Construction industry productivity and safety

Douglas Simmons | 19 Jun 2015 | Comments

The increasingly common adoption of the design and build (D&B) or EPC form of contract is gathering pace throughout the world at differing speed and characteristics to suit local requirements.

The benefits are generally perceived to be an overall shorter construction programme and reduced capital costs with the ultimate drivers being the need to obtain the return on investment as quickly as possibly whether for building rent, operational revenue or signature world class events like the world cup. On privately funded PPP or DBOT type projects, this adds a further focus and a rigor to deliver value and maximize returns not only in capital costs but in the operational phase.

While the D&B process has its advantages, there are issues that need to be addressed particularly with regards to management of change control and site safety and clients should also was ensure checks and balances are available to manage this. Consultants may not be necessarily experienced in construction matters and the importance of how the temporary works stability and locked in effects of the permanent works may impact the design are not always well understood. Clients may be able to assist in the promotion of safety and quality through the contract assessment mechanisms and ensure the processes are in place to manage and monitor the construction safety.

Consultants are adapting by working ever closer with contractors to understand their requirements better, respond quicker and align the design and management tools and language during the design stage with that of the contractor during construction through BIM and other communication tools. In Hong Kong with the current tranche of design and build projects underway, the added pressure of lack of skilled labour is driving innovation in a way not seen under normal procurement processes.

Under a D&B contract the contractor can make decisions on construction methodology based on of a raft of factors such as labour requirements, long lead in times, programme, approvals, cost effectiveness and constructability. In fact, if they don’t they will not be able to compete with their peers. However owners are seeking to receive those benefits AND a product that can meet the specification.

South Island line Viaducts SIL(E) C903
South Island line viaducts SIL(E) C903

In Hong Kong, one of the first bridge contracts where the client specifically invited Contractors Cost Saving Design was the San Tin Interchange Improvements in 2004, for which Atkins was the contractors designer for all aspects from permanent works to the temporary works and erection engineering ensuring a fully integrated, buildable design through a single consultant. Over the years, this approach has developed in sophistication as demonstrated on MTRC South Island Line East Contract C903, for which Atkins was MTRCs engineer. On this target cost project, the client wanted to ensure the teams worked in a highly collaborative manner to release value and innovations. Atkins was able to propose many innovations, some of which were adopted, such as integrated trackside and OHL systems, rail structure interaction, alignment optimization and impressed current systems. The collaboration level was high on site also ensuring the contractor understood the client needs and what is important to him so all parties are fully aligned and pulling their weight in the same direction.

Atkins is taking this approach to support our key global clients, using our global D&B bridge expertise, much of which has been gained on Hong Kong projects, to other internationally world class Atkins’ D&B projects such as the Dubai Metro, the King Abdullah Aziz International Airport viaducts and high speed rail bridges in Denmark.