THE CONTRACTOR'S COMPETITIVE EDGE: MEANS AND METHODS
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Design engineers traditionally have been responsible for the design of a project. They also have provided performance specifications for the protection of adjacent property owners, existing facilities, and so forth. Design engineers may also provide construction oversight and inspection. The role of the contractor has been to develop the means and methods and to construct the project in accordance with the performance requirements given in the contract documents. These traditional roles have changed over the past two decades. On complex projects, design engineers often provide "suggested methods of construction." However, design engineers are not constructors. Often suggested methods of construction are overly conservative and unimaginative. It is a myth that suggested methods of construction protect the owner from unscrupulous contractors. Unscrupulous contractors will always find a way to claim that suggested methods of construction are misleading or unconstructable. Contractors feel constrained to bid the suggested methods of construction to avoid the risk of having their alternative means and methods rejected by the designer because it "does not provide the same level of comfort" as the suggested method. Therefore, suggested methods of construction reduce competitiveness during the bid process, permit unqualified contractors to bid the project, and increase construction costs to the owner. When a contractor bids a project, the most important single consideration is schedule. Means and methods and repetitive operations drive the contractor's schedule. Means and methods can be influenced by issues such as adverse ground conditions, material deliveries, coordination with adjacent contractors, agency approvals, weather conditions, and many other factors. These issues add uncertainty and risk to the project. Contractors have a better understanding of the major areas of construction uncertainty than owners and design engineers. If a project is complex enough to require suggested methods of construction, it is complex enough to require contractors to be prequalified. Prequalifying contractors should eliminate the need for suggested methods of construction. It is recommended that developing the means and methods of constructing a project be left in the hands of qualified contractors. Design-build contracts also are an effective way of providing contractor input early in the design process. As such, most design-build projects result in lower overall cost with dramatically reduced time from design to the completed project. Three heavy construction projects are discussed here in which creative construction engineering plays an important role in the success of the project. On all three projects the suggested method of construction in the contract documents was significantly modified. These projects include New York City Transit's 63rd Street Connection Tunnel, Boston's Central Artery Project, and the Long Island Expressway Connector and Distribution project under the Long Island Railroad in New York City.
This paper appears in Transportation Research Record No. 1656, Underground and Other Structural Design Issues.
Transportation Research Board
500 Fifth Street, NW
Transportation Research Record
Construction; Highways; Public Transportation; Research; I50: Construction and Supervision of Construction
TRIS, TRB, ATRI
Oct 1 1999 12:00AM
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