Over the next 20 years, demand for power in the United States is expected to increase approximately 1 percent annually, with worldwide demand climbing even higher. Even as demand increases, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts likely will continue to be the predominant form of contracting in the energy sector. 

EPC contracts, sometimes referred to as turnkey contracts, are single, design-build contracts for complete construction of a power plant and include provisions for design, equipment procurement, fabrication, and performance testing. The parties to an EPC contract typically are the project owner and a business entity specifically formed between contractors and design professionals to support the construction project.  The entities created between contractors and design professionals may take the form of joint ventures, consortiums, limited liability companies, corporations and other businesses. 

Are you satisfied with how your company manages transportation today? Many construction companies and building material manufacturers are not content with how equipment and materials are delivered to their warehouses, jobsites or laydown yards. Several factors have made the efficient movement of project materials more challenging than ever. 

The right trucks and equipment are hard to find — an estimated shortage of 40,000 drivers nationwide has caused a capacity gap in trucking. Safety and risk are growing concerns;  the number of large trucks involved in property damage and fatal crashes has increased since 2010. Finally, the logistical complexity of many projects can complicate communication among contractors, suppliers and trucking carriers. As a result, deliveries arrive late, deadlines are missed and profitability is compromised.  

Building information modeling (BIM) in recent years has emerged as a standard practice for contractors both small and large, local and national. With the technology advancing at a seemingly daily basis, adapting or optimizing BIM can be challenging for practically anyone.

Construction professionals seeking answers or advice about this crucial technology can find what they’re looking for at the BIM Integration Congress, Aug. 26 and 27 in San Francisco. Construction Today recently had the opportunity to ask Jack Parker, director of product development at American Business Conferences – the event’s organizer – about what attendees can expect.

Our current preoccupation with the Internet’s impact on privacy is understandable given its rapid spread into almost every aspect of our lives. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that privacy can still be violated in more traditional ways, whether by deliberate eavesdropping or simply by being within audible range of a conversation.

Indeed, a lack of acoustic privacy carries real risk, particularly in environments where there is a perceived need for it or an expectation on the part of its users, such as in healthcare facilities, bank branches and law firms. However, other types of spaces — such as commercial offices —also have privacy needs.

The prime contract, agreements and subcontracts have long been recognized as “king” in the construction industry. They are more than simply legal documents, and can be used to offer a window into macro-level behavioral choices as these documents highlight who is to be charged with the responsibility of worker safety. Contracts demand review and more than just a surface-level understanding, as they drive safety policy and protocol, and, in turn, the creation of a safe construction jobsite. 

Language, contractual or otherwise, is a powerful behavioral precursor in creating culture and in turn climate of safety. This culture must begin at the top and be further codified and operationalized from a top-down and bottom-up commitment from executives and management. 

There are many times when a general contractor finds itself in a situation where contractual provisions put it in inconsistent positions against the owner and one of its subcontractors. By protecting itself with proper contract provisions, the general contractor can limit its exposure to a subcontractor in the event there is a dispute between the general contractor and the owner concerning the same subject matter as the dispute between the general contractor and the subcontractor.    

A common, yet frequently overlooked, cause of increased project and construction costs occurs when there is a conflict or inconsistency between the terms of the prime contract and subcontract. In an effort to avoid conflicting or inconsistent contractual terms, general contractors often attempt to bind its subcontractors to certain key terms set forth in the prime contract, such as terms concerning payment, procedures for seeking payment for extra work, damages and dispute resolution.  

Federal agencies have conducted many studies in the past five decades to collect data regarding labor industry productivity. Although labor output overall has continually increased, especially in manufacturing, productivity in construction has steadily declined beginning as far back as the 1960s. A study by Stanford University Civil and Environmental Engineering Research Professor Emeritus Paul Teicholz found that the U.S. construction industry’s labor output has been experiencing declining productivity at a rate of roughly 0.32 percent per year from 1964 to 2012. 

Not surprisingly, there are a range of theories for the cause behind the decline in productivity. Some studies reveal there is a lack of consistent engagement between construction project stakeholders, which has made the flow of information uneven, causing chaos. Others indicate that drawn-out contracts and lengthy legal processes prohibit productivity across construction organizations. The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) list, “Impacting Factors on Construction Crew Productivity,” outlines the factors affecting labor productivity including mobilization (time wasted moving from job to job) and tools (insufficient quality of equipment).

Building enclosure commissioning (BECx) is a relatively new practice and is classified as a sub-discipline under the overall commissioning process. Following the success of traditional MEP commissioning, BECx has begun to define its own identity in part through standards such as ASTM E2813-12e1 and guidelines such as ASTM E2947-14. It is a comprehensive process that starts in design and continues beyond substantial completion to verify the performance of the enclosure against the owner’s project requirements and basis of design. 

Discipline-Specific Commissioning

For many years, whole building commissioning included a select list of systems – such as mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and controls – and BECx was a high-dollar service reserved for the elite institutes and high-performance critical projects. Since then, BECx has evolved from an afterthought to an “add alternate,” and in the near future it will be fundamental to the whole building commissioning process. 

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