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CONSTRUCTIBILITY ISSUES FOR HIGHWAY PROJECTS

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CONSTRUCTIBILITY ISSUES FOR HIGHWAY PROJECTS
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  60  / JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT IN ENGINEERING / MAY/JUNE 1999 PEER-REVIEWED PAPER C ONSTRUCTIBILITY I SSUES FOR H IGHWAY P ROJECTS ByStuartD.Anderson, 1 DeborahJ.Fisher, 2 AssociateMembers,ASCE,andSuhelP.Rahman, 3 StudentMember,ASCE A BSTRACT :  State transportation agencies recognize the need for contract documents thatwill ensure rational bids and minimize problems during construction of facilities.Asignificantaspect of developing high-quality contract documents is to incorporate constructibilityreviewsinto project planning and design. Before state transportation agency management can addressconstructibility implementation, critical issues affecting implementation must be understood.A survey was conducted to capture specific constructibility issues from the perspective of agencies, design firms, and construction contractors. These issues are categorized into thoserelevant to project execution processes, project planning and technical design documents, andproject resources. Analysis and interpretation of the issues within these three categories sug-gest eleven paradigm shifts that state transportation agency management must address tosuccessfully implement a constructibility program. INTRODUCTION Transportation agencies recognize the need for con-tract documents that will ensure rational bids and mini-mize problems during the construction of facilities.Many problems encountered in the field are generated inthe design phase, according to Mendelsohn (1997). Asignificant aspect of developing high-quality contractdocuments is to incorporate constructibility in the plan-ning and design phases. Constructibility has demon-strated the potential to minimize the number and mag-nitude of changes, disputes, cost overruns, and delaysduring construction.Constructibility has been defined in a number of ways.Constructibility is described as the optimum use of con-struction knowledge and experience in planning, design,procurement, and field operations to achieve overallproject objectives ( Constructability  1986). Constructibil-ity is also defined as a measure of the ease or expediencywith which a facility can be constructed (Hugo et al.1990). Finally, constructibility is often portrayed as in-tegrating construction knowledge, resources, technologyand experience into the engineering and design of aproject (Anderson et al. 1995). 1 Assoc. Prof., Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Texas A&M Univ., CollegeStation, TX 77843-3136. 2 Assoc. Prof. and Endowed AGC Chair, Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Univ.of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1351. 3 Grad. Res. Asst., Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Texas A&M Univ., CollegeStation, TX.Note. Discussion open until November 1, 1999. To extend the clos-ing date one month, a written request must be filed with the ASCEManager of Journals. The manuscript for this paper was submitted forreview and possible publication on June 1, 1998. This paper is partof the  Journal of Management in Engineering , Vol. 15, No. 3, May/ June, 1999.  ASCE, ISSN 0742-597X/99/0003-0060–0068/$8.00  $.50 per page. Paper No. 18509. It is generally agreed that the maximum benefits of constructibility occur when constructibility is started atthe inception of a project. It is during the early projectphases that key decisions regarding project scope aremade and scope changes are implemented with mini-mum difficulty. These decisions, if made in a timelymanner, can result in maximum savings to the project.Quantifiable benefits from early implementation of constructibility programs have been documented onprojects in the industrial and building construction in-dustries ( Constructability  1993). Most of these projectswere large and executed on a cost-reimbursable basiswith design and construction often overlapped. This pro- ject delivery approach is not widely used in the trans-portation construction industry. Thus, the challenge is toimplement constructibility in a project environment typ-ically characterized by the design-bid-build approach,where construction is performed on a fixed unit pricebasis and competitively bid.Before state transportation agency (STA) managementcan address constructibility implementation, critical issuesaffecting implementation must be understood. This paperidentifies these issues for management of the STA sectorfrom the perspective of agencies, designers, and contrac-tors. Based on analysis of these critical issues, the writerspresent paradigm shifts that STA managers must adapt tosuccessfully implement a constructibility process. METHODOLOGY The National Cooperative Highway Research Program(NCHRP), to investigate the implementation of construc-tibility, sponsored research in the highway constructionindustry. An initial focus of the research was to evaluatecurrent constructibility practices in highway planning, J. Manage. Eng. 1999.15:60-68.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   f  r  o  m   a  s  c  e   l   i   b  r  a  r  y .  o  r  g   b  y   U   T   E   P   L   I   B   R   A   R   Y  -   S   E   R   I   A   L   S  o  n   1   1   /   0   8   /   1   4 .   C  o  p  y  r   i  g   h   t   A   S   C   E .   F  o  r  p  e  r  s  o  n  a   l  u  s  e  o  n   l  y  ;  a   l   l  r   i  g   h   t  s  r  e  s  e  r  v  e   d .  JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT IN ENGINEERING / MAY/JUNE 1999 /   61 TABLE 2. SummaryofCriticalIssuesfromQuestionnaire Item(1)Critical implementation issuescategory(2)Frequency(3)Percentage(4) ( a ) State transportation agency perspectiveA Lack of feedback to designers 17 14B Need to improve plans and specifications 14 12C Inadequate time to review 12 10D Lack of practical construction experienceby design personnel11 9E Traffic control 10 8F Cost 8 7G Geotechnical issues 7 6H Manpower 7 6I Environmental factors 6 5J Better/earlier input from district construc-tion personnel6 5K Need to include construction contractor inthe review process5 4L Maintenance & operations 5 4M Communication 4 3N Creating an accessible database 3 3O Safety 3 3P Balancing with other social, economicalfactors1 1Total 119 100 ( b ) Design firm perspective A Inadequate coordination of designs, plans,and specifications35 17B Lack of experience and knowledge 31 15C Poor communications and feedback 30 14D Inadequate time and funds for constructi-bility19 9E Early review of designs 16 8F Uncoordinated timing, phasing, andscheduling14 7G Lack of contractor input 13 6H Traffic control 12 6I Commitment to quality work 12 6J Availability of materials and skills 10 5K Environmental concerns 7 3L Interaction with DOT 7 3M Site access 3 1N Use of standard methods 3 1Total 212 101 ( c ) Construction firm perspective A Unclear designs, plans, and specifications 21 17B Poor scheduling and phasing of construc-tion17 14C Lack of communications and feedback 13 10D Lack of experience and knowledge 12 10E Design review 12 10F Construction operations and safety 11 9G Interaction with DOT 8 6H Availability of materials and equipment 7 6I Traffic control 7 6J Insufficient use of standard designs andmethods5 4K Environmental concerns 4 3L Site access 3 2M Need to remain competitive 3 2N Commitment and time for constructibility 2 2Total 125 100 TABLE 1. DistributionandReceiptofQuestionnaire Group(1)Send out(2)Received(3)Response rate(%)(4) Agency 52 40 77Design firm 156 73 47Construction firm 156 50 32 design, and construction. Literature reviews and surveyresearch methods were used to collect data on currentpractice. Further, a research advisory team comprisingten industry practitioners involved in highway designand construction was assembled to critique informationon current practice and to provide insights into the useof constructibility as applied to highway projects.A one-page mail questionnaire was used to collect dataregarding current practice with respect to constructibilityimplementation within the highway construction industry.One specific question asked of the respondents was to listthe three most critical issues relevant to the implementa-tion of constructibility from their agency or organization’sperspective. The question was phrased as follows: ‘‘Listthe three most critical issues relevant to implementationof constructibility by your agency (or firm). The ques-tionnaire was sent to all fifty states, Puerto Rico, and theDistrict of Columbia. Each state was asked to send aquestionnaire containing the same question to three designand three construction firms that were involved in theirprojects. The total number of questionnaires sent out andreceived is shown in Table 1.Respondents were asked to list three critical issuespertinent to implementing constructibility. Some respon-dents listed three issues, others listed less than three is-sues, and still other respondents identified more thanthree issues. A total of 119, 212, and 125 issues werelisted from the perspective of STAs, design firms, andconstruction firms, respectively.All critical issues listed were first analyzed for a prob-lem focus. More generic categories of issues were thendeveloped. Sixteen categories were identified for STAs,14 categories were identified for design firms, and 14were identified for construction firms. Each individual is-sue was assigned to one category that best reflected itsproblem focus. The critical implementation issue catego-ries are recorded in terms of both frequency and percentof all responses. These data were summarized for STAs,design firms, and construction firms, as shown in Table 2. INTERPRETATIONOFCRITICALISSUES Those critical issues reported in response to the ques-tionnaire, as summarized in Table 2, were, without ex-ception, issues that would impede or act as barriers toimplementing constructibility in the view of STAs, de-sign, and construction firms. Issues were stated with par-ticular reference to project level application. Additionalagency-level issues were identified through a review of literature on constructibility, from interviews with sev-eral departments of transportation, and by observationsof the industry advisory team associated with the re-search. These agency-level issues are amplified at theend of this section.The discussions that follow focus on those critical is-sues that, as discussed above, impede constructibility im-plementation. They encompass approximately 70% of the responses in Table 2. A short discussion of each issueis provided, based on interpretation of the responses andcomments from the industry advisory team. State Agency Observations  Lack of Feedback to Designers The contracting environment in which state agenciesoperate makes it a challenge for designers to obtain con- J. Manage. Eng. 1999.15:60-68.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   f  r  o  m   a  s  c  e   l   i   b  r  a  r  y .  o  r  g   b  y   U   T   E   P   L   I   B   R   A   R   Y  -   S   E   R   I   A   L   S  o  n   1   1   /   0   8   /   1   4 .   C  o  p  y  r   i  g   h   t   A   S   C   E .   F  o  r  p  e  r  s  o  n  a   l  u  s  e  o  n   l  y  ;  a   l   l  r   i  g   h   t  s  r  e  s  e  r  v  e   d .  