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A Method to Identify Design Flaws in Steel Construction Projects - By : Mathieu Fokwa Soh, Daniel Barbeau, Sylvie Doré, Daniel Forgues,

A Method to Identify Design Flaws in Steel Construction Projects


Mathieu Fokwa Soh
Mathieu Fokwa Soh Author profile
Mathieu Fokwa Soh is a PhD student in the Construction Engineering Department at ÉTS.

Daniel Barbeau
Daniel Barbeau Author profile
Daniel Barbeau is the Manager of Digital Innovation at Canam and a lecturer at ÉTS.

Sylvie Doré
Sylvie Doré Author profile
Sylvie Doré is a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at ÉTS. Her research interests include additive manufacturing design methodologies, orthopaedic biomechanics and Engineering Education.

Daniel Forgues
Daniel Forgues Author profile
Daniel Forgues is a professor in the Construction Department at ÉTS. His research includes information technology and communication in construction, management of megaprojects, and process reengineering.

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SUMMARY

In the construction industry, the formal process for contractors to send requests to designers is a Request for Information (RFIs). Many RFIs reflect a lack of coordination in design documents. However, it is possible to extract knowledge that can help identify recurrent problems from RFIs. This article proposes a method to identify recurrent problems between designers and contractors by analyzing RFI contents. A case study of 10 steel construction projects demonstrates the feasibility of this method. The absence of connection information for steel structures is identified in this case study as the most common problem. Identifying these types of issues can be a step towards considering contractor knowledge during the design phase. Keywords: construction phase, design phase, requests for information, contractor knowledge.

A Lack of Communication

The quality of collaboration between designers and contractors is key for project success in the construction industry (Egan, 1998). Designers produce information for contractors who deliver the building to the client. However, designers sometimes have little knowledge of construction processes, but the decisions they make influence 88% of construction costs and duration. Contractors, who only become involved later in traditional project processes, will draft Requests for Information (RFIs) to obtain additional information or propose design modifications. The RFIs they draw up arrive when the design phase is in an advanced stage. At this point, design changes significantly impact the project costs and duration. If the requests in RFIs were known in advance by the designers and taken into account in the projects, project costs and duration could be considerably reduced. Such is the objective of this article. This article also presents a case study carried out in the steel construction industry.

Qualitative Content Analysis Applied to RFIs

RFIs are documents that contractors produce to request additional information or require clarification from designers. RFIs are expensive. (Hughes et al., 2013). The cost of responding to an RFI ranges from US$598 to US$2,078.

RFIs are highly relevant sources of information (Soh et al., 2020). They use a standard form of communication that specifies writing requirements dictated by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC).

Qualitative content analysis (QCA) is a research method that applies to textual content intended for human understanding. The aim of this method is to classify knowledge and understand phenomena present in texts through subjective interpretation.

The use of this technique can allow the extraction of important information from RFIs.

Research Design

 The method proposed in this article consists of 3 main steps:

Methodology of request of information analysis

Figure 1: Research design

Data preparation consists of preparing the data to group RFIs, adapting the data to the machine’s understanding, and eliminating unnecessary words. Data processing consists of processing the RFIs, classifying the