Posts Tagged ‘construction inspection’

Risk Management Means Innovating Beyond Checklists

December 21, 2011

A recent report from McGraw-Hill (also discussed here) outlined the results of a survey of owners, architects and general contractors examines the ways in which project teams on $100 million projects handle risk management. The report suggests that formal risk control processes “beyond simple checklists”  are necessary for these projects to sufficiently mitigate their overall project risk.

The costs of risk in these projects are staggering. For example the average size of a post-construction disputes is $3 million dollars. But what’s striking to me is how common it is for these projects to be dealt a blow from risk related issues. Consider these statistics:

  • Almost a quarter of projects are hit with schedule delays.
  • Close to 20% of projects are over budget.
  • About 10% of projects experience disputes.

And these are the big boys. The best-in-class, technology savvy, resource-rich organizations that one would expect to have their act together. But even the best and brightest are subject to the ill effects of overruns, scope creep and safety and site conditions.  As a matter of fact, “unforeseen site conditions” was listed as one of the most difficult risks to quantify. It’s nice of the MH folks to formally recognize something we all know to be true; once you break ground, you never know what can happen next.

Site conditions change, often unpredictably so. However, as I’ve discussed before, unforeseen conditions present a challenge in dealing with the risk of the past where costs pile up as those charged with investigating, analyzing and negotiating a resolution struggle to recreate the conditions on the site at the time in question.  Capturing this critical information doesn’t happen by accident. If the principles of major projects are going to take a dent out of risk-related costs, it’s going to take organization-wide efforts to make recording site conditions a mandatory (and routine) practice.  Current methods rely on individual project managers to establish their own systems for recording information, leading to a different system for every project and predictably inconsistent results.

Extreme Photoshopping

November 29, 2011

Interesting coverage in today’s NY Times about legislation in Europe and proposed in the US about labeling photos that have been highly re-touched to the point where the appearance of the subject has been substantially altered.

In the case of a single photo, it’s next to impossible for the naked eye to detect a professional retouch. However, in our world of construction photography, we rarely deal with a single make-or-break photo. In cases where photographic evidence exists, there are often many photos from many different cameras that show the same subject. Anyone who is inclined to modify a photo in their favor, better plan on hunting down all of the other photos as well if they hope to succeed.

 

Like Aspirin for a Hangover

November 26, 2011

I get the same kinds of questions over and over. Does Geedra prevent construction defects? Does Geedra make litigation go away? Will Geedra keep a project on schedule? And my answers are always the same; Construction risk will never go away, though Geedra can often help mitigate that risk.

There is no single solution that can prevent many of the most vexing problems in construction. However, by enabling project teams to readily research construction conditions at any time, Geedra reduces the time and effort necessary to resolve such problems.  After all, it’s often not the single issue itself, but the countless hours of investigation, forensics, depositions and expert testimony that drive the cost of resolution.

As anyone that has had a hangover will tell you, a couple of aspirin in the morning doesn’t make the hard drinking of the night before go away. It just makes it less painful.

Re-Imagining the Contingency Budget

November 9, 2011

*RP - Risk of the Past


In an earlier post I discussed the risk of the past (RP) and the ways in which it impacts the contingency budget of a construction project. The table above presents a “before and after” scenario, where the effects of the RP are reduced through effective use of media to capture and record events and conditions in real time so that they may be examined later.  By effectively leveraging media to lessen the uncertainty over past conditions, the contingency budget can be reduced in many ways as explained below.

Scope Change

Collateral work is the biggest driver of unanticipated scope change costs. Owners can fail to fully comprehend the impact on construction of what may seem to be a minor change request. While inaccurate or incomplete progress reports by the contractor, may lead an owner to believe that sufficient time exists to implement a change without incurring major rework.

Contractors can use media effectively to clearly convey project progress to owners and then build on that knowledge to illustrate the impact of design change costs. In doing so, both parties know what they are in for when approving a design change.

Coordination

Work that is completed out of sequence harms productivity and can lead to unnecessary charges. Often a single instance of out-of-sequence-work can lead to a pattern that spirals out of control. Contractors can use media to capture and share lessons learned immediately to correct these issues and prevent further loss, rather than waiting until the end of the project when the damage is done.

