By Eng Dr Patrick K. Rusongoza, PhD, FUIPE, Reg Eng
Infrastructure means fundamental facilities and systems serving a nation such as transportation and communication systems (roads, rails, bridges, ferries), energy/power plants, schools, military installations, water, minerals, etc. Infrastructure may be public or private or public-private owned with the distinction being in terms of policy, financing and purpose. Technology, like Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Infrastructure Modelling and Management (IMM), has never before had so much potential to change our lives than today leading to a competitive world as far as innovations in infrastructure are concerned. A world-class infrastructure project would thus be built and delivered by applying such latest technologies efficiently, effectively and with due regard to cost-saving.
BIM is the process of accurately creating, managing and exchanging digital information within the built environment, collaborating the key players in the development of a project for generating and managing a 3-D digital representation of infrastructure.
In Uganda’s context, let us for instance focus on railway infrastructure development and operation and how such a project may be put in place with world-class quality.
In all phases of railway infrastructure, digital representation can improve the organizational model that always puts the information content of all railway components such as geometry, size, location, materials, design and proper maintenance at the centre of any decision-making process.
Railway infrastructure development involves many multidisciplinary stakeholder interactions that require proper coordinations to have a project that meets world-class performance levels. The infrastructure delivery process should thus encourage transparency of works, services and goods contracts at all levels, ensure quality during implementation, hence value for money.
Now to be world-class, infrastructure should meet the customers’ needs by adopting the principle of the 4Es to bring out value for money. These are: Economy (E1), Efficiency (E2), Effectiveness (E3) and Equity (E4).
This means the cost-effective use of project resources by ensuring that the infrastructure is delivered within budget, having due regard to quality.
The infrastructure project delivery processes i.e. planning, procurement, implementation (supervision/contract management), financial management (payment process) and commissioning/handover should be as efficient as possible in order to meet world-class standards.
Let us explore each of these processes in detail:
Planning, design and tender documentation phase
At the planning stage, the following steps are done:
Identify (conceptualize) the project
Make consultations with all project stakeholders including owners, railway regulators, users, financiers, project-affected persons (PAPs), landowners
Conduct studies like ‘Bankable Feasibility’ and ‘Environmental Clearance’, and
Carry out financing arrangements (loan applications) and ensure they are in place.
A railway route selection should consider strategic origin and destination points, take account of all physical planning features of local governments and communities along the proposed route. The route should traverse towns with anchor attractions to facilitate route bankability. To ensure world-class quality, latest or modern technology should be applied throughout the project delivery cycles. For example, at this phase, BIM can be applied in route-mapping with land acquisition details on exact GPS coordinates and the geographical information system. The land is perfectly recreated using Digital Terrain Modelling which enables exact 3Dmapping of all details with a 3D model of buildings, utilities and road details along the railway route.
Designs can be optimized and be made error-free by 3D-modelling all structures and integrating all its services (the signalling, the power, the drainage, the air ventilation, the emergency response system, and the fire and security systems) into a single 3D file using BIM. Signalling and telecommunication systems should comply with the highest safety integrity levels so as to promote inter-operability across railway networks and thus meet world-class standards.
The planned project should serve all categories of customers, for example, railway coaches should be designed to accommodate ordinary, executive and luxury passengers. Environmental and social safeguards must be incorporated right from this stage (considerations for the disabled, gender, environment and sanitation).
Tender documents should be prepared to include all these features and more to inform the next phase.
This phase is executed throughout the project delivery cycle starting with the planning phase. As part of project planning, consultants are procured to prepare a Feasibility Study and conduct environmental scoping studies. The resultant reports should be bankable since most projects are financed by banks in form of concession loans. Further procurements for contractors, supervision contract managers, service providers are conducted.
For conventional contracts, consultants are procured to undertake detailed engineering designs and prepare tender documents for contractors to bid. A contractor is selected and a supervising consultant is also procured through a competitive process.
However, railway infrastructure projects are complex in nature with most cases like Metro Rails in Cities, SGRs, Underground, etc, executed through Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) contracts. In this case, an EPC contractor performs the Detailed Engineering Designs and takes all risks to deliver the project. Supervision consultants are procured to manage the project on behalf of the client.
Using the BIM 3D models eliminates construction errors, saving nearly 20% on the construction cost compared to the conventional way of construction. This is because BIM 3D gives exact quantification and estimation for all construction work which is very useful in tendering and later in payment processes.
In order to achieve quality and value for money, tenders should be solicited to allow for competition in selecting contractors, consultants and service providers at every phase of project delivery. The selection process must be efficient.
Supervision and contract management phase
The quality of the infrastructure will depend on how effectively the supervision of the works and general contract is managed. World-class infrastructure is delivered by world-class consultants and contractors. And world-class consultants and contractors ensure quality through: (1) compliance with technical specifications (2) adherence to standards, (3) use of quality materials only, and (4) quality workmanship only.
The BIM 3D model is very useful in planning & managing projects in a more efficient and effective way. It seamlessly integrates with the project planning & management software like MS Projects to provide 3D simulation of project construction planning and sequencing of activities. The Critical Path Method must be applied on the construction contract to ensure that the project keeps on track (avoid cost overruns) by being ready on time or ahead of schedule and within the budget.
During this phase, allow for external project audits or scrutiny (evaluate the works effectiveness) which may provide real-time remedies should there be inconsistencies that hinder project success.
Financial management/payment process
Payment for services rendered or works executed should be timely to ensure a healthy cashflow and deter possible project delays. BIM 3D models can also be applied to facilitate works certification of quantities executed. All applicable local, national or international taxes should be complied with and funds properly accounted for.
Project completion, commissioning and handover phase
When the project is completed, the commissioning ceremony should be widely publicised on local and international media to ensure transparency and accountability and open doors for project utilisation. As-built drawings are handed over to the client for future maintenance requirements.
The infrastructure project delivered should be able to serve the intended purpose and satisfy customer’s needs. As such it should be of high quality to meet world-class standards whereby quality of workmanship should be good and management services for operation and maintenance should meet the highest standard to ensure project effectiveness.
Rail management services should be carefully procured and operation & maintenance arrangements clearly defined. During operation, existing strategies need to be evaluated from time to time to assess their effectiveness. This will all ensure sustainability of the quality of service and preservation of value for money in the project assets.
World-class infrastructure should follow railway regulations, satisfy needs of the society it serves such as gender equality, needs of persons with disabilities, and address all environmental and social safeguards. These must be incorporated right from the project planning and design phases and ensured throughout the project delivery cycle.
To deliver world-class infrastructure, the four Es need to be carefully applied using advanced technologies by world-class consultants, contractors and service providers who have built systems that allow them to compete better and at a cheaper cost. The infrastructure project must be supported by the executive management, problem solving must be proactively approached, staff at all levels must be trained, equipped and empowered to make decisions. Standards must be well-developed, enforced and processes designed with robustness and with integrated systems management functions.