The importance of the civil works aspect of power plant construction is often overlooked yet it can account for up to 20 per cent of costs. A Finnish consortium of companies demonstrates how by combining their skills they can deliver cost savings and efficiencies.
Civil works plays a necessary and important role in the realization of a power plant. Equipment and personnel have to be housed, protected and supported, and infrastructure has to be provided in order for the plant to function. In a typical power plant project, civil works can account for between 5-20 per cent of the overall cost of the plant, which is clearly a significant share of the budget.
Intelligent 3D modelling systems are shared and combined to enable more effective collaboration between designers, and provides the basis for the QIM process.
Structural design (i.e. foundations and superstructure) together with external and internal finishing are the essential parts into which the plant processes are organized. In addition to those elements, roads, drains, cables, ducts, trenches and other ground works need to be provided in order to link the buildings together.
People have to use, operate and maintain the power plant throughout its operational lifetime. All requirements pertaining to their daily tasks, whether in administration or operation, must be designed so that they can be carried out safely and securely. Negotiations with local authorities for planning permission and statutory requirements also fall within the scope of civil works.
It is important to remember that industrial design projects need to be treated with the same care and attention that is given to other types of building projects. They are part of the landscape, and therefore their physical presence can often have a significant impact on the local and wider surroundings.
New power plants need to be modern, smart and clean looking to reflect the advanced technology and efficiency of modern power plant systems. This means that the overall design should visually demonstrate this through the choice of materials, colours, etc, and attention to detail should reflect the reduced environmental impact that power plants need to have in today’s world.
Current practice brings together large consortia to bid for EPC projects, and often links several different sub-contractors, each with different skills and responsibilities for different parts of the construction process. Each organization in this network will have an interface with at least one other organization. Furthermore, each interface must successfully transform technical information, such as designs, specifications, standards, project plans and location, as well as commercial information, into contracts between the parties involved. Clearly there is plenty of scope for errors and mistakes to occur.
In the power generation field it is well known that problems in the civil works sector of most EPC contracts result in significant cost overruns, time schedule delays and waste.
Buildings and building sites, unlike mechanical and engineering products that can be digitally modelled, prototyped and refined prior to production, are effectively unique one-offs and prototyped as they are constructed. Also, if one considers the ordered flow in engineering processes and compare that with a typical chaotic construction site, one can see once again that the opportunity for on-site errors is great, even when the documentation is 100 per cent correct. As an example, once steel is fixed or concrete poured it cannot easily be taken out and re-built elsewhere without causing delays and incurring extra costs.
The QIM pipeline can take information from many sources for processing, quantifying and formatting into packages for the use of designers, owners and contractors.
A recent conference in the USA reported a staggering $100 billion per annum as the estimated cost of fixing and administering construction errors in the building industry, with another $24 billion spent on correcting mistakes at design stage. This is a huge waste of both money and resources that currently has to be covered by the owner, the contractor or both.
The members of the consortium all have complimentary disciplines and years of domestic and international experience within the very specialised civil works field of industrial and power plant projects. WSP Finland has expertise in the field of heavy industrial structures, geotechnical design, infrastructure and environmental studies, while Virkkunen & Co Architects are industrial architects with an in depth knowledge of power plant processes and interactions. Tocoman has expertise in cost control and information management and Tapro Engineering Ltd provides comprehensive on site project management.
The first projects that all the group member worked together on were for two peat fired power plants in Ireland, and from those experiences it became clear that there had to be a better, more efficient way to handle civil works that would benefit customers, contractors and designers alike.
The consortium’s new concept of integration was greatly determined in the early stages by the good relationship and strong understanding between each company’s staff and management. This allowed the group’s gradual integration of newly developed computer software, which can be optimized to produce on demand, up-to-date design, and cost information, to be implemented smoothly.
An important element in the concept is flexibility in how information is processed and the format in which it can be accessed. The resulting documentation can then be used by the site civil supervisors at a latter date as an tool to keep better control of site activities. Thus, all parties, including the client will have a better picture of the overall status at any stage of the project.
The concept’s final goal is that the whole project for civil works can be designed, reviewed, coordinated and costed in one model with one process. The information chain is then fully covered and available for all participants at all times. This will increase efficiency and flow of information and cut down errors, as well as giving detailed knowledge of costs in real time at each stage of the design and provide real savings in the cost of civil works.
Bringing it all together
Operating with a 3D BIM (building information model) combined with QIM (quantity information management) offers a collaborative platform to a project and is a key part of the concept.
This civil works 3D model is a combination of structural and architectural components that can also be viewed and integrated with the main process design model. The QIM process is specifically developed for civil works cost and quantity management, including construction cost databases, which is linked to the 3D BIM model.
Information flow diagram comparing QIM assisted project (red line) and traditional project (grey line)
In addition to the use of QIM and BIM the consortium include and advocate the use of the KKS coding system as an extra tool to organize the civil works elements for procurement, scheduling and monitoring.
Information can then be processed in packages and various formats that can be tailor-made to suit the needs of the intended recipient. For example, cost estimates for the pre-design stage for the customer or time schedules and logistics for the contractor.
This is a new way to organize the huge amount of data that will be inputted into the system during the design and construction process, much of which can often be overlooked, lost, misunderstood or quite often contradictory leading to the inevitable consequences.
An example of how the consortium would work if its full services were used would be that Virkkunen Architects would be involved at the offer stage to assist in acquiring the project. From there they would continue with the early stages of the design and planning of the plant, providing a strong link to the main process designers. They would begin early start up of the BIM model for civil works, which would be combined with WSP Finland’s structural components and linked to Tocoman’s QIM process. Together this forms the basis for the future development of the design and design review, cost management, procurement and scheduling processes. Tapro Engineering with its familiarity of these processes would assist with procurement time scheduling and quality control then go on to supervise several major civil works site positions, site cost control and contractual matters. Tapro Engineering could also be involved in wider site supervisory responsibilities in HVAC, electrification, instrumentation, as well as leading commissioning and preparing commissioning documentation.
This whole continuum and involvement of the group in a project from the early stages to commissioning and handover is another key aspect of the group’s concept and benefits the customers by bringing much more discipline to this relatively undisciplined component.