Design Deficiencies

Let’s face it, the RFI is overkill for many contractor inquiries. How many times does the response to an RFI read something like “See detail D-1”? For example when it comes to process related questions such as window installation, Architects can utilize photos and video to clearly convey to prescribed process for proper installation providing for an easily repeatable process throughout a project.  In the case of a valid RFI request, media provide an effective tool for contractor and architect alike for confirmation of compliance.

Delay Claims

This is an area where the answer is almost never as clear as black and white. Clear evidence of jobsite conditions can allow for a thorough examination of factors contributing to delay claims and often bring to light details that do not survive through recollection and typical documentation alone. For example, even severe weather events are often not the “show stopper” that they might appear to be in hindsight. A jobsite bogged down in mud, might still be quite productive when it comes to interior work, for example. Photos and video can also conclusively settle issues of materiel delivery schedules or access by subcontractors.

Post Construction Legal Expenses

Well, the lawyers are going to get theirs anyway. Aren’t they?

Eliminating the Risk of the Past

November 9, 2011

Why do construction budgets need contingencies?

There are many facets to the answer but they boil down to two; the risk of the future and the risk of the past. While there are many things we can do to mitigate the risk of the future, it is a fact of life. Weather will change, buildings will leak and misunderstandings will continue. However, effectively eliminating the risk of the past is well within our reach.

What is the risk of the past?

It’s the decay of knowledge over time. As knowledge decays, uncertainty rises and our ability to make informed decisions suffers. Certain facts blur into vague recollections raising doubts and costs in the process.

How do we eliminate the risk of the past?

By recording the present, of course! Photos, video, sound and written notes are all key components of capturing the existing conditions on a site. The more facts we capture surrounding an event or condition, the more accurately we can examine it at a later date.

How does eliminating the risk of the past effect the construction contingency?

The right photo can eliminate the need for hundreds of hours of discovery, depositions and expert testimony.  Claims about sidewalk damage, impaired access or performance milestone melt away in presence of irrefutable evidence.

In my next post, we’ll take a look at the effects of reduced risk of the past on a contingency budget.

Photo-Shopped? Need a New Term

October 20, 2011

New advanced software allows for the placement of objects into photos with a completely authentic feel. Keep this in mind the next time you see photographic evidence and question the likelihood that what you are seeing is true.

Trailer-Ready Technology

March 9, 2011

Here’s my perspective on the state of technology in construction today; it’s upside down. No matter what the application, (design, project management, punchlists, etc.) the universal theme of innovation in our industry centers around delivering “office-ready” applications to the jobsite with a mobile device.

What’s that you say? You have a tablet that puts your model, your schedule, your email and a ton of other information, right in the palm of your hand? There’s no refuting that technology gives us unprecedented access the critical information when and where you need it. But stop swiping and pinching your screen for a moment and take a look around you. Your standing in the mud! There’s a welder making sparks over your right shoulder, with the backup alarm from a loader blaring in your left ear. Is this the time and place for you to reply to that RFI response? Since you’re out on the jobsite, don’t you think you should focus your attention on the operations that are happening around you? After all, seeing is believing and there is no replacement for seeing actual construction in process (or recently completed) with your own eyes.

Let me clarify what I mean about technology in construction being upside down. All mobile applications have one fatal flaw. People. In that, every application ultimately relies on a human being for inputting new information by observing a condition and then relaying their impression of that condition, usually in text, but sometimes with the help of some other media (photo, audio, video, etc.)

What’s wrong with this use case:

  • There’s only one perspective. That of the person holding the mobile device.
  • The media provided is single purposed and dead-ended. It exists to support the observation and if you are not part of the audience interested in that observation, you would not have otherwise seen/heard the media.
  • As I alluded to before, this process is a grossly inefficient use of the user’s time. It’s also terrible way to capture ground-level data.

And furthermore:

  • There are far more people on site without that mobile device loaded with the same application than there are with that device/app. i.e. There are more people observing conditions on the ground than there are people capable of recording/reporting the conditions.
  • Wouldn’t it be better if the supporting media were available and searchable to anyone involved with the project for them to review for any number of purposes?
  • The conditions on the ground at that moment in time will, most likely, never exist again but could, quite possibly, be very important to a number of different people months or years later.

It is for these reasons that Geedra has embraced a new philosophy towards innovation in the construction world. We call it Trailer-Ready Technology™(TRT). The objective of TRT is to embrace the first-person perspective of individuals on the ground to capture 100% of observable information at the time of occurrence in order to deliver on-demand accessibility at any time in the future.

