WHAT IS MODERN CONSTRUCTION? WHAT ARE THE KEY FEATURES OF IT?


Modern construction has evolved from simple manual techniques into a complex maze of highly mechanised and orchestrated symphony of activities, which requires billions of dollars in investment and serving as the second biggest source of employment in the world. Construction involves many field activities requiring the use of resources such as land, construction materials, labour, equipment, and energy, etc., to achieve a pre-defined object of putting up structures such as roads, buildings, dams, and just about any imaginable structure you find around you. Due to limited and very costly resources, construction has to be managed productively and efficiently using innovation, creativity and sound organisational and economic principles. When construction projects are properly managed, the result is lower costs, completion of projects on time, and higher quality structures. In order to construct a successful organisational model for a successful construction project, it is important to study and understand the various components that make up a successful model. Construction activities must be cost-effective using high quality material and performed within a limited time frame to achieve quality end products. The face of the construction industry has been changing rapidly in recent times. These advancements in modern construction methodologies and techniques, as well as, the emergence of more productive equipment means that industry players must remain on their toes to keep up with the latest construction technology. In order to remain relevant, companies must adopt new approaches to managing and building projects. Growth in technology means that there are new and better materials to use, newer techniques of accomplishing tasks at lower costs and better time management skills, and newer equipment for more productive work, etc. Therefore, the human resource capacity must constantly update or upgrade their knowledge and skills.

Important key features of modern construction industry are given below.

A. Complexity :-
The modern construction industry is highly mechanised and complex; it involves complex interactions between a vast array of resources, such as thousands, who are skilled in labour, equipment, such as, cranes, earth movers, logistics etc., all interconnected into thousands of activities. Activities may overlap simultaneously or in sequential discrete steps or even randomly – a phenomenon more complex than found in ordinary factory or manufacturing context.

B.  Uniqueness :-
 One way in which construction differs from other industries is that no two projects are ever the same. In other words each project is unique. This uniqueness of each project is defined by the nature of the site of construction and is also influenced by the weather, as well as, the ground conditions due to various site locations. The construction supervisor and management team are critical to the success of every construction project. They are responsible for ensuring plans and specifications are adhered to and also, for managing the limited resources available within budget and deliver the complete project on time. Since there is little room for costly mistakes, it is incumbent on the supervisory team to be vigilant to ensure that mistakes are detected instantly and corrected immediately.

C. Mobility of Facilities:-
 One major difference between the construction and mainstream manufacturing industries is that products resulting from construction are stationary, while those, which results from manufacturing, tend to be mobile during value addition. Construction industry requires moving resources such as labour, equipment etc., from one place to the other to create products under dynamic and hazardous working conditions. Manufacturing industries on the other hand require products at various stages of product lifecycle to move from one facility to the next for value to be added. Products are standardized and easy to control unlike construction where new techniques or modifications to existing techniques have to be developed to deal with the constantly changing working environment.

D. Multiplicity of Agencies :-
 Many agencies are involved in construction projects, from the conception of the product through to the completion of the project. Each agency is expected to play a specific role in the course to the project lifecycle. These agencies may include governmental agencies, land authorities, planning agencies, fire department, and Town and Country Planning Councils, etc. Their roles may differ but basically, they ensure that the project complies with the laws of the land. They carry out inspections and provide certifications for various activities on site.

E. Organisation :-
The owner of the construction project normally advertises the project and invites tenders from prospective contractors to undertake the project. The contract is awarded to a successful bidder after a competitive bid process. The winning contractor then engages the services of sub-contractors on contracts to execute various planned activities within a specified time frame. Sub-contractors may also employ hundreds skilled workers to work on specialise aspects of the project. During the construction of larger - scale projects, it very common to have thousands of employees working on diverse aspects of the project site. The complexity of large scale projects means that there is the need of a great deal of organisation and management of a large group of people who interact with each other in many ways to produce the final product within a limited time period.
Three groups of people are normally involved in a typical construction project:
 · The owner
· The engineering group which is made up of managers, architects, structural engineers, and civil engineers etc.
· The construction group consisting of a number of contractors and workers who perform the actual work.
 These 3 groups interact in a well-organised way with no particular group having absolute control. Each group has a set of unique functions to perform at specific moments and their activities may overlap or occur sequentially. The owner is expected to exercise control of the finance and quality control, the engineering group ensures structural and aesthetic integrity while the contractor motivates the workforce to execute the work professionally and to a very high standard to meet the deadline.
The main categories of activities of a construction project include:
i.                     Design and planning
ii.                   Executing construction work
iii.                  Supervision and inspection

F. Finance :-
Financial activities involved in construction can be classified into the following categories:
1. Investments in fixed assets, such as, tools, equipment, machinery, cantering, and shuttering, etc.
2. Short-term finances, such as, earnest money and security deposits to meet the cash flow requirements at construction sites
3. Investment in future through education, training, research, and development of human resource and technologies
4. Overheads in salaries and establishment other expenses relating to advertisement and public relations, legal expenses and other related expenses required for the project to run smoothly
Funding sources include credit facilities, loans, and securities. Most times, the construction industry experiences cash flow issues due to the blockage of security deposits, earnest money, and delayed payment of bills, among many other impediments.

G. Management :-
Since most companies HQs are far from the project site, it becomes difficult for the management to provide direct supervision and control of activities. This makes most projects workforce autonomous in tackling their responsibilities. This makes it imperative to have available well-trained personnel who would executive their mandated activities professionally and on time to achieve satisfactorily high quality products.

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