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The Design and Construction Process in Construction Project Management – Design and Construction as an Integrated System (#10 in the Hut Project Management for Construction)
By Chris Hendrickson

In the planning of facilities, it is important to recognize the close relationship between design and construction. These processes can best be viewed as an integrated system. Broadly speaking, design is a process of creating the description of a new facility, usually represented by detailed plans and specifications; construction planning is a process of identifying activities and resources required to make the design a physical reality. Hence, construction is the implementation of a design envisioned by architects and engineers. In both design and construction, numerous operational tasks must be performed with a variety of precedence and other relationships among the different tasks.

Several characteristics are unique to the planning of constructed facilities and should be kept in mind even at the very early stage of the project life cycle. These include the following:

  • Nearly every facility is custom designed and constructed, and often requires a long time to complete.
  • Both the design and construction of a facility must satisfy the conditions peculiar to a specific site.
  • Because each project is site specific, its execution is influenced by natural, social and other locational conditions such as weather, labor supply, local building codes, etc.
  • Since the service life of a facility is long, the anticipation of future requirements is inherently difficult.
  • Because of technological complexity and market demands, changes of design plans during construction are not uncommon.

In an integrated system, the planning for both design and construction can proceed almost simultaneously, examining various alternatives which are desirable from both viewpoints and thus eliminating the necessity of extensive revisions under the guise of value engineering. Furthermore, the review of designs with regard to their constructibility can be carried out as the project progresses from planning to design. For example, if the sequence of assembly of a structure and the critical loadings on the partially assembled structure during construction are carefully considered as a part of the overall structural design, the impacts of the design on construction falsework and on assembly details can be anticipated. However, if the design professionals are expected to assume such responsibilities, they must be rewarded for sharing the risks as well as for undertaking these additional tasks. Similarly, when construction contractors are expected to take over the responsibilities of engineers, such as devising a very elaborate scheme to erect an unconventional structure, they too must be rewarded accordingly. As long as the owner does not assume the responsibility for resolving this risk-reward dilemma, the concept of a truly integrated system for design and construction cannot be realized.

It is interesting to note that European owners are generally more open to new technologies and to share risks with designers and contractors. In particular, they are more willing to accept responsibilities for the unforeseen subsurface conditions in geotechnical engineering. Consequently, the designers and contractors are also more willing to introduce new techniques in order to reduce the time and cost of construction. In European practice, owners typically present contractors with a conceptual design, and contractors prepare detailed designs, which are checked by the owner’s engineers. Those detailed designs may be alternate designs, and specialty contractors may also prepare detailed alternate designs.

Next in the Hut Project Management for Construction:

Pre-Project Planning in Construction Project Management

Previously in the Hut Project Management for Construction:

Key Factors for Successful Construction Project Management – Perceptions of Owners and Contractors

Chris Hendrickson is the Duquesne Light Company Professor of Engineering and Co-Director of the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His research, teaching and consulting are in the general area of engineering planning and management, including design for the environment, project management, transportation systems, finance and computer applications. Prof. Hendrickson is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineering, an Emeritus Member of the Transportation Research Board and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hendrickson is also the recipient of many professional awards.

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