Many people have heard of Gantt Charts for construction, but why are they so popular?

Effective project management is important in all industries, yet there are few sectors where it is as vital as construction. In any building project – be it a small home renovation or major infrastructure works – the project manager needs to organise numerous subcontractors, tasks and resources, often within tight timeframes and budgets. This complexity is why so many building firms use Gantt charts for construction projects.

Construction Gantt charts are the most widely used project management tool in the industry, according to the ICE’s Designing Buildings website. They provide an easy-to-understand, visual, and efficient way of organising project tasks and communicating them with stakeholders.

In this blog, you will learn about the uses of Gantt charts for construction projects. We’ll also look at why they are so effective, as well as offer examples of Gantt chart construction software.

What is a Gantt chart in construction?

A Gantt chart is a form of bar chart which provides a visual representation of a project’s timeline. On the vertical axis of the chart, you find a list of all the tasks that must be performed. On the horizontal axis, you will see time intervals (typically days, but can be weeks or months). As well as listing out each task and allocating time to perform it, the Gantt chart also highlights several other useful pieces of information, including:

  • Dependencies: A dependency is a task that cannot begin before workers complete a preceding task. As a simple example, the roofing stage of a housebuilding project cannot begin before you have built the walls. In Gantt chart construction software, the roofing stage would therefore be represented as a dependency.
  • Resources: Some construction Gantt charts also list the resources required for each stage of a project. These resources can include workers, equipment or material. This means that whoever’s responsible for procuring resources knows when to order materials/equipment. They can also estimate how many staff they need to undertake a specific task.
  • Milestones: Gantt charts in construction can be divided into significant milestones. These can include the design phase, foundation phase, construction phase, closeout phase, handover or any other milestone you may choose.
  • Current status: Construction Gantt charts allow you to see exactly how far along the project is, so you can track progress and readjust if needed.

A short history of Gantt charts

The earliest forms of Gantt charts emerged in the 1890s. However, they are named after American engineer Henry Gantt who developed and popularised them between 1910 and 1915. Gantt charts have long been used on major construction projects, including on the Hoover Dam during the Great Depression in the US.

Gantt charts were originally drawn out on paper, which meant that if there were any delays then the entire Gantt chart would need to be rewritten. As you might imagine, this was a laborious process. However, with the advent of project management software, Gantt charts really took off. Using computer programmes meant it became much easier to adjust project timelines on the go.

Today, Gantt charts are used in practically every industry on projects of many different types. They also remain hugely popular and influential in the construction industry.

Preconstruction Gantt charts

Using Gantt charts for construction scheduling is most associated with the actual build phase of a project. However, it can also be beneficial to use preconstruction Gantt charts.

The logic of using a preconstruction Gantt chart is simple: like the construction phase, all the preconstruction phases can be made more efficient by project management techniques. A preconstruction Gantt chart can include phases such as the design of the building, BIM modelling, bidding stage, blueprint approval, permit applications, permit approval and other preconstruction activities.

By creating a pre-construction Gantt chart, you can identify dependencies early, such as getting approval for construction from a local council. This helps avoid any delays further down the line.

Post-construction Gantt charts

It’s also useful to use Gantt charts during the construction close-out phase. Using modern Gantt chart construction software, you can allocate tasks such as producing punch lists, conducting building inspections, cleaning up sites, creating and handing over all documents and also providing training to the building’s new facilities manager. By using a post-construction Gantt chart, you ensure that all essential phases are completed, with required legal paperwork filed, and make sure everything is tied up correctly.

Why should you use a Gantt chart to schedule construction projects?

Despite massive improvements in construction project management over the last few decades, the industry remains beset by issues of delays and cost overruns. According to a study reported in Construction News, some nine in ten construction projects today are running behind schedule.

Using a Gantt chart for construction projects doesn’t in itself guarantee that delays won’t happen. Indeed, many things that cause delays are simply out of your control – from poor weather to material shortages to labour disputes. Nevertheless, using a Gantt chart can make managing construction projects a lot easier, for a number of reasons:

  • Helps identify dependencies

Using a Gantt chart for construction scheduling pushes the project manager to identify all possible dependencies within a project and plan for them accordingly. Without a Gantt chart it would be very difficult for most people to imagine how tens or even hundreds of different activities depend upon one another in a complex building project. With a Gantt chart, however, you can quickly see which tasks need to be done and in what order. Therefore, you can schedule work much more effectively.

