To a non-construction professional, finding a rare animal fossil may seem pretty awesome and even kind of cool!  These prehistoric bones are a glimpse into the past and evoke curiosity in most of us.Question such as, “What was walking on these lands long ago,” or “What kind of animal was this,” cross our minds.

However, to the seasoned project manager or building owner, while finding prehistoric remains are surely an important discovery, they are far from awesome or cool. This is because a discovery such as this will halt construction, increase construction costs and cause major headaches if not handled correctly.

In a recent residential project which included the construction of more than 600 houses in
Carlsbad, California, the project was put on hold for several months after massive bison and other Ice Age fossils up to 20 million years old were discovered.

Even with the project delays caused by this prehistoric discovery, excitement was felt on all levels of the project.  John Suster, project superintendent, reportedly told the paleontologists, “Take your time, this is kind of cool.” 

Although, in this case, the unforeseen condition was “kind of cool,” this project setback still requires a cohesive project team with an action plan to move the project forward and achieve success for all stakeholders.

So, what do we do when we come up against an obstacle like this that can negatively impact schedule, budget and even relationships among project team members, related agencies and others in the community?

  • First and foremost, don’t try to cover it up.  Make others on the team aware of the find, stop work and notify the proper regulatory agencies.
  • Look at what else can be done.  Where else can we work?  How do we keep things moving, while others work on unearthing the find?
  • Collaborate with the project management team and the agencies involved.  What are the impacts?  How long will this take, and how might we recover?
  • Put together a shared team plan, get buy-in from all of the stakeholders and move quickly to mitigate the impacts.

While it may be uncommon to find fossils on a construction site, unforeseen conditions and challenges are encountered on nearly every project. By using a collaborative partnering process to establish common goals and effectively work together, your project team will be ready to tackle even the most difficult obstacles and ultimately achieve success for everyone involved.

This article, Rare ‘Cool’ 200,000-year-old Fossils Accidentally Unearthed in California Construction Site; Paleontologists Extremely Excited  by Althea Serad posted on  You can read the article here.

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