Due diligence. In different segments of the AEC industry, these words mean different things, but they boil down to this: Do your homework before you plan, design, or build. In the matter of building codes, due diligence can mean the difference between a successful inspection or a rejection, between obtaining occupancy on schedule and experiencing a delay.
From the Job Site
A once quiet valley, about a half mile northeast of downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, is the scene of intense construction. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, designed by Moshe Safdie, has arisen from the ground, and its buildings are taking shape. Once complete, the museum will become a major tourist attraction in northwest Arkansas.
Ninety-nine percent of construction work is completed within the allotted time. Getting a project closed out -- the other one percent -- seems to take just as much time. Why does this process take so long? A seemingly endless series of punch list and paperwork items must be completed before the project can be considered complete.
Late payment to the contractor is one of the main causes of relationships souring during construction projects. The contractor is unhappy. Subcontractors are unhappy. Suppliers are unhappy. The engineer has to field all of these complaints -- and often the blame. Incomplete payments, due to disputed work or progress, lead to damaged relationships as well. Late payments do more than effect relationships, however: They can severely cripple a contractor’s ability to continue and complete the work.
Construction is about building, and not only in the sense of infrastructure: building professional and cordial relationships between the three principals on a project results in a better facility constructed on time and within budget. The relationships between the owner (or developer), the contractor, and the engineer (or other design professional) are defined by the General Conditions of the Construction Contract, published by the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC).
The time between receiving bids (or a proposal for sole source work) and the start of construction is a busy time for the contractor, the owner, and the design professional. The design professional must quickly check the bids and verify that the low bidder truly has the qualifications to do the work, then prepare the contract documents for signatures. The owner needs to proceed through the necessary steps to award the project, which include having financing ready. The low bidder must begin to expand upon the data assembled during the bid phase and prepare for mobilization.
Tell someone that you work in construction -- heavy construction, that is -- and they most likely will have a mental image of earth-moving equipment, trenches, concrete, and asphalt. Paperwork may not come to mind, nor contracts or documents. Yet the success of a construction project depends not only on the work at the site but also on the paper documentation that defines what must be done.
Advancements in technology have revolutionized the way we do business, but we must not lose sight of the benefits of personal interaction. I find myself getting more and more email every day and having less time to actually talk to or even see the people I am working with. I am probably more guilty of this then many because I am what you might call a “satellite” project manager, working remotely on out-of-town jobs.
The project was a seismic retrofit of a 15-story building constructed in 1991. The steel portion of the project consisted of systematically strengthening the moment connections throughout the building and installing over 200 dampers in a 750,000 sq. ft. office building without interrupting the operation of the tenants. The contract dictated that the work would start in the basement, progress through the ground floor and the parking garage (floors 2-5), and then continue through the occupied office floors (6-15). The contractor could only occupy three half floors at any one time and a set number of parking spaces due to contract restrictions. The contract also restricted work hours, noise levels, and delivery times. These restrictions would drive the pace of the work.
The Vancouver Convention Centre, which was featured on the Go Green channel as a case study in April, has an extremely unique design feature – an artificial reef (also referred to as a “habitat skirt”). The concrete habitat skirt steps down in five tiers from the underside of the public walkway into the harbor. The skirt was designed with input from marine biologists and other consultants to make it mimic a natural environment.
Recently, I had the opportunity to observe firsthand the installation of an underground water storage tank for the purpose of fire-fighting in rural western Howard County, Maryland. An underground water storage tank can serve as a water source for firefighters in an area where hydrants connected to water mains are either unavailable or located at great distances from each other. Underground water storage tanks provide greater fire safety, are more compact and visually unobtrusive when compared to aboveground models, and could represent cost savings to local government agencies as well as homeowners.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament begins this weekend; some call this the best sporting weekend of year (a sentiment this sports junkie completely agrees with). But what does basketball have to do with the On Site channel? The University of Louisville’s new downtown arena! Not only are Cardinal fans eager for March Madness to begin, but they are also anxiously awaiting the completion of their basketball team's new home.