Choice of Technology and Construction Method
As in the development of appropriate alternatives for facility design, choices of appropriate technology and methods for construction are often ill-structured yet critical ingredients in the success of the project. For example, a decision whether to pump or to transport concrete in buckets will directly affect the cost and duration of tasks involved in building construction. A decision between these two alternatives should consider the relative costs, reliabilities, and availability of equipment for the two transport methods. Unfortunately, the exact implications of different methods depend upon numerous considerations for which information may be sketchy during the planning phase, such as the experience and expertise of workers or the particular underground condition at a site.
In selecting among alternative methods and technologies, it may be necessary to formulate a number of construction plans based on alternative methods or assumptions. Once the full plan is available, then the cost, time and reliability impacts of the alternative approaches can be reviewed. This examination of several alternatives is often made explicit in bidding competitions in which several alternative designs may be proposed or value engineering for alternative construction methods may be permitted. In this case, potential constructors may wish to prepare plans for each alternative design using the suggested construction method as well as to prepare plans for alternative construction methods which would be proposed as part of the value engineering process.
In forming a construction plan, a useful approach is to simulate the construction process either in the imagination of the planner or with a formal computer based simulation technique. By observing the result, comparisons among different plans or problems with the existing plan can be identified. For example, a decision to use a particular piece of equipment for an operation immediately leads to the question of whether or not there is sufficient access space for the equipment. Three dimensional geometric models in a computer aided design (CAD) system may be helpful in simulating space requirements for operations and for identifying any interference. Similarly, problems in resource availability identified during the simulation of the construction process might be effectively forestalled by providing additional resources as part of the construction plan.
Example 1-1: Roadway rehabilitation
An example from a roadway rehabilitation project in Pittsburgh, PA can serve to illustrate the importance of good construction planning and the effect of technology choice. In this project, the decks on overpass bridges as well as the pavement on the highway itself were to be replaced. The initial construction plan was to work outward from each end of the overpass bridges while the highway surface was replaced below the bridges. As a result, access of equipment and concrete trucks to the overpass bridges was a considerable problem. However, the highway work could be staged so that each Overpass Bridge was accessible from below at prescribed times. By pumping concrete up to the overpass bridge deck from the highway below, costs were reduced and the work was accomplished much more quickly.
Example 1-2: Laser Leveling
An example of technology choice is the use of laser leveling equipment to improve the productivity of excavation and grading. In these systems, laser surveying equipment is erected on a site so that the relative height of mobile equipment is known exactly. This height measurement is accomplished by flashing a rotating laser light on a level plane across the construction site and observing exactly where the light shines on receptors on mobile equipment such as graders. Since laser light does not disperse appreciably, the height at which the laser shines anywhere on the construction site gives an accurate indication of the height of a receptor on a piece of mobile equipment. In turn, the receptor height can be used to measure the height of a blade, excavator bucket or other piece of equipment. Combined with electro-hydraulic control systems mounted on mobile equipment such as bulldozers, graders and scrapers, the height of excavation and grading blades can be precisely and automatically controlled in these systems. This automation of blade heights has reduced costs in some cases by over 80% and improved quality in the finished product, as measured by the desired amount of excavation or the extent to which a final grade achieves the desired angle. These systems also
Permit the use of smaller machines and less skilled operators. However, the use of these semi-automated systems requires investments in the laser surveying equipment as well as modification to equipment to permit electronic feedback control units. Still, laser leveling appears to be an excellent technological choice in many instances.