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?
Jobsite pressures, such as time crunches and monetary issues can quickly tempt otherwise good people into making some pretty poor decisions. There are also others who use their construction business as a front for other illegal activities. Many people were arrested for a variety of reasons in 2016 and the list below should serve as both a reminder and a warning for those considering making bad decisions.
Every day, construction workers from around the world are doing amazing things on their specific job sites. In our minds, the coolest projects are any project that a construction worker is proud to have built, one made with care and quality. There are other factors that we consider to be cool, as well, including those that break down barriers and allow other companies to realize something they previously thought may not have been possible are actually possible. Many of the projects we chose for this year’s list highlight workers acting as pioneers for a specific type of construction and allowing the construction industry to grow by trying new things.
Many construction projects involve clearing heavily wooded and untouched areas, which can cause many complications, including interaction with unknown wildlife. It’s important for all companies to understand the impact their construction work can have on wildlife, not only to avoid costly issues with government regulations, but also be good stewards of the environment. Below are 12 stories from 2016 where construction projects interacted with wildlife and how each situation was handled.
One thing almost everyone agrees on: America’s infrastructure needs fixing.
Another thing most people agree on: No one enjoys the traffic congestion that results from bridge, road, and utility construction work.
Trenches are a construction jobsite hazard that happen on nearly every construction site involving dirt work, but, all too often their dangers are underestimated. In fact, trench related deaths in 2016 have more than doubled as compared to 2015. There’s no excuse for allowing a trench related death to happen, but it’s rare that job site supervision suffers criminal charges after one occurs. After the death of a 22 year old New York construction worker, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office took a hard stance against those responsible and announced formally sentenced the on-site foreman last week.
Construction document control is the hot item right now with regards to industry technology. With several leading tech companies working tirelessly to convert all contractors from hard copy drawings to digital, the race is on to see who will emerge victorious. Not only are technology companies seeing opportunity in plan management, their also seeing opportunity with the new Windows platform. The Surface Pro tablets and Surface Book laptops have given Apple products a run for their money recently for jobsite use, after jumping 20% in use in 2016 compared to the previous year, according to a new construction technology survey.
As far as technology goes, the construction industry is behind. We’ve done our best throughout the past couple of decades to resist all incoming technological advancements, because who needs some fancy, new-fangled computer machine when you’ve got hands made of steel and a work ethic that could shame an Alaskan sled dog? Well, these times, they are a changin’, and construction companies throughout the world are starting to realize the benefits of using better technology in both the office and in the field.
JBKnowledge, a construction technology company responsible for software such as SmartBid, SmartReality, and SmartCompliance, has recently released their 5th Annual Construction Technology Report, after successfully receiving over 2,600 participant entries.
A large focus of the construction industry, especially in recent years, is jobsite safety. Many large companies have significant resources set aside specifically for safety, but, unfortunately, that may be impossible for many small and medium sized construction companies to handle. As of the first quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there are over 768,000 construction companies currently operating in the private industry and over 6.7 million construction workers between them. That’s a lot of companies and workers to keep safe throughout the year.
It’s been a tumultuous year between several governmental agencies and businesses alike and, because of that, both sides have been repeatedly put into a state of limbo. Three new major rule changes have made headlines, especially in the construction industry, this year, including an injury and illness record keeping and reporting rule, a “blacklisting” rule, and an overtime pay rule.
Modular construction has been heralded by many as the next big thing in building structures quickly and cost effectively. By being able to construct parts of the building in a controlled environment, like a factory, workers can perform more efficiently, comfortably, and safely, ideally translating into shorter schedules and smaller costs. That theory got one of its biggest tests on a new 32-story residential building that recently opened in Brooklyn, NY.