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Construction: The Perfect Storm

Construction: The Perfect Storm

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Construction: The Perfect Storm

227 pages
2 heures
Oct 2, 2018


Mr. Huyghe has spent over 40 years constructing and evaluating large, complex construction projects. Based on this experience, in his new book “Construction – The Perfect Storm,” Mr. Huyghe outlines the steps construction professionals should take before construction begins and throughout construction to help keep their projects on schedule and to mitigate disputes.

This book was written for anyone in construction whether they are a contractor, subcontractor, owner, engineering or construction management student or a practicing construction lawyer. The construction process and protocols contained within this publication are not based on subjective theory but have been proven to help domestic and international projects be completed as timely as possible and have mitigated disputes. Mr. Huyghe takes us back to the “basics” which he has found to have diminished for reasons explained within this book.

If you are in construction or interested in a career in construction, this book was written for you.
Oct 2, 2018

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Construction - Steve Huyghe


I. Introduction to Construction



Basics of Project Management

Project Momentum

A construction project is more than just people, equipment and materials sharing the same patch of ground. A construction project is a process representing overlapping and inter-dependent strings of work activities that produce the physical manifestation of a conceptual design. The forward advancement of that process is hardly guaranteed, and often interrupted and diverted. A project’s rate of progress, or momentum, can be affected by minor as well as major factors.

Gaining the right momentum from the start is fundamental in controlling the necessary forward progress to achieve a timely completion. A project takes on a cadence and if you come out of the ground on schedule, immediately install the utilities and expedite your structural work, you will find other trades will follow suit and perform their work timely if you manage them properly. The push and drive of the work achieved at the outset of a project will set the stage for what is to come.

If you don’t establish this momentum at the outset because of issues such as low productivity, lack of resources, engineering delays or disruptions, the workers in the field will recognize this and the project will suffer accordingly. You can quickly find yourself playing defense instead of offense and in lieu of moving forward on schedule, your efforts will be trying to claw back time. You must do everything you can to not find yourself in this position.

Absence of Absolute Control

When the efforts of many individuals are required to accomplish a goal or objective, there is no such thing as absolute control over their actions or inactions.

If ever there was an argument for the essential objective of control, it would be the field of construction cost control. This very name suggests that control is possible, but control is a misnomer. Issues like the escalation of the price of labor and materials, labor strikes, floods, etc. all can occur and are not within your control.

Labor unit rates are normally set by the economic forces of the marketplace. Therefore, there are some factors that you must deal with in the best, most economical way possible.

Designers and value engineers may affect a project’s ultimate total cost by the type and quantity of materials they require. Pilferage, breakage, spoilage and rework are all examples of how the human factor influences the actual quantity of materials used on a project.

The same argument can be made that equipment price and rental rates are set by the open market. Operating maintenance programs and operator usage efficiency are human factors that will constitute the controllable variables affecting the bottom line cost for such items.

Finally, there is labor itself. Workers and their supervisors have the greatest influence over labor costs on a project. Labor rates normally are not set by any single individual or organization. On the job, it is labor productivity that is the major factor that determines a project’s bottom line labor cost.

In many international locations such as parts of Asia and the Middle East, the cost of labor is much less compared to other countries due to the use of foreign workers. Therefore, labor productivity is often thought to be insignificant. However, labor inefficiency causes delay/disruption and the growth in indirect costs (crane rentals, supervision, management) are significant. Labor cost may be somewhat immaterial, however, delays to the project are still prohibiting you from achieving a successful project.

Over the last 5 years the lack of skilled workers, especially welders and electricians have delayed most all industrial projects worldwide and this labor shortage is a universal problem. Especially on large industrial projects that have a significant amount of high pressure/special alloy piping that require very experienced welders.

Competing Interests

Participants in a construction project all have individual values, characteristics, goals, and objectives, which are almost never the same as those you have for the project itself. The real challenge is to consistently and positively influence the conduct of many separately-minded individuals despite the dynamics of an individual, group, and organization’s impulses, which may run counter to those of the project.