  • Widely understood

Since construction Gantt charts are already widely used in the industry, managing projects with a Gantt chart often makes things easier for all stakeholders. From site staff to the client through to the architect and the project manager, most people working on the project will be able to understand what the Gantt chart means and their role in the project using this methodology.

  • A single version of the truth

On a similar note, using Gantt charts for construction projects also gives you a single version of the truth. So long as the project manager keeps the Gantt chart construction software up to date with information about project progress, then all stakeholders can see how far along the work has come and who is responsible for doing what. This makes miscommunications and misunderstandings less likely.

  • Appropriate for the construction industry

Using a Gantt chart for construction scheduling is an appropriate method for project management given the type of projects common in this industry. Gantt charts are useful in construction because building projects typically rely on multiple different subcontractors and teams working on different sites at different times. These factors mean it’s appropriate to follow a centralised project management style, where one person (or team) has an ultimate overview of the project and keeps it in control.

In recent years, newer project management styles have emerged such as ‘Lean’ or ‘Scrum’, which take a more collaborative and flexible approach to managing tasks. However, since they rely on small teams collaborating intensively, these project management techniques are more suited to relatively creative or product-centred work. Given the size and scale of construction projects, Gantt charts are very effective and offer a tried and tested method.

  • Real-time

Today’s Gantt chart construction software provides a real-time view of project progress in a way that everyone can see and contribute to. Often delivered via the cloud – so people in different locations can view it (at the building site, at the contractor’s headquarters, at the client’s offices) – it provides an open way to keep projects updated and ensure everyone’s on board with what’s happening. The software also means people can flag up any unexpected delays as soon as they occur.

Read more: 5 reasons construction job scheduling software is booming

What are the benefits of Gantt charts in construction?

Using a Gantt chart for construction projects delivers a wide range of benefits to the project manager, the contractor and the client:

  • Saves time and money by allocating resources and people in the most efficient way.
  • Improves productivity by eliminating redundancies.
  • Improves the chances that the project will keep to its timeline and schedule.
  • Allocates clear responsibility for individual tasks or phases.
  • Improves communication between different stakeholders, since everyone understands their role.
  • Makes unexpected delays or conflicts less likely thanks to the representation of dependencies.
  • Provides a highly visual, at-a-glance way of monitoring project progress.

 

Read more: Software for Construction Project Managers

Drawbacks of Gantt charts for construction projects

Although Gantt charts are widely used in construction, they are not always a perfect tool and do have certain disadvantages, including:

  • Gantt charts can sometimes become very complex. This is especially true on larger projects with many stakeholders and subtasks where the Project Manager wants to capture every single detail.
  • Depending on the tool you use, it can be time-consuming to list out all the tasks in the Gantt chart.
  • Using Gantt charts in construction projects frontloads the planning. This means that you need to plan every task out in detail months or even years in advance. Later, this might not correspond with the changing reality on the ground. Gantt charts might therefore be more suitable for some projects than others.
  • Requires extensive knowledge of how construction projects work – project managers need years of experience and a deep understanding of how long different building phases are likely to take if they are to plan out a project accurately.
  • Construction Gantt charts can sometimes feel artificially (and unnecessarily) rigid. For example, a site manager may have the resources, time and equipment to start one job on day 100 of the project. However, to follow the Gantt chart, they may have to wait another 10 days before they can begin that task.
  • Although Gantt charts represent a useful visualisation of the project’s timeline, the lengths of bars can sometimes be misleading. For example, one task may appear short on the Gantt chart, yet it might still require a lot of resources and energy. This means people may underestimate the number of resources needed at any one time.
  • Many construction project managers still rely on spreadsheet programmes like Excel to map out their Gantt charts, yet these programmes can really struggle with delays or shifts in project timelines and priorities. That said, modern Gantt chart construction software is much more adaptable and able to represent changing realities and respond to them.

Gantt charts for renovation projects

Using a Gantt chart for renovation projects can be just as useful as on traditional construction projects. Project managers can easily use Gantt chart construction software to plan tasks and timings throughout a renovation project, including:

  • Stripping out and removing materials, interior walls, and other pre-existing features of a building.
  • Structural works – making repairs to walls, floors and ceilings.
  • Improvements to things like plumbing, wiring or heating.
  • Carrying out the plastering and flooring stages.
  • Fit-out and decoration.