These are the guiding principles of TRT:

1. First, get the media

Geedra cannot accomplish anything without the recorded media. Identify and address any and all obstacles that might discourage a Geedra user from moving his/her media from a local device to a Geedra application. 

2. Design to accommodate existing behavior

Geedra applications should offer new users productivity improvements from the first time they log in. The interface should be inviting and next actions obvious.  Geedra applications should not require new users to modify their behavior in order to use them.  Asking people to change behavior in order to use your solution is the same as asking them not to use your solution.  However, once they have begun using their Geedra application, the application should incent them to explore new behavior.

3. No Typing

Typing should be the last option considered for data input.

4. Avoid dedicated hardware solutions

Users don’t like change. If you ask them to change and then hand them a new piece of hardware, that hardware can become the focus of their displeasure. It is better to initiate a change in behavior through their existing hardware and in order to ease the transition. If dedicated hardware is necessary, introduce it later after the new behavior becomes routine and ensure that it delivers a significant jump in productivity.

I’ll provide more details about our application in future posts. For now, keep your eyes open and watch out for that loader. Those things can leave a mark 🙂

Top 10 Tasks for Construction Superintendents

September 8, 2010
Stumbled upon this on the state of Washington Workforce Explorer site.  In reviewing this list, it occurred to me that jobsite photos and video should play a critical role in supporting most of these tasks. I have added comments next to each task (where appropriate) to specify the role that visual media can(should) play in performing the task.

If you’re not using photos in this manner, you should ask yourself why not.

Top 10 Tasks

  • Examine and inspect work progress, equipment, and construction sites to verify safety and to ensure that specifications are met. – Photos used to record progress and report conditions.
  • Read specifications such as blueprints to determine construction requirements and to plan procedures.
  • Estimate material and worker requirements to complete jobs. – Photo archives can provide visual references for similar jobs from the past.
  • Supervise, coordinate, and schedule the activities of construction or extractive workers. – Photos serve as a reference to confirm access, availability of materials and equipment.
  • Confer with managerial and technical personnel, other departments, and contractors in order to resolve problems and to coordinate activities. – Photos augment written and verbal communication and provide confirmation of resolution.
  • Coordinate work activities with other construction project activities. – As mentioned above, photos provide information on current site conditions.
  • Order or requisition materials and supplies. – Webcams and photos confirm receipt of materials, preventing over-ordering.
  • Locate, measure, and mark site locations and placement of structures and equipment, using measuring and marking equipment. – Photos used to augment measurements and markings.
  • Record information such as personnel, production, and operational data on specified forms and reports. – Photos augment written records and allow for forensic research of conditions not properly recorded.
  • Assign work to employees, based on material and worker requirements of specific jobs.

Bigger Haystacks

August 23, 2010

Digital photos are free. Which means that if you have gone through the expense to put a camera on a jobsite, it makes sense for that camera to take as many pictures as possible. Usually more than is necessary (after all, they’re free right???)

Then let’s consider all of the stakeholders who take pictures on a jobsite; There’s the General Contractor of course, then the owner and owner’s reps; the architect and the cajillion consultants retained by the architect; inspectors, municipal, regulatory and otherwise; subcontractors, and oh yeah, anybody else with a hardhat and a camera phone. Did I forget to mention aerial photos and fixed site cameras?

Do all of these photos add up to better coverage of jobsite activity? More coverage definitely, but better? That’s debatable, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many photos you have if you can’t find that critical piece of information that you’re looking for.

Found it! Er, wait. Wrong floor...

4D 5D Can’t Complete the Picture

July 29, 2010

For all the promise of 4D and 5D BIM technology, users can never capture the reality of jobsite conditions and their impact on a building.  Yes, including the dimensions of time and cost adds a stronger connection between design and construction. But there are many components of “as-built” construction that BIM can never capture. There are certain conditions that can only be accurately and comprehensively recorded in photos and video.

Here’s a partial list of conditions and I welcome you to add others:

  • installation processes
  • access issues
  • sequencing issues
  • use of specified materials
  • fabrication processes
  • water intrusion remediation
  • LEED point qualification

Finally, before you convince yourself that as-built conditions can be completely represented in a BIM model, remember that human beings are the connection between the two.