Take a second to imagine the worst construction project that you ever worked on. Chances are, it was either over budget or finished behind schedule. Now, imagine working on a project that is not only a year behind schedule, but $1 BILLION over budget. No, not $1 Million…$1 BILLION. With a big ole fat “B” right at the beginning of it. That’s a pretty good reason to name a project the “Biggest Construction Failure Ever.”
That’s exactly the deficit that the Department of Veterans Affairs has gotten themselves into by once again proving that they are unfit to handle large construction projects. The new medical center in Denver, Colorado was originally supposed to cost $328 million dollars in 2005 and then ballooned to $880 million after lobbyists convinced Congress to throw more money at it, and now, 10 years later, has reached astronomical heights at a cost of $1.73 billion dollars. There’s that “B” again. This complex was supposed to serve roughly 400,000 former military service members and their families, but this ongoing delay undoubtedly has them questioning if they will ever get to use the facility.
The “Government Accountability Office”, which appears to be the excuse giving parent to VA's annoying child, cited several reasons as to what was behind the inflating cost of the project. Stating "changes to veterans' health care needs, site-acquisition issues, and a decision in Denver to change plans from a medical center shared with a local medical university to a standalone VA medical center." So basically they decided to do a renovation, to an addition, to a building under construction. Once you spend $500mil on a building that isn’t complete and has changed three times you don’t really have a choice but to finish it. The recent Congress approved $100 million for three more weeks of work, won’t even finish the project. And the kicker is, after almost $2 billion dollars in spending for this project, you wouldn’t even bat an eye at it. It looks like Cold War-era drab. Currently, the VA is running an impressive 30 months behind schedule, on average, for each of its construction projects. If this is how the VA runs construction can you imagine how they treat our Vets?
The VA later laid out a short-term plan to avoid the aforementioned shutdown. In a memo release by the VA they stated that in order to prevent the shutdown Colorado Veterans will have to do without a planned community living center and a post-traumatic stress disorder residential clinic. Secretary of the VA McDonald said that these moves were not “the best decision for Colorado veterans," but were "the only option available" under a Congressional mandate to cut costs. And as if that were not unbelievable enough; McDonald asked for additional $100’s of millions from congress on top of the other $100 million asked for last week. The loss of these two buildings further accentuates the failure of this project. PTSD is a disorder that does not and traditionally has not received enough attention from our military or Government. So it is a shame that once again this vital facility is cut due to Government incompetence. As for a Community Living Center it sounds important and is probably much needed, but, as with many things, it will be up to charities and non-profits to pick up the slack.
This situation, as well as past situations involving the VA, have prompted Republican Rep., Jeff Miller, of Florida to introduce a bill that would take the VA out of the business of constructing medical facilities that cost more than $100 million. If we’re being honest, $100 million dollars is still probably too much for them to handle. According to The Hill, that bill was added to the National Defense Authorization Act as an amendment and recently passed with a vote of 71-25. All projects over that threshold will now be overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers.
After conducting a thorough review, the Army Corps of Engineers concluded that gross mismanagement of the project’s Integrated Design and Construction methodology was the main contributing factor to the delays and project overruns. The VA had actually never used that project delivery system on any of their projects previously. In the Corps official report, which can be viewed here, the group also blamed the fact that the project executive was some 2,000 miles away, which did not allow for proper oversight; the lack of “disciplined governance,” which allowed for a constant change of scope with little to no regard for cost or time impact; and lack of proper staffing and resources in the local Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
We want to hear from you: what do you think of this project failure?
Augmented and Virtual Reality has always been designated for large headsets. Even with recent developments in the construction industry, like Microsoft Hololens and the DAQRI Smart Helmet, if you want to experience AR, you have to get used to wearing something you’re not used to around a job site. As cool as both of those technologies are, it seems that the ole trusty smartphones and tablets have been overlooked. A Danish BIM company has developed a smartphone and tablet application that leaves the headsets behind.
For many construction superintendents and project managers across the world, tablets are becoming one of the most important tools on the job site. They’re great for looking at plans, taking pictures, making notes, and running your favorite construction apps. Carrying a tablet does take up at least one of your hands, however, so it can be a hindrance if you need to help a co-worker lift material or climb a ladder.
According to OSHA, more than 40 percent of all heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry. Many more workers also become ill from extreme heat and humidity. With summer now in full effect, it’s time to re-evaluate your personal steps for keeping safe in the heat and how your company is going to help their employees stay safe.
On Tuesday, June 20, OSHA is set to propose a delay on new requirements for cranes and derricks in the construction industry at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH).
Trenches are dangerous, but many companies and workers continue to deny it. Or their actions make it seem like they do, at least. There’s never an excuse to let someone into a hole if it hasn’t been properly sloped, benched, or shored. Nevertheless, dozens of construction workers are killed and injured by trench collapses every year.
In order to get the bad taste of last week’s botched demolition, in which an adjacent building also got destroyed in the process, we needed to share a highly successful one. Priestly Demolition, a Canadian demolition contractor, has been the subject of our articles in the past and the company has even won awards for the best demolition in the world.
Traffic in Atlanta sucks, there’s really no other way to say it. So imagine the tough position commuters and city officials were put in when a bridge of a major highway on the north side of the city caught fire on March 20, 2017 and was damaged beyond repair. 243,000 motorists were forced to find alternate routes to work for the estimated 3 months that it was going to take to rebuild it. Now, imagine how thrilled they were when the highway opened back up one month ahead of schedule.
The worst day on the job is when someone on site gets injured. The 2nd through 500th worst days are the legal battle that follows many of those injuries. Nobody expects accidents to happen, but it’s best to be adequately prepared if one does. That not only includes knowing how to react to injuries with a safety plan, but also making sure your company’s documentation is in order in case lawsuits start flying.
Tracking employees instantaneously is a dream scenario for employers. It gives them tons of data to analyze to determine where money can be saved and where resources can be placed to be most efficient. The struggle is convincing the employees that tracking their every move is not going to get them in trouble or fired. There’s a balance in there somewhere and that’s the challenge facing both employers and tech companies right now.
There’s no doubt that the construction industry is behind when it comes to technology, but things are beginning to change. In the past few years, our industry has seen millions of dollars poured into new technology, including smartphone apps, advanced construction materials, and advanced safety equipment. One of the struggles –and perhaps the main struggle- with introducing new technology to the field staff is that many of them have been managing their jobs the same way for a long time. It can be difficult to convince them to change, especially if they have been successful with their current process.