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Synopsis

The seven papers in Session 4 on project delivery and whole life costs address the theme from a variety of stances. Contributions come from consultants, researchers, specialist subcontractors, main contractors and clients, and report on a variety of situations, including highway earthworks construction, foundations, offshore oil developments and maintenance of earthworks infrastructure. Despite this diversity, a number of common themes emerge, in particular: new methods of working; whole life costing; infrastructure management; early involvement of geotechnical specialists; and business excellence.

The last ten years have seen a revolution in the contractual approach to construction projects, with the rise of design and build (D&B) and design, build, finance and operate (DBFO) contracts. These types of contracts were designed to ensure price stability for clients and to eliminate (or at least remove from the client's view) the endless squabbles between contractors and engineers that became such a feature of the ICE 5th edition Conditions of Contract. The adoption of the new working practices required under D&B and DBFO has been a major challenge for the construction industry. The evidence of this seminar is encouraging.

Thorn et al and Everton and Gellatly describe major highway DBFO contracts which have progressed successfully. The key to success on these projects was openness and communication between all the parties, ensuring that everyone felt part of the team and was working to a common agenda. This enabled the introduction of innovative methods by specialist contractors, an aspect also covered by Findlay et al, and the use of observational methods to optimise the geotechnical design. These projects stand as models of good practice in the new ways of working; our clients, quite rightly, will expect the same positive team approach on other projects.

A subject of increasing interest to clients is the whole life cost of projects. Several papers in this session address the subject directly or indirectly. A whole life cost model for highway earthworks is described by Reid and Clark; this research project was developed as a tool to enable infrastructure owners to balance construction and maintenance costs, specifically the repair of slope failures. The model could be extended to other geotechnical applications.

Power and Carrington describe graphically the costs involved at all stages of the life of an offshore oil project, and how an increase of one pound in the geotechnical input can lead to a saving of at least ten pounds in the whole life costs. The area of whole life costing is one where clients will increasingly expect input from geotechnical specialists, and there is a need to develop appropriate models and methods of assessing costs associated with geotechnics.

Related to whole life costing is the subject of infrastructure management, which is addressed by McGinnity et al with respect to the earthworks owned by London Underground Limited (LUL). The methods they have employed to inspect and assess an ageing network of earthworks with little or no records of the original construction, and from there to develop a risk based methodology for prioritising sites and carrying out repairs using innovative technologies present an excellent example of the value of geotechnics applied in the context of the overall management of the asset; geotechnics as part of the team.

With many large infrastructure networks including earthworks and geotechnical structures, the inclusion of geotechnical specialists into the management teams operating the networks is essential to ensure that the maintenance requirements of the earthworks are incorporated into the overall maintenance regimes for the networks.

Several papers make the case for the early involvement of geotechnical specialists in the life cycle of a project. The savings that are possible as a result of early involvement, and the costs that are incurred by late or inadequate involvement are graphically described in a number of case studies by Findlay et al and Power & Carrington.

We are all familiar with the cartoon of the leaning tower of Pisa with the architect saying ,'I skimped a bit on the site investigation, but no-one will ever know', so why are there still so many cases of desk studies and site investigations being squeezed by minuscule budgets and impossible programmes? 'Without site investigation, ground is a hazard'; 'You pay for a site investigation whether you carry it out or not'; 'Penny wise, pound foolish'. Is anyone listening?

Underpinning all these themes is that of business excellence, as illustrated by Wilson for the Highways Agency. Our clients have a right to expect the highest business and professional standards from the geotechnical industry; this is reflected by the importance placed on openness and communication in the successful DBFO projects discussed above. We need to be prepared to take an objective look at our performance and ways of working, and to change in response to the new challenges faced by the construction industry; this is a sign of strength and maturity, not weakness.

The papers submitted to this seminar provide clear evidence of the value of geotechnics in construction. Numerous case studies demonstrate the value of involving geotechnical specialists at an early stage in the life cycle of a project, how geotechnical specialists have adapted to new ways of working and to new concepts such as whole life costing and infrastructure management. In a world where change is constant and the geotechnical specialist will increasingly find him- or herself working in teams with other professionals, including some outwith the construction industry, and grappling with new concepts, it is important to restate that the value of geotechnics in construction has not changed. The ways in which it operates will change, but its fundamental importance will not.

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