with multiple stakeholders that spans across the life cycle. It starts with the owner (who ideally will be involved throughout the process) in the design phase and then moves to construction and operations. Owners and the design team get together and identify critical assets that should be part of the handover package. The critical assets, materials, and equipment are then translated into construction workflows. These assets and their data are transferred over to operations to help with building maintenance and building operations. For general contractors and subcontractors, handover is critical to final payment. 

Handover quality can also help to determine cost and time savings for facilities operations. Studies indicate that a high-quality handover package can generate around a 5% savings in preventative maintenance and time over the lifetime of the facility. 

The Current Handover Process Has Multiple Steps and Pain Points

Today’s current handover workflows have multiple steps. They typically function as follows:

  • The owner defines the requirements and project plans.
  • The requirements and project plans are then transferred to the general contractor.
  • The general contractor creates the handover structure and schedule of deliverables.
  • Next, the general contractor works with subcontractors to create a submittal package.
  • Then the subcontractors purchase materials, install the equipment, and submit the closeout documentation. 
  • General contractors then conduct inspections, commission workflows, and approve the closeout documentation received from subcontractors. 
  • General contractors check in with FM teams to start the facilities approval process.
  • Finally, the handover package is completed and transferred over to the owner, who releases payment and transfers the data to the facilities management team. 

But with multiple steps, comes multiple pain points in this workflow. First, owners are often only involved at the very beginning or end of the project to list handover requirements. As a result, they have little visibility into the complete construction process.

Then, general contractors have to manually review spec books to create a handover structure and plan a deliverable schedule. This phase involves creating folder structures, planning out documentation, and building out a forecasting schedule. These are the people who have to flip through a 500-page spec book one page at a time, trying to understand and identify critical handover items.

It’s often difficult for subcontractors to locate an aggregate and send documentation to the general contractors as part of closeout. What causes this challenge? Usually, there are multiple subcontractors working on the project, using various tools. These multiple tools help subcontractors keep their documentation private as well. 

What are the potential negative impacts of this level of back-and-forth between subcontractors and general contractors? Money is often lost. The cumbersome nature of the handover process (especially at the end) and the level of coordination required can push some companies to leave money on the table so they can move onto their next job. General contractors have to go through this process with multiple subcontractors. It often turns into having to chase after subcontractors to collect all the information required to closeout the project. 

Facilities managers and operation teams generally get involved at the end of the project, leading to a manual, tedious approval process. Facilities managers want to make sure the data will work with the software they use for operations. General contractors have to assemble everything piecemeal, which is a heavy burden on resources. 

Operations and post-construction teams struggle with the accessibility of the handover documentation. From their perspective, they’re thinking about maintaining and managing that building for 20 to 50 years. They need access to that information over the course of a building’s life cycle or a building’s lifetime. Yet, the handover documentation typically looks like multiple folders with data buried in them. The facilities management teams have to figure out where to access the data they need and understand the historical context of a specific asset installation (other than as-built export or markup sign sheets). 

These steps are ones that all stakeholders within the construction life cycle have to go through to create and put together a handover package. None of them are particularly conducive to creating efficiencies and increasing productivity

3 Keys to Reshape the Handover Process

It’s time to redefine handover, but how do we go about it? I believe that connected construction handover workflows are critical to making the process effective in today’s world. Instead of having the workflow process sit in siloes, handover workflows should reflect the true continuous nature of the project life cycle. Information should be easily shared between the different stakeholders (e.g., owners, general contractors, and subcontractors) while maintaining data privacy and ownership.

The core  pillars of a successful handover workflow look like:

  1. Distributed data ownership and on-demand collaboration. Enabling a data ownership model that makes it easy for construction companies to collaborate 
  2. Standardizing key construction workflows. These standardized workflows allow construction companies and stakeholders to standardize data capture and processes throughout the construction life cycle.
  3. Asset tracking through the life cycle of a project. This pillar looks like the identification of assets in the design life cycle of a construction project. These assets are then tracked from design to handover.

Distributed Data Ownership and On-Demand Collaboration

Today, the general contractor or owner works in a single software account or hub. Ideally, all of the other stakeholders and contractors are working off of that single account. However, construction projects generally include anywhere from 10 to hundreds of different unique entities, each one bringing its own unique skill set and expertise to the construction project. The owner of the hub manages the construction documentation, which prevents real scalability. Plus, each stakeholder has their own way of standardizing data and setting up workflows. 

This current set-up adds unnecessary hurdles as individual stakeholders struggle to provide access to their teams to get going on a construction project. Stakeholders also keep sensitive documents in different locations due to privacy concerns. 

We can solve these challenges with data federation. Data federation allows users to send construction information and data between two or more projects or entities. Each individual stakeholder can maintain their own independent account. The information is kept synchronized and updated. 

Data federation allows for data portability, on-demand collaboration, data integrity, and version control of documents. It makes it easy to collaborate while ensuring that each stakeholder owns the data within their own software accounts. 

Standardizing Key Construction Workflows

The centralized hub data federation creates, helps companies better standardize workflows. For instance, at Autodesk Construction Cloud, we’re introducing two features to help drive connected handover workflows. First, we have Project Templates that allow users to create and duplicate standards, workflows, and content for any construction project. These templates help to standardize data capture across all projects. This standardization is critical to uncovering project insights. Users can compare and analyze multiple projects, issues, and bottlenecks. These insights can then be used to increase efficiencies across the life cycle. 

Components are a means to centrally create, publish, and update a very small piece of content across multiple projects (e.g., checklists, safety documents, and RFI workflows). Components allow for centralized updates to multiple in-progress projects. Ultimately, you can create a Component Library with daily reports, field reports, or issue templates. These workflow objects can be retroactively pushed across multiple projects in progress and active templates. 

Asset Tracking Through the Life Cycle of a Project

The asset life cycle begins in design with the owner and design team. It moves through the preconstruction phase to the construction phase through the commissioning report and closeout. Previously, asset management looked like a 4,000-page document that stakeholders had to sort through to find information about a specific piece of equipment, for example. Today, with Autodesk, you can track a host of assets through the construction project and attach relevant information directly to a single asset (e.g., owner manuals, warranties, inspection checklists). 

The audit log details when an asset was created, the steps it went through during a particular phase, the documentation provided, and more. Now, you can track your critical assets and set up commissioning workflows specific to asset categories. Finally, you can attach relevant information directly through an app to an asset through the product life cycle. The robust audit history helps you understand all the steps that the assets went through. 

Achieving a Better Construction Handover 

These three core pillars support the redefinition of handover as a continuous process rather than a point-in-time activity. The new handover process and tools will be rooted in data integrity, a comprehensive view of data, and efficiency throughout the entire construction life cycle. As we redefine the hand over process to better reflect how our industry really works, it’s critical to maintain our focus on its improvement to drive savings, customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency. 

Aditya Thakur

Senior Group Product Manager, Lifecycle Data Management, Autodesk