Construction’s New 80/20 Rule: The Simple but Powerful Impact of Early Information and Frequent Communication  

“I would love to redo that task!” 

… said no one ever.  

Having to do things again because they weren't done right the first time can be a frustrating experience for anyone. But in construction, rework isn't just a hassle—it's a very expensive problem. Industry data shows that rework costs firms in the United States over $177 billion annually, and it can represent up to 20% of total project costs.  

Rework can often be avoided with proper communication and data practices during the early stages of a project.  

Tracing the issues behind rework 

While rework usually occurs in the field, most of the issues that cause rework can be traced back to design. According to this meta-study conducted by the Islamic University of Gaza in collaboration with the Berlin School of Technology, "almost 80% of costs of deviations were related to design and 17% were construction related." 

Poor data management is also a major culprit. Research by Autodesk and FMI found that decisions made using "bad data" are estimated to have cost the global industry $88.69 billion in rework, accounting for 14% of all rework performed in 2020. 

These figures tell us that much of the rework and unnecessary costs in construction are rooted in early-stage processes, particularly in design and data management. 

With proper planning, robust communication, and accurate data during the design phase, stakeholders can set up field teams for success.  

As Camille Hardin, Construction Manager at Kitchell CEM, remarks on the Digital Builder podcast, "We have to think of what we can do as general contractors to limit our risks, avoid rework, and all these things that might cost money and scope gaps. And a big part of that is planning—a lot of planning." 

Unlocking success upfront: the 80/20 rule 

You've likely heard of the 80/20 rule (aka the Pareto Principle), which states that 80% of outcomes or results are driven by 20% of your effort. While not an exact science, the Pareto Principle reminds us that just a few key actions influence the majority of our results.  

In construction, we can see the 80/20 rule in instances where 80% of the project's value is created in the early stages at 20% of the cost. The steps teams take during the preconstruction phase—including design, planning, and procurement—can impact productivity and profit downstream.  

"Lately, there's been a spotlight on cost implications in the field and how we can improve field mobility and efficiency," remarks Ross Wagner, Manager, Technical Solutions at Autodesk, in a Digital Builder podcast episode on construction profitability

"The next iteration to increase your profit margins is to get ahead of the curve with everything you decide on and align with all the stakeholders in the procurement." 

This stakeholder alignment is critical. When teams implement frequent communication and close collaboration upfront, they can mitigate issues when work is executed on-site.  

In line with this, firms should empower teams with the data and tools they need to stay on the same page and make more informed decisions during preconstruction and beyond.  

Autodesk's commitment to improving construction productivity and profitability 

At Autodesk, we understand that getting it right early is more important than ever. Sidestepping rework and protecting your margins requires solid data and communication tools for design that extend through the construction stage.  

To that end, we're excited to share the latest Autodesk releases, which are built to enhance communication and give teams access to key information at every project stage.  

With the tools below, stakeholders will be empowered to make better decisions, leading to less rework and more productivity. 

Enhancing communication with Correspondence 

Without the right tools, construction projects can be fraught with communication issues. Teams using email and other apps have to grapple with project information scattered across different locations—making it all too easy for critical info to slip through the cracks.  

There's also the issue of continuity, especially in projects with multiple stakeholders. Documents stored in personal drives or inboxes could result in data inaccessibility when the job is complete or if someone leaves the company.  

The Correspondence tool addresses these issues by giving project leaders open-ended and manageable communication from within Autodesk Construction Cloud. Managers can create, import, and organize internal or external communications directly in the platform or by adding a unique email address in email clients like Outlook or Gmail. ​ 

This keeps all relevant comms within Autodesk Construction Cloud, so teams can effortlessly review conversations and retrieve project information.  

Correspondence is now retrievable for project clarification and disputes. Plus, it links with other Autodesk Construction Cloud tools—including RFIs, Submittals, Issues, and Schedule—to keep project comms integrated across the entire platform. 

Learn More

Why the Correspondence tool is vital 

Correspondence decreases miscommunication, poor data management, and rework by promoting: 

  • Better communication​  
  • Greater accountability​  
  • Comprehensive handover packages​ 
  • Higher quality projects​ 

Creating stronger connections with design through Model Quality Workflows 

Models are vital to design teams, but they can be challenging to navigate for field teams and end-users.  

Not all field teams are equipped to interpret these detailed and complex models. Moreover, some design models may be missing critical field information, making it difficult for on-site teams to determine the next steps.   

This is where Model Quality Workflows come in.  

These workflows are a collection of releases that enable the BIM department to curate information for onsite teams with hyper-relevant and easy-to-digest models. ​ 

Advance Filters is a new release for Model Quality Workflows. Advanced Filters allows anyone, from a BIM manager to a project engineer, to create custom 3D views using nearly any combination of model elements from multiple models.

Why Model Quality Workflows are vital 

These releases enhance the bridge between design and execution through: 

  • Stronger connection with design ​  
  • Clear objectives for better project quality 
  • Faster building with focused building instructions​ 

Improving information access with Sheet Collections 

Projects with multiple buildings can take a lot of work to manage. Without robust tools, teams often resort to creating multiple projects and manually prefixing drawings. This creates confusion and disorganized communication between GCs, subcontractors, and designers.  

With Sheets Collections, teams overseeing multi-building projects can now store and manage drawings with identical names. Doing so eliminates the need to create multiple projects or prefix names—ultimately streamlining document management. Sheets Collections also centralize important construction data into a single location.  

Why Sheet Collections are vital 

Teams using Sheets Collections can improve how data and documents are handled, allowing them to: 

  • Centralize document management​  
  • Improve project quality  
  • Be more detailed with their communications 

Final words 

Construction firms have long struggled with rework, delays, and escalating costs. Fortunately, it's totally possible to minimize or even prevent these issues by nailing team communication and data management during the early stages of the project.  

Even better news: Autodesk is committed to helping you address your biggest project challenges. With tools designed to foster better communication, streamline processes, and provide better data access, teams using the Autodesk platform move closer to an era where rework and other downstream issues are the exception, not the norm. 

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Christine Acker

Christine has spent over 10 years steeped in the construction industry, garnering deep expertise in lean management and bringing technology to distributed workforces. Currently, a Senior Manager at Autodesk, Christine leads the product marketing team that helps bridge the software company’s industry-leading product to the global construction industry. Christine joined Autodesk through the PlanGrid acquisition. Prior to PlanGrid, Christine was an engagement manager at renowned consulting firm McKinsey & Company, focused on the construction and energy sectors. While at McKinsey, she oversaw the deployment of a lean management system across a 5,000+ employee distributed workforce and created a real estate firm’s IPD strategy to significantly improve productivity on the firm’s construction projects. Christine also spent four years at Clark Construction, in the GC’s Civil and Foundations department, where she proudly designed and managed excavation support for the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture. Christine has her Professional Engineering license and holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Engineering in Engineering Management and a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.