41114.png    Using people skills and being honest, direct and willing to work with everyone and solve problems no matter what that may take in dealing with all members of the construction team, whether it is subordinates, peers, or superiors, will allow you to create an atmosphere of trust and dedication on your site. You will still never gain absolute control, but it will certainly lessen the amount of resistance you would otherwise experience and feel, and you will find that many individuals on your team will learn to respect you and recognize you as a true leader as a result.

These concepts and the reality of competing interests explain some of the reasons why many projects fail to achieve their stated objectives. Initial objectives may be unrealistic, given the number, strength and diversity of dynamic forces tugging and pulling on any construction project. This is one lesson you only learn after you have been responsible for the construction management of large projects. Identifying, planning and strategically aligning your project around the stronger personalities of superintendents, labor foremen, subcontractor representatives along with the quality and performance of their tradesmen, are just some of the subtle lessons you learn when building projects.

Construction’s Uncertain Nature

The processes of design and construction are anything but predictable, with many variables at play in virtually every aspect of a project. As previously mentioned, Owners prefer contracts executed with regards to larger construction projects that are Engineer, Procure and Construct contracts (EPC).

Owners began using this type of a contract to shift the risk to the entity responsible for a turnkey approach being the process of providing the engineering, handling all procurement and performing the construction under one umbrella, the EPC contract. Owners desired to have one party responsible for the total design and construction process. In fact, many Owners referred to this process as a cradle to grave approach.

However, what Owners did not expect were internal construction disputes between the EPC joint venture entities. In recent years, disputes between the engineering and construction parties have risen at an alarming rate. The construction joint venture partners are claiming delays and disruptions to construction caused by the late release of design by the engineering partner. This is happening during the course of construction while often times there are also claims against the Owner materializing concurrently. This makes for an interesting scenario that the Owners were not expecting.

Hence, an Owner may feel they have shifted the risk, delays and disruptions. To the EPC contractor, these are ongoing problems between its EPC partners. The late release of design can affect the construction logic and sequencing of the work critically delaying the project. As litigation between the engineering entity and the construction partner become more prevalent in today’s market, both the Owner and the EPC contractors lose when this occurs.


The design described in the initial drawings and specifications always are revised and iterations occur. Changes beyond the original concept discussions take shape and form. By the time the designers put concepts to paper, the owner’s/user’s initial criteria and the design team may have changed their basic engineering, and designs may have been reviewed and modified many times.

41114.png    It is very important to understand that Design is not a Work Product but a Process. Most people think of design being complete when the final drawings are issued. The design on a project is not complete until the project is finished.

Designers are human and like all of us are susceptible to making mistakes. These inadvertent mistakes can go unnoticed and cause discrepancies in the scope of work and are missed in the contracts with the prime contractors or subcontractors. Therefore, the contractual expectations from the outset are incorrect. Also, the estimates or tenders based on these deficient drawings are also invalid. Inherent delays are embedded in deficient design drawings and are not detected. These projects are destined to be delayed before a shovel of earth is overturned.

Project Site

Businesses are principally either product or service-oriented. An automobile repair shop provides a service; a concrete plant produces a product. Construction is a product-oriented industry, but unlike any other product industry, a Contractor has no permanent manufacturing plant. His plant can be in a remote open field, in and amongst existing facilities, or in a congested downtown area, and anything in between.

In construction, it is important to understand the concept that the plant and the product are built simultaneously. Quality control features routinely built into fixed manufacturing plants are missing on the construction site. Productivity, as well as quality and cost, are dramatically affected by the plant’s less-than-ideal conditions.

Many of the installations performed on a construction project are quickly hidden and covered up by follow on work. The supposed specified placement of rebar is covered by concrete, the incorrect layout and substandard rough-in of mechanical, electrical and plumbing material is hidden behind the drywall, the incorrect welding and installation of high pressure piping is not known until it is tested. Therefore, the quality control must be closely controlled and monitored by individuals with the required experience.

