Cost Saving Construction Tips for Commercial Subcontractors

As a subcontractor, you want to make sure that you’re putting safety first and of course, doing a good job. You want to complete your job as profitably as possible without sacrificing quality. There are many ways to build cost-saving strategies into projects for commercial subcontractors.

Cost savings on a construction project does not mean that quality suffers. In fact, proper cost planning and savings can help you run a successful project with happy clients. Read on for more cost-saving construction tips for commercial subcontractors.


Safety First

While there are many ways to save construction costs for commercial subcontractors, you should never do so at the expense of safety. Everyone on your job site should go home safely, every single day. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, is a federal organization that outlines clear and specific guidelines about how to be safe on construction sites. Following these standards is paramount to any project.


Cost Estimates

Often, a client has an idea of what needs to be done, how much it will cost, and how long it might take. So do contractors. No matter what, as a savvy subcontractor, one of your responsibilities is to set realistic cost expectations in the areas of the project you’re responsible for.

Cost estimating is an entire profession in and of itself for a reason: a good cost estimate will guard against cost overruns, support on-time completion of the project, present a competitive price for the client, and also have profitability built-in. Depending on the size of the project, cost estimates can be extremely complex, and to get an accurate cost estimate other elements of the project need to be in place, like a proper project plan and well-defined schedule. 

According to the International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology notes that nine out of 10 projects experience cost overruns. The implications of budgeting too much–or too little–for a project can impact not only schedule, but financing as well, particularly when clients need to seek more funding to cover an unforeseen expense.


How to remain competitive on cost 

Preparing cost estimates for the project as scoped is a good place to start, but consider investing some additional time to prepare alternative cost estimates and schedules. This forethought can help differentiate your work from others, demonstrating that you have the best interests of your client at the forefront of your proposal. Not only does this deliver additional value and help you build relationships, but it gives your clients options and builds rapport. 



One of the best ways to save costs on a construction project is to get the scheduling right. Scheduling delays can result in cost overruns that no one is happy with.

Including considerations for weather, seasons, and expecting the unexpected can keep your schedule flexible, but realistic so that everyone knows what to expect.

There are many ways to schedule a project, and luckily there are also lots of digital tools that can help schedulers tackle a project from start to finish. Some approaches could be as simple in concept as a Gantt chart, which essentially displays project timelines in a horizontal bar chart, allowing you to quickly see major milestones, start and end dates, and dependencies. Other approaches to scheduling include the Critical Path Method, a decades-old approach to identifying how a team will get from the beginning to the end of a project, highlighting milestones along the way and identifying where there might be room for flexibility. 

No matter what, designing a flexible and dependable schedule that everyone can follow can keep everyone on the same page, literally.


Smart Procurement

Once you have done your homework creating a realistic schedule and budget for your portion of the work, you need to make sure you are procuring materials for the best price. Make a master list of everything you will need—and double-check your work.  

Be sure to identify all the materials you need at the start. For example, if you know you are going to need a certain number of backdraft dampers, shop around and identify the best suppliers.

Another way to shop smartly is by looking for ways to bundle heavy or expensive items for multiple projects and buy in bulk. Take steel, a notoriously heavy material to transport with a fluctuating price point.

If you’re trying to competitively price a steel building cost, it may make sense for you to work on several projects that you’ll need the steel building materials for. You could even find a partner doing similar work nearby, and share the cost of shipping.

The COVID-19 pandemic has infamously impacted procurement of raw materials, and this experience has influenced buyers as well as suppliers. Buying from reliable, financially strong suppliers can help you avoid procurement snags, which can also lead to cost overruns and scheduling challenges. 


Sustainability for Cost Savings

Delivering a high value to your client is part of your job as a subcontractor. Finding sustainable, reusable options benefits all parties, plus the environment. For example, suggesting efficient heating systems, like commercial radiant heating systems, combined with floors sourced from renewable sources, can help contribute to the overall sustainability of a space. Not only does your client see value in these cost-savings, but radiant heating systems are relatively easy to install, an overall cost-savings to you and the project’s bottom line.


Another example of balancing out project needs with the environment long with radiant heating systems, below grade thermal insulation can reduce heating loss at a building’s perimeter. As a subcontractor in the know, you can make these critical recommendations to your building partners and clients.


The Right Team

If you want to maximize the cost of a project, hire the right people to work on it. You will need a skilled team, focused on working together to reach the end goal, keeping efficiency top of mind without sacrificing quality.

Many subcontractors are small operations and sometimes people's resources get stretched thin. Having strong leadership in place, who understand what is happening with a project, can help keep a project on time and lead to cost-savings. Being able to delegate important tasks to strong project managers benefits everyone.

The job market of today and the post-pandemic era is much different than it was before. With inflation on the rise, workers demanding higher wages (and finding them), turnover on job sites can be high and reliable experts are harder to find. Apply rigor and scrutiny when selecting companies or individuals to support your project, and keep an eye on industry hiring and employment trends to keep up with the curve.



Most construction projects have many moving pieces and information is shared out to many different parties from the architect or designer, to an engineering team, to any number of subcontractors responsible for things like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC for example.

Being involved in project site communications and understanding where your direction might be coming from, and to whom you need to provide information, helps things go smoothly.

Professional project communication includes understanding how messages are shared on the job site, including who is responsible for telling various teams critical information whether it's related to safety or cost. Establishing standard operating procedures, including tasks everyone is expected to do at various points throughout the day or project, including progress updates or reporting issues, and holding the team responsible for follow-through. 

Like with any good communication, listening is key. Tune in to what’s happening on the ground, talk to others, take good notes, and be clear and direct. 

A Smart Approach to Construction Costs

The best way to control construction costs is to make sure you are involved from start to finish, properly scoping your job, staffing it well, and executing flawlessly. You never want to overpromise and underdeliver on a construction project. Leave no stone unturned—safety, project planning, sourcing, communication, and comparison shopping can all lead to better outcomes for your clients, and for you.

To learn how CDO Group can save you capital on your next commercial construction project or program, contact us today!


Brian Jeffries is the content director for the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value. 

December 10th, 2021 |