Examples of Gantt chart construction software

There are several software companies that have designed project management tools which feature Gantt charts. Most Gantt chart software today is relatively generic and could be used in most industries. The following Gantt chart software can relatively easily be deployed on building projects. Many of these tools also come with construction Gantt chart templates.

Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project is probably the world’s most widely-used project management application. It lists all project tasks and can demonstrate dependencies using Gantt bars. While not specifically designed for construction, it contains most of the features used in the industry.

Instagantt

This popular Gantt chart software features all the essentials you’d want from a Gantt chart programme. Instagantt also highlights useful information, such as when team members and resources may be overburdened – this can improve how you manage projects and limit the risk of burnout or mistakes.

Smartsheet

Smartsheet is another large, well-established project management programme with Gantt chart features. Used by many major organisations, it is suitable for a range of different industries. It also comes with templates that you can use in construction projects.

ClickUp

ClickUp is a relatively new project management software that is popular with start-ups and small businesses. Its key benefit is its relatively low cost and ease of use. It doesn’t come with quite as many features as other software, so might be more suitable for smaller projects. It’s also useful for mapping out Gantt charts for renovation projects.

PlanRadar

PlanRadar is a cloud-based construction management app which includes a Gantt chart feature. You can connect your Gantt chart with site management, allocate tasks and monitor progress in real-time while also producing reports and generating insightful analyses. Designed specifically to provide Gantt charts for construction projects, PlanRadar meshes smoothly with your processes.

Planradar Scheduling is simple to use and fast to update. That means it’s easy to adjust your schedule to reflect the reality on-site, making sure that your team can unlock the benefits that Gantt charts offer.

A Project Manager using PlanRadar's Gantt Chart feature.

How to use PlanRadar to make Gantt charts

PlanRadar’s ‘Gantt View’ helps users to visualise the key phases in a project. Combining a user-friendly interface with an easy-view display, users can create project schedules to a standard, universally-recognised Gantt model.

‘Gantt View’ works with PlanRadar’s existing Ticket functionality, making it more efficient, flexible and user-friendly.  Users can plan the project journey, building clear, robust charts from existing task lists, plotting key milestones and highlighting priority actions.

If delays occur in the schedule, they are easily highlighted for action. As changes to the project plan occur, users can quickly drag & drop items to seamlessly update the schedule. Essentially, it allows project managers to keep on top of any spontaneous changes or developments to ensure no stone is left unturned.

So, how does PlanRadar’s Gantt View work?

1.      Navigate to the schedule

Find the Gantt View by navigating to the Tickets tab and switching to Schedule view.

2.      Add phases and sub-phases

Click on “+ Create Phase” to add a new phase to your project. Give it a title, and a start and end date or a duration. You can edit these dates at any time to take into account changes to your project schedule.

You can also rename or delete phases as your project develops.

3.      Import phases (optional)

If you use another platform to build construction project schedules then don’t worry, you don’t have to repeat that work in PlanRadar. You can import your project schedule from Microsoft Project, Primavera P6 or Asta Powerproject. The project import will create a hierarchy of phases, if applicable.

Please note that importing your project structure will not import Tickets.

4.      Add Tickets to phases

Add new Tickets to each phase directly from the Schedule View. These tickets can already include deadlines, assignees, text instructions and multimedia attachments to help your team get the job done. Alternatively, you can add detail to the ticket later.

You can also easily add existing Tickets to project phases. This is useful if you’ve already been working with PlanRadar on a project but now want to add the Gantt View. Just click on the “More” icon next to the phase you’d like to add tickets to and select “Add existing tickets”. This will add a list of your previously created tickets for the project. You can simply select the ones that you want to add to the phase.

If you’ve added a start date, end date or duration, then the ticket should appear in the schedule.

5.      Permissions: who can see my schedules?

Only in-house users are able to access the Gantt view. However, you can set which in-house users can and can’t see the schedule when you create roles. Learn more about PlanRadar’s customisable user roles.

Modern Gantt charts for construction projects

Project managers have used construction Gantt charts for over 100 years. In that time, the processes and technology used to build have evolved considerably. From paper charts through to basic spreadsheet software, up to today’s powerful project management programmes, Gantt charts have constantly improved.

And now, with PlanRadar’s Gantt chart for construction projects, you can use a project management tool that is specifically designed for the needs and realities of the construction industry.

To learn more about PlanRadar’s Gantt chart construction software, contact us for a demo today.