Based on the fact that the construction industry is experiencing greater problems with defective work, it is imperative that the contractors’ quality control procedures are put in place and oversaw by individuals with the proper quality control training. In addition, Owners must take a more active role in providing oversight by employing experienced on-site representatives.

Materials and Equipment Delivery

The size and location of the project can determine the way material handling is to be conducted. Most materials often come just-in-time for installation and/or from remote locations where quality and schedule are not easily influenced, and not easily monitored. On tight sites, material storage competes with user needs, construction staging, worker access and physical construction operations.

Proper material handling requires a lot of planning, procedures and protocols to be put in place. The size and type of material housing for the equipment and material laydown areas need to be strategically thought out and located. Inventory systems need to be established along with material release systems to ensure the timely retrieval and distribution of material to the field. Material checkout protocols requiring advanced material requests and signatory sign-offs must be established.

This upfront planning and project logistics for material handling needs to be investigated and thoroughly thought through beginning in the estimate stage. One of the biggest candidates for poor labor inefficiency in the field are delays and disruptions caused by not receiving the correct amount and/or right materials when labor crews are awaiting to install. The size and type of warehousing, the management of the warehousing and laydown areas need to be identified. The delivery schedules based on the procurement process must be taken into consideration to not only understand the quantity of materials to be stored but also the nature in which the material has to be stored.

41114.png    As a Contractor, I found that my estimating department never included enough man-hours to cover material handling. Most estimators only figure in the labor units the cost of one or two handling operations. This means they have allowed for equipment to arrive on-site and either off-loaded at the location necessary for installation or off-loading in a storage area and then one transfer to the location where the material is to be off-loaded. Therefore, when I found out that actually on-site the materials were being handled more than twice, I knew I had to put mitigation measures in place.

The cost of material handling can become out of control and you need to come to grips with where materials are to be stored, and what are the rules around any warehousing of material and distribution.

Many claims have the additional cost of labor inefficiencies due to poor material handling buried in their cost overruns. Therefore, it is imperative to understand, from the outset, the site logistics regarding to material handling.

Construction Equipment

Cranes and earth moving equipment are often leased, not owned, and the operating condition of this equipment is subject to the maintenance practices of the leasing company, and the degree of careful treatment and usage by prior renters. Therefore, if you don’t perform your due diligence in inspecting the equipment brought to the site, you can find yourself with unexpected delays due to breakdowns and unexpected equipment maintenance issues.

The upfront planning of the type of equipment, the placement of equipment and all issues regarding to site logistics needs to be taken into consideration at the outset. Often times the support equipment to perform the lifting of piping, formwork, concrete placement is not thought out properly. Obviously, equipment usage is based on heavy lifts but sometimes problems with labor productivity occur due to the lack of planning for the trades to have the right amount of equipment and access to the right type of every day support and lifting equipment.

Never take for granted that the crane or equipment operators possess the necessary skillsets. A crane operator must have enough experience to operate its designated piece of equipment properly, efficiently and most of all safely. An experienced crane operator can help improve your labor efficiency on the project if they have the right background. Make sure you and your experienced field superintendents interview the operators before they begin work and carefully assess the crane operators in action. If you have any concerns, have the operator replaced. Crane accidents have increased by over 15% in the last 5 years.


The work force is often not stable, constant, or familiar with the type of work; depending on the physical location of the project, it can often determine the quantity and quality of the labor pool.

Back in the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s, when the majority of construction work in the United States was performed by trained union labor, if a union contractor had a favorable relationship with the local and international unions, this resulted in obtaining qualified, trained union labor and achieving dependable labor production. However, even though contractors could obtain the more qualified tradesmen, you still had to take all excuses away from the field crews to do your part. The right layout, correct tools, right equipment, enough material on hand, right crew mix and supervision are all mandatory. If anyone of these ingredients was missing, delays and disruptions were inevitable, and you could not point to the performance by the trades.

Often, in today’s environment the actual labor production statistics are unknown when the schedule and budget are being compiled and are only discovered in the field at a time when deficiencies will cost the most to correct. It is now common to find the work force is comprised

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