Practical Approach to Handle Change Orders for Projects

What is a Change Order?

Any change in the initial contractual scope agreed by each relevant party including Client & Contractor that is hitting any major attribute of the project (scope, cost & schedule) is known as Change Order.

Sometimes it is mixed up with variation order but to honest, I have never seen a documented form stated as variation order. It’s always called a Change odder – CO. But in European countries, they call it a variation order as I have read it somewhere else.

A change order is an amendment in the contract. It should be on a later date once both parties have an initial contract.

Why Change Orders?

Change orders are raised as there are design errors, change in conditions, procurement constraints or the owner wants something to change later on. If a client wants to compress the schedule then he needs to pay acceleration cost that itself is a change order. If he wants to reduce the cost then scope will automatically reduce or he needs to accept delays in project completion or on milestones wherever applicable accordingly.

Five Key Component of a Change Order

Following are the key components that a change order form should have;

1.Change in the Scope – Either additions or reductions. A change is just a colour can be referred into a change order even no monitory value involves. Better to document this for reference to give credit.
2.Change in Cost – Either plus, negative or even zero.
3. Change in time – Never forget if you are on contractor side & must plan as per resources or add optimum to avoid Liquidated Damages (L.D.). It should have a start & finish date even though not necessary as per Change Order form.
4.Signatures – It should be signed by authorized parties two or more.
5.Date of Change Order – The signature date must be included on the Change Order Form.

Who Initiates Change Orders?

Any of the party either Contractor or the Client can initiate.

If a contractor tracks a major issue in the design that could lead to some serious issues to the final deliverable then he can propose that to Client.


Change Order Negotiations | As a Contractor Point of View

As a contractor, you can claim higher cost as was in the initial contract but be reasonable like if you are painting an area at the rate of 5$ per square foot but now during change order, you can claim 8$ instead of 5$. The reason is a Change Order is always small & tricky quantity to handle and hence you need have extra resources in all categories to manage that stuff. To get that approval from the client you must calculate all that stuff and present to him. Everybody thinks that it should be the same value as per contract but believe me if you give him a proper calculation then you will get approval easily or at least you can negotiate a little higher to the initial value.

One more thing very important, mostly contractors only see the price of the change order and get trapped as there should be proper TIME mentioned for a schedule for extension of time otherwise this acceleration (crashing) will eat away all of this amount or else you may be penalized for Liquidated damage if a project is delayed.

You need to understand Change Management to deal with all this stuff.

Change Order Limitations

In some contract documents, it is clearly stated that the change order value should not increase above 10% of the total value of the project. It may be variable but normally it is mentioned to avoid any conflicts later. Change orders are inevitable in any project. It should be documented even it is just changed in colour. The change order should be collected 100% upfront this is standard says.

Benefits Change Orders

Change orders look annoying to either or both parties but there are benefits but major benefit is it helps to avoid final deliverable rejection from the owner.

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Every project has some issues regarding design change or any other major attribute but frequent change is always not good. It shows a lack of commitment by the client & he is not clear about his requirements as a change order is “Amendment into the Contract on later stage”. However, less than 10% amount change orders are reasonable & help for the acceptable deliverable to the customer.

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Further Reads

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