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A Few Commandments of Airport Construction Engineering

In my 20+ years in airport construction engineering, I’ve learned a few things…the hard way. But it’s all part of the journey, right? Today the following commandments lead me in every project. Hope these help you in your next construction project, too

  1. Involve all project stakeholders early in project planning and the design phase.

  2. Complete comprehensive utility locates during design (to include survey and potholing for depth and size confirmation). Minimal cost up front saves time and cost during construction.

  3. Hold pre-activity meetings prior to the start of specific work items.

  4. Establish a means to evaluate the cause and effect relationships of construction tasks during design, e.g. effect of grade changes on phasing, drainage, alternate routes for users.

  5. Geotechnical analysis reports are needed to understand the relationship between present conditions and grade, and the final grade to be achieved.

  6. Design borehole locations need to be conducted at an appropriate frequency, and within the entire construction footprint, with the actual lab tests conducted on the sampled material in concert with the design engineering goals.

  7. Quantity take-offs should be completed and clearly documented by at least two independent engineers. Assumptions, calculations, and locations of estimated of quantities should be provided to construction engineers for validation before construction, and used during quantity tracking in the field.

  8. The engineer should provide a clear and complete list of each item to be submitted by the contractor.

  9. Take detailed notes of discussion items during each design phase in order to track stakeholder preferences and decisions as well as documented reasons.

  10. Don’t confuse activity with productivity.

  11. Understand delivery times and production constraints on long-lead submittal items for both materials to be delivered, and preliminary lab test to be conducted.

  12. Understand site constraints related to weather, existing utilities to be maintained, work area footprint, public access, and public information requirements.

  13. Establish a well-organized system of checks and balances for procurement and construction phase processes such as submittals, request for information, and test results in the form of a Construction Management Plan and Quality Control Plan.

  14. Establish a hierarchy for communication and decision making.

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