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How To Select The Appropriate Construction Method To Increase Safety And Efficiency

Construction
By Paul Netscher | Read time: 3 minutes

Often contractors rush into a project without considering and choosing the most appropriate construction method or the sequencing of the tasks. Sometimes customers specify a construction methodology or the estimator proposed a methodology when they submitted the price to the customer. But are these the best and most efficient methodologies? In fact, when the construction team looks at the project they could find that the suggested methods aren’t appropriate. I’ve often used alternative methods of construction which have been quicker and more efficient than those proposed, resulting in reduced costs.  However, it should be noted that usually, the customer needs to be informed if the contractor selects a different construction methodology to the one specified in the request to price documents or the one the contractor proposed in their price submission. In particular, if the contractor decides on using different materials these will have to be approved by the customer.

There’s normally more than one method that a project can be constructed, but often some methods will be safer and more efficient than others. Time spent understanding the project and the site conditions as well as the available resources and their capabilities and then analyzing the suitability of different construction methodologies will result in the best construction method being selected which is appropriate for the project, and which can deliver the project efficiently, safely and within the specified time. Methodologies that worked on another project may not be the best for the next project.

What to consider when deciding on a construction methodology

Some factors to consider when deciding on the construction methods are:

  1. the workers’ safety during construction
  2. The safety of neighbors, the public, the customer’s workers and other contractors
  3. the facility or structure to be built
  4. the project schedule, including when access and information will be available,
  5. costs of resources (for example in some areas labor costs are high so it’s advisable to reduce the amount of labor required by using more machinery or proposing precast solutions)
  6. the customer’s design (some methods may require the design to be modified which could result in additional design costs)
  7. restraints imposed by the customer such as:
    1. their access requirements
    2. the availability of services
    3. coordinating with their other contractors
    4. access to work areas
    5. tie-in and disruption of existing services, processes and traffic
    6. restrictions on imports
    7. utilization of local resources
  8. the availability of:
    1. equipment
    2. skilled workers
    3. staff
    4. materials
    5. accommodation
    6. services such as power and water
  9. the site conditions such as:
    1. topography (for example steeply sloped sites may make it difficult to set-up cranes)
    2. ground conditions (for example unstable ground or rock may dictate the rate of progress, the schedule and the type of equipment)
    3. access to the site (for example the roads may have load limitations which limit the size of equipment or items which can be brought to the site)
    4. traffic on and around the site which could slow deliveries or limit the hours of work
    5. congestion on the site and around the site (for example cranes required to place heavy equipment might not be able to be set-up close to structures)
    6. the location of the work area (for example it may be elevated which would restrict access to personnel and materials)
  10. what methods the contractor’s personnel are used to, as well as their level of skill
  11. expected weather conditions during construction – for instance, the wind may interrupt cranes lifting materials while constructing some work in modules or in precast elements may assist the project to avoid unsuitable weather conditions on the project site
  12. the location of the project (projects in remote areas may make transporting of prefabricated modules expensive, on the other hand, projects with limited accommodation or resources in the vicinity may be more suited to fabricating elements elsewhere)
  13. resources available near the project site (is equipment such as heavy lift cranes obtainable and are there people with the required skills available)
  14. the complexity of the project
  15. the amount of repetition on the project (projects that have repetitive elements are well suited to using precast elements or special forms)
  16. the degree of accuracy required for the finished product
  17. the finishes required
  18. the utilization of resources (the chosen methodology shouldn’t result in excessive peaks and troughs in resource utilization and nor should there be discontinuities in the use of resources which could result in additional demobilization and remobilization costs or in the underutilisation of resources for periods of the work)
  19. minimizing risks (these risks include safety, weather related, cash flow, industrial action, and material shortages)

Conclusion

Selecting the right methodology for the project before work begins will often result in the project being completed more quickly, with more efficient use of resources resulting in cheaper construction. Picking the right methodology often results in a better quality product, a safer working environment and a project with fewer risks. It is often difficult to change the method of construction once work has begun so careful thought needs to be taken before work begins. It’s important to note that the approved construction schedule must reflect the chosen construction method and if it doesn’t the schedule must be modified and agreed again with the customer so it represents the selected construction methods.

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