Definitions

construction worker

Construction

[kuhn-struhk-shuhn]

In the fields of architecture and civil engineering, construction is a process that consists of the building or assembling of infrastructure. Far from being a single activity, large scale construction is a feat of multitasking. Normally the job is managed by the project manager and supervised by the construction manager, design engineer, construction engineer or project architect.

For the successful execution of a project, effective planning is essential. Those involved with the design and execution of the infrastructure in question must consider the environmental impact of the job, the successful scheduling, budgeting, site safety, availability of materials, logistics, inconvenience to the public caused by construction delays, preparing tender documents, etc.

Types of construction projects

In general, there are three types of construction:

  1. Building construction
  2. Heavy/highway construction
  3. Industrial construction

Each type of construction project requires a unique team to plan, design, construct, and maintain the project.

Building construction

Building construction is the process of adding structure to real property. The vast majority of building construction projects are small renovations, such as addition of a room, or renovation of a bathroom. Often, the owner of the property acts as laborer, paymaster, and design team for the entire project. However, all building construction projects include some elements in common - design, financial, and legal considerations. Many projects of varying sizes reach undesirable end results, such as structural collapse, cost overruns, and/or litigation reason, those with experience in the field make detailed plans and maintain careful oversight during the project to ensure a positive outcome.

Building construction is procured privately or publicly utilizing various delivery methodologies, including hard bid, negotiated price, traditional, management contracting, construction management-at-risk, design & build and design-build bridging.

Procurement

Procurement describes the merging of activities undertaken by the client to obtain a building. There are many different methods of construction procurement; however the three most common types of procurement are:

  1. Traditional (Design-bid-build)
  2. Design and Build
  3. Management Contracting

Traditional

This the most common method of construction procurement and is well established and recognized. In this arrangement, the architect or engineer acts as the project coordinator. His or her role is to design the works, prepare the specifications and produce construction drawings, administer the contract, tender the works, and manage the works from inception to completion. There are direct contractual links between the architect's client and the main contractor. Any subcontractor will have a direct contractual relationship with the main contractor.

Design and build
This approach has become more common in recent years and includes an entire completed package, including fixtures, fittings and equipment where necessary, to produce a completed fully functional building. In some cases, the Design and Build (D & B) package can also include finding the site, arranging funding and applying for all necessary statutory consents.

The owner produces a list of requirements for a project, giving an overall view of the project's goals. Several D&B contractors present different ideas about how to accomplish these goals. The owner selects the ideas he likes best and hires the appropriate contractor. Often, it is not just one contractor, but a consortium of several contractors working together. Once a contractor (or a consortium/consortia) has been hired, they begin building the first phase of the project. As they build phase 1, they design phase 2. This is in contrast to a design-bid-build contract, where the project is completely designed by the owner, then bid on, then completed.

Kent Hansen, director of engineering for the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), pointed out that state departments of transportation (DOTs) usually use design build contracts as a way of getting projects done when states don't have the resources. In DOTs, design build contracts are usually used for very large projects.

Management procurement systems
In this arrangement the client plays an active role in the procurement system by entering into separate contracts with the designer (architect or engineer), the construction manager, and individual trade contractors. The client takes on the contractual role, while the construction or project manager provides the active role of managing the separate trade contracts, and ensuring that they all work smoothly and effectively together.

Management procurement systems are often used to speed up the procurement processes, allow the client greater flexibility in design variation throughout the contract, the ability to appoint individual work contractors, separate contractual responsibility on each individual throughout the contract, and to provide greater client control.

Residential construction

Residential construction practices, technologies, and resources must conform to local building authority regulations and codes of practice. Materials readily available in the area generally dictate the construction materials used (e.g. brick versus stone, versus timber). Cost of construction on a per square metre (or per square foot) basis for houses can vary dramatically based on site conditions, local regulations, economies of scale (custom designed homes are always more expensive to build) and the availability of skilled tradespeople. As residential (as well as all other types of construction) can generate a lot of waste, careful planning again is needed here.