62  / JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT IN ENGINEERING / MAY/JUNE 1999 struction feedback for future project planning and de-sign. By the time that the contractor enters the project,the design is usually 100% complete. This clear sepa-ration between the design and construction phases makesit difficult to apply constructibility. One mechanism toobtain construction feedback for use during planning anddesign is by developing a lessons-learned database.However, without formalizing constructibility, the use of such a database would likely be limited.  Need to Improve Plans and Specifications Ease and simplification of the construction process isthe main goal of implementing a constructibility pro-gram. Poor plans and specifications can cause major de-lays, claims, and rework. Many agencies consider theneed to improve plans and specifications a major issuein achieving a constructible project. The effective com-munication of engineering information is crucial toachieving efficient construction, resulting in time andcost savings. In the transportation industry, the effec-tiveness of the plans and specifications takes evengreater importance because of the separation of the de-sign and construction phases. Improved plans and spec-ifications remain the best approach to conveying the de-sign intent to contractors. Constructibility reviews wouldhelp communicate the design intent, thus enhancing aproject’s constructibility.  Inadequate Time to Review The time required to implement constructibility re-views is critical to many agencies. Their main concernseems to be the lack of time to apply a detailed analysisof designs from a construction perspective. Maintainingthe status quo is considered the quickest way to meetthe design schedule. Changing the process may be con-sidered a potential source of delay in design operations.Two STAs stated that increasing pressures to meetschedule have actually influenced their formalization of constructibility reviews in an attempt to make them moreefficient.  Lack of Practical Construction Experience by Design Personnel The separation of design and construction phases inthe design-bid-build contracting environment makes itdifficult for designers to gain construction experience.Once the design is complete, most designers leave theproject. The lack of any formal requirement to maintaina lessons-learned database will hinder constructibilityeven further. Experienced designers have few mecha-nisms for passing their knowledge to newly hired per-sonnel. Traffic Control The success of a project often depends on an adequatelevel of traffic control planning. Poor traffic control man-agement can result in major delays, safety hazards, andcosts. Construction input can be valuable to the devel-opment of an effective traffic control plan. Lessons-learned databases could also help in this area. Studiesshould be performed on site characteristics and trafficpatterns that will result in maximum savings in time andoverall cost of the project. This analysis should beginearly during the planning phase and include constructioninput. Cost  The cost of implementing a formal constructibilityprocess is a concern for many agencies. Investing moneyup front has always been a deterrent to implementationof constructibility in the construction industry ( Construc-tability  1993). It is crucial that agencies understand thatbenefits returned will more than offset costs to imple-ment and apply a formal constructibility program. Ben-efit/cost data confirms this and reflects a $25 project costsavings for every dollar spent on constructibility reviews(Anderson and Fisher 1997).  Manpower  Assigning personnel exclusively for the purpose of constructibility could result in increased cost to theagency. This is a difficult issue, especially with manyagencies downsizing their operations. Hence, the processhas to be flexible enough so that implementation can fitinto the actual structure of the agency without addingsubstantial new manpower requirements. Design Firm Observations  Inadequate Coordination of Designs, Plans, and Specifications This issue addresses the particular problem of a lack of coordination between designers and constructors,which results in poor coordination and interaction withconstruction. It has been described by respondents interms of not enough design detail for construction, in-efficient and inflexible designs, designs not coordinatedwith utilities within the scope of the project, and a lack of clarity in design criteria that must be met by the proj-ect. This issue becomes even more critical in its relationto other significant issues that impede constructibility:poor communication and feedback; inadequate applica-tion of construction experience; and lack of contractorinput to the design process.  Lack of Experience and Knowledge It was evident from responses within the design com-munity that a major issue with respect to facilitating theconstructibility process is the lack of construction ex-perience and knowledge among designers. This issue isresolved within most firms by assigning design reviewresponsibilities to senior design personnel. However, itis apparent that this effort does not effectively bridge thegap between designers and constructors so that efficientconstructibility analysis results. Poor Communication and Feedback  Unfortunately, this issue is one that is common to theinefficient internal operations of many organizations andis especially critical with respect to constructibility. J. Manage. Eng. 1999.15:60-68.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   f  r  o  m   a  s  c  e   l   i   b  r  a  r  y .  o  r  g   b  y   U   T   E   P   L   I   B   R   A   R   Y  -   S   E   R   I   A   L   S  o  n   1   1   /   0   8   /   1   4 .   C  o  p  y  r   i  g   h   t   A   S   C   E .   F  o  r  p  e  r  s  o  n  a   l  u  s  e  o  n   l  y  ;  a   l   l  r   i  g   h   t  s  r  e  s  e  r  v  e   d .  JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT IN ENGINEERING / MAY/JUNE 1999 /   63 Communications about project designs, plans, and spec-ifications must be clearly understood by everyone in-volved in, as well as across the interfaces of, the plan-ning-preparation-review processes. The contractor whois expected to implement designs must similarly under-stand communications. Feedback is essential to the‘‘learning process’’ but, unless encouraged and actedupon, offers little to support the final outcome of a proj-ect. As indicated, the establishment of a project lessons-learned data file may accomplish this.  Inadequate Time and Funds for Constructibility This response is indicative of what seems to be thetraditional method of performing work with regard to theplanning-design-construction process. Constructibility hasnot been embraced by many organizations to date, andtime and funding simply have not been allocated for suchan effort. As with programs such as value engineering,partnering, and total quality management, constructibilitymust have the support of an organization’s leadership andmanagement personnel so that time and funds may beallocated and benefits realized from these programs.  Early Review of Designs The early review of designs was deemed necessary bynumerous respondents as essential to the completion of correct and detailed designs as well as designs thatwould be effectively implemented by construction con-tractors. Because this issue has been raised, many designorganizations must believe that early review is an areain which there is a shortfall of effort. There should bemore emphasis on review of plans and designs early inthe overall project process. This is consistent with theconcept of constructibility. Uncoordinated Timing, Phasing, and Scheduling This issue has been mentioned by respondents withrespect to design activities that take place in an uncoor-dinated manner, as well as construction activities that arenot well timed, scheduled, and coordinated.Additionally,it is noteworthy that this issue is critical to effective proj-ect management across the design/construction interfaceand is related to some of those issues indicated above,such as poor communication and feedback. It is funda-mental that such issues be managed and overcome sothat constructibility can be realized throughout the over-all project process. Construction Firm Observations The five most critical construction firm issues arelisted below. Each of these has already been discussedas a design firm issue. Their potential impact on con-structibility for construction firms is similar to that de-scribed for design firms:ã Unclear designs, plans, and specificationsã Poor scheduling and phasing of constructionã Lack of communications and feedback ã Design reviewã Lack of experience and knowledge Other Critical Issues Several more general issues concerning implementa-tion of constructibility by STAs surfaced and were alsocited as extremely important to successful implementa-tion by the industry advisory team and the literature onconstructibility. They are:1. Implementation of constructibility must have aclear mandate from senior agency policy makers.This mandate may be put forth in an organizationby policy memoranda or other instructions that arewell understood by all personnel involved in theconstructibility process.Anything less than such in-structions, once a decision is made that the orga-nization will implement the process, would be un-satisfactory. This is supported by research in theprivate sector regarding constructibility ( Construct-ability  1993).2. Constructibility must have a ‘‘champion’’ or pro-gram manager, who serves full-time in this capac-ity. In addition to a program manger, there must beclear support shown for the implementation of con-structibility by the head of the agency. This conceptis also supported by other research as a critical fac-tor for successful organizational level implemen-tation of constructibility ( Constructability  1993).3. As important as the appointment of a constructi-bility program manager, funds and other resourcesmust be provided to support a constructibility pro-gram, including specific requirements and fundingfor outside consultant support, contractor associa-tions, and design firms.4. Development of formal databases of constructibil-ity lessons learned and identification of best prac-tices associated with constructibility approaches isa necessity. Most private companies that are im-plementing constructibility are doing so by activelydeveloping lessons-learned databases. For STAs,this will require the commitment of agency person-nel and other resources during planning, design,and construction to capture and retrieve lessonslearned. There must also be a screening process toselect the most critical lessons learned. Simplicityis important, and controlling the growth of the da-tabase is a concern. Thus, the use of constructibilitylessons learned does not come without potentialproblems that need to be addressed.5. A shift from review-driven constructibility prac-tices to more continuous application of constructi-bility concepts and ideas during planning and de-sign must be considered if constructibility is tobecome fully developed. The former way of ap-proaching project development simply reinforcestraditional practices and does nothing to improveupon constructibility processes in general. CRITICALISSUESCATEGORIZATION Critical issues from the questionnaire, are grouped andcondensed into three basic categories, as shown in Table J. Manage. Eng. 1999.15:60-68.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   f  r  o  m   a  s  c  e   l   i   b  r  a  r  y .  o  r  g   b  y   U   T   E   P   L   I   B   R   A   R   Y  -   S   E   R   I   A   L   S  o  n   1   1   /   0   8   /   1   4 .   C  o  p  y  r   i  g   h   t   A   S   C   E .   F  o  r  p  e  r  s  o  n  a   l  u  s  e  o  n   l  y  ;  a   l   l  r   i  g   h   t  s  r  e  s  e  r  v  e   d .
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