01 September 2004
Understand project execution methods
First installment in a two-part series.
By John C. Pfeiffer
If the upswing in business has gotten you to think about initiating a long-postponed plant construction project and you are beginning to lay out the major considerations in such an undertaking, one of the earliest decisions you must face—one that will affect the project long after all the bills are paid—is which project method you plan to use.
That decision is important because roles and responsibilities will differ significantly from the owner to the engineer or construction contractor.
Whether you plan to overlay the traditional construction project method or the design/build method, you must understand the implications, and frustrations, of both.
In this first part of a two-part article, I will provide a matrix of considerations for both methods and review in some depth the traditional construction project method.
In the traditional way of implementing plant construction projects, the owner contracts with the engineer to develop the project's drawings and construction specifications. The engineer may also purchase hardware and equipment and develop control software.
Once the design is complete, the owner puts the project out for bid and selects the construction contractors. The engineer often remains on the project to observe the construction process, answer questions, and assist in the start-up testing.
The success of every construction project depends as much on the project owner, or leader, as it does on the engineers and contractors themselves. For example, the owner:
- sets the parameters that define the project;
- establishes reasonable goals for the project;
- obtains adequate funding;
- develops and understands expectations for the project, its goals, and the parties involved in the design and construction;
- develops or defines project design and construction criteria, programs, and needs; and
- ensures the proper assignment of responsibilities and of the related risks of the construction team, and provides for authority to manage them.
The engineer's role during the typical construction project is to develop the construction plans and specifications and then administer the construction contract. The engineer:
- represents, advises, and consults with the owner;
- coordinates the work between the owner and the contractor;
- provides interpretations and clarifications of the requirements of the contract; and
- observes the work of the contractor as the project progresses.
The essence of the contractor's contractual responsibilities includes furnishing of labor, materials, and equipment and related services (the work) for a contract price and within the contract time frame. The contractor:
- schedules and coordinates the work by the contractor and its subcontractors;
- supervises the work performance;
- provides labor, material, and equipment for the work; and
- initiates, maintains, and supervises all safety precautions and programs.
It is important the contractor's independent duties not be confused with those of the owner and the engineer. Duplicating the responsibilities, by either shifting or reassigning the contractor's responsibilities to the engineer, does not serve the goals or objectives of the owner. It usually results in confusion or ambiguity that ultimately leads to disputes, claims, or litigation.
Next month, we will explore the Design/Build construction project, in which the role of the engineer changes substantially from that of the traditional construction project.
Behind the byline
John C. Pfeiffer, P.E., (firstname.lastname@example.org) is founder and president of Pfeiffer Engineering Co. Inc., a professional engineering company based in Louisville, Ky., focusing on the chemical, petrochemical, plastics, metals, and other industries. Pfeiffer Engineering is a member of Control and Information System Integrators Association.
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