Heavy/civil construction

Heavy/Civil construction is the process adding infrastructure to our built environment. Owners of these projects are usually government agencies, either at the national or local level. As in building construction, heavy/civil construction has design, financial, and legal considerations, however these projects are not usually undertaken for-profit, but to service the public interest. However, heavy/civil construction projects are also undertaken by large private corporations, including, among others, golf courses, harbors, power companies, railroads, and mines, who undertake the construction of access roads, dams, railroads, general site grading, and massive earthwork projects. As in building construction, the owner will assemble a team to create an overall plan to ensure that the goals of the project are met.

Authority having jurisdiction

In construction, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) is the governmental agency or sub-agency which regulates the construction process. In most cases, this is the municipality in which the building is located. However, construction performed for supra-municipal authorities are usually regulated directly by the owning authority, which becomes the AHJ.

During the planning of a building, the zoning and planning boards of the AHJ will review the overall compliance of the proposed building with the municipal General Plan and zoning regulations. Once the proposed building has been approved, detailed civil, architectural, and structural plans must be submitted to the municipal building department (and sometimes the public works department) to determine compliance with the building code and sometimes for fit with existing infrastructure. Often, the municipal fire department will review the plans for compliance with fire-safety ordinances and regulations.

Before the foundation can be dug, contractors are typically required to notify utility companies, either directly or through a company such as Dig Safe to ensure that underground utility lines can be marked. This lessens the likelihood of damage to the existing electrical, water, sewage, phone, and cable facilities, which could cause outages and potentially hazardous situations. During the construction of a building, the municipal building inspector inspects the building periodically to ensure that the construction adheres to the approved plans and the local building code. Once construction is complete and a final inspection has been passed, an occupancy permit may be issued.

An operating building must remain in compliance with the fire code. The fire code is enforced by the local fire department.

Any changes made to a building including its use, expansion, its structural integrity, and fire protection items, require approval of the AHJ. Anything affecting basic safety functions, no matter how small they may appear, may require the owner to apply for a building permit, to ensure proper review of the proposed changes against the building code.

Routes into construction careers

There are several routes to the different careers within the construction industry. Craft industries offer jobs where employees train while they work through apprenticeships and other training schemes. Another way, where many construction staff have found success, is through recruitment agencies.

Technical occupations in the UK require GCSE qualifications or vocational equivalents, either initially or through on the job apprenticeship training. One example is that of Quantity Surveying. Quantity Surveyors are effectively cost managers within the construction industry and may be: (1) employed by Chartered Surveyor practices (referred to often as "PQS" derived from the term Private Quantity Surveyor) who normally represent the client's interest and liaise with the Architect on the client's team, preparing cost plans, preparing tender documentation, giving cost advice on variations, preparing monthly valuation payments to the contractor, agreeing the final account with the contractor, generally looking after the client's interests (although the role can be referred to within some standard forms of contract as being a neutral role to value 'the' costs of the project), in practice it tends to be looking after the client's interests primarily; or (2) employed by Main Contractors, in which role they manage the contractor's costs, place subcontract orders, make payments to subcontractors, claim monthly valuations from the client's surveyor (Private QS or "PQS"), cost manage variations, prepare internal cost reports to senior management and directors, generally managing the project commercially and protect the contractor's interests contractually. Contractual aspects such as delays and extensions of time issues are also within the remit of the Quantity Surveyor (QS); or (3) employed by Subcontractors, in which role they carry out a similar function to Main Contractor's QS's. The main difference is that they are normally submitting monthly valuation claims for payment to the Main Contractor, whereas the Manin Contractor claims from the client's Surveyor (usually a Chartered Surveyor practice or Private QS "PQS"). Large subcontractors may also employ sub-subcontractors, thereby making the QS role similar in the cost management role, including placing sub-contract orders (to sub-subcontractors), valuing and claiming variations, preparing cost reports to senior management, etc; or (4) employed by Local Authorities (local Councils, etc), whereby the role is broadly similar to that of private practice surveyors in cost managing project from the funding client's perspective (in this case the Local Authority council within which they are employed), dealing usually with main contractors; or (5) employed by Developers; whereby the role may be a mixture of the role of a client's surveyor (the funding client being the developer in this case) mixed with that of a main contractor in possibly employing package sub-contractors directly Other information: The most recognised body for surveyors in construction is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (the 'RICS'). It is more common for a private practice surveyor or local authority employed surveyor to be a member of the RICS, though RICS qualified surveyors do work within main contractors and sub-contractors (the writer of this Quantity Surveyor segment qualified RICS within private practice working on the client's side, then migrated over to work for a large sub-contractor. Such cross-overs are quite common between client's side and contracting). Quantity Surveying offers a great diversity of roles and in career path, working on a variety of projects and within different areas and facets of the construction industry. The qualification of "Chartered Quantity Surveyor" has been superseded as the RICS rules have replaced this with simply "Chartered Surveyor" (except those existing Chartered QS's who registered to keep the Chartered QS title by a date now passed), and Chartered Quantity Surveyor practices have now largely adopted the title of "Construction Cost Consultants" and having the right to call themselves simply "Chartered Surveyors" - though still often referred to in the UK construction industry as "PQS's". It is also possible for Construction Cost Consultant practices to be occasionally employed by local authorities, contractors or subcontractors, on a particular construction project although not if they are already employed as surveyors for the same construction project.

As well as the role of Quantity Surveyor, other professions within the UK construction industry are for example: Architect, Engineer, Project Manager, Planner, Safety Officer. These roles may be in 'Building' (buildings such as Offices, Shopping Centres, Housing); or 'Civil Engineering' (structures such as Bridges, Dams, Motorways/Roads/Highways, Harbours/Ferry Terminals). While projects such as construction of new Power Stations or Naval Bases may comprise a combination of both 'building' and 'civil engineering'.

Graduate roles in the construction industry are filled by people with at least a foundation degree in subjects such as civil engineering, construction engineering, architecture, building science and construction management. Graduates often receive specialized positions and gain qualifications such as chartered status.

Industrial construction

Industrial construction, though a relatively small part of the entire construction industry, is a very important component. Owners of these projects are usually large, for-profit, industrial corporations. These corporations can be found in such industries as medicine, petroleum, chemical, power generation, manufacturing, etc. Processes in these industries require highly specialized expertise in planning, design, and construction. As in building and heavy/highway construction, this type of construction requires a team of individuals to ensure a successful project.

Design team

In the modern industrialized world, construction usually involves the translation of paper or computer based designs into reality. A formal design team may be assembled to plan the physical proceedings, and to integrate those proceedings with the other parts. The design usually consists of drawings and specifications, usually prepared by a design team including architects, interior designers, surveyors, civil engineers, cost engineers (or quantity surveyors), mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, structural engineers, and fire protection engineers. The design team is most commonly employed by (i.e. in contract with) the property owner. Under this system, once the design is completed by the design team, a number of construction companies or construction management companies may then be asked to make a bid for the work, either based directly on the design, or on the basis of drawings and a bill of quantities provided by a quantity surveyor. Following evaluation of bids, the owner will typically award a contract to the lowest responsible bidder.

The modern trend in design is toward integration of previously separated specialties, especially among large firms. In the past, architects, interior designers, engineers, developers, construction managers, and general contractors were more likely to be entirely separate companies, even in the larger firms. Presently, a firm that is nominally an "architecture" or "construction management" firm may have experts from all related fields as employees, or to have an associated company that provides each necessary skill. Thus, each such firm may offer itself as "one-stop shopping" for a construction project, from beginning to end. This is designated as a "design Build" contract where the contractor is given a performance specification, and must undertake the project from design to construction, while adhering to the performance specifications.

Several project structures can assist the owner in this integration, including design-build, partnering, and construction management. In general, each of these project structures allows the owner to integrate the services of architects, interior designers, engineers, and constructors throughout design and construction. In response, many companies are growing beyond traditional offerings of design or construction services alone, and are placing more emphasis on establishing relationships with other necessary participants through the design-build process.

The increasing complexity of construction projects creates the need for design professionals trained in all phases of the project's life-cycle and develop an appreciation of the building as an advanced technological system requiring close integration of many sub-systems and their individual components, including sustainability. Building engineering is an emerging discipline that attempts to meet this new challenge.

Financial advisors

Many construction projects suffer from preventable financial problems. Underbids ask for too little money to complete the project. Cash flow problems exist when the present amount of funding cannot cover the current costs for labour and materials, and because they are a matter of having sufficient funds at a specific time, can arise even when the overall total is enough. Fraud is a problem in many fields, but is notoriously prevalent in the construction field. Financial planning for the project is intended to ensure that a solid plan, with adequate safeguards and contingency plans, is in place before the project is started, and is required to ensure that the plan is properly executed over the life of the project.

Mortgage bankers, accountants, and cost engineers are likely participants in creating an overall plan for the financial management of the building construction project. The presence of the mortgage banker is highly likely even in relatively small projects, since the owner's equity in the property is the most obvious source of funding for a building project. Accountants act to study the expected monetary flow over the life of the project, and to monitor the payouts throughout the process. Cost engineers apply expertise to relate the work and materials involved to a proper valuation. Cost overruns with government projects have occurred when the contractor was able to identify change orders or changes in the project resulting in large increases in cost, which are not subject to competition by other firm as they have already been eliminated from consideration after the initial bid.

Large projects can involve highly complex financial plans. As portions of a project are completed, they may be sold, supplanting one lender or owner for another, while the logistical requirements of having the right trades and materials available for each stage of the building construction project carries forward. In many English speaking countries, but not the United States, projects typically use quantity surveyors.

Legal considerations

A construction project must fit into the legal framework governing the property. These include governmental regulations on the use of property, and obligations that are created in the process of construction.

The project must adhere to zoning and building code requirements. Constructing a project that fails to adhere to codes will not benefit the owner. Some legal requirements come from malum in se considerations, or the desire to prevent things that are indisputably bad - bridge collapses or explosions. Other legal requirements come from malum prohibitum considerations, or things that are a matter of custom or expectation, such as isolating businesses to a business district and residences to a residential district. An attorney may seek changes or exemptions in the law governing the land where the building will be built, either by arguing that a rule is inapplicable (the bridge design won't collapse), or that the custom is no longer needed (acceptance of live-work spaces has grown in the community).

A construction project is a complex net of contracts and other legal obligations, each of which must be carefully considered. A contract is the exchange of a set of obligations between two or more parties, but it is not so simple a matter as trying to get the other side to agree to as much as possible in exchange for as little as possible. The time element in construction means that a delay costs money, and in cases of bottlenecks, the delay can be extremely expensive. Thus, the contracts must be designed to ensure that each side is capable of performing the obligations set out. Contracts that set out clear expectations and clear paths to accomplishing those expectations are far more likely to result in the project flowing smoothly, whereas poorly drafted contracts lead to confusion and collapse.

Legal advisors in the beginning of a construction project seek to identify ambiguities and other potential sources of trouble in the contract structure, and to present options for preventing problems. Throughout the process of the project, they work to avoid and resolve conflicts that arise. In each case, the lawyer facilitates an exchange of obligations that matches the reality of the project.

Interaction of expertise

Design, finance, and legal aspects overlap and interrelate. The design must be not only structurally sound and appropriate for the use and location, but must also be financially possible to build, and legal to use. The financial structure must accommodate the need for building the design provided, and must pay amounts that are legally owed. The legal structure must integrate the design into the surrounding legal framework, and enforces the financial consequences of the construction process.

History

The first buildings were huts and shelters, constructed by hand or with simple tools. As cities grew during the bronze age, a class of professional craftsmen like bricklayers and carpenters appeared. Occasionally, slaves were used for construction work. In the middle ages, these were organized into guilds. In the 19th century, steam-powered machinery appeared, and later diesel- and electric powered vehicles such as cranes, excavators and bulldozers.

See also

References

Gilbane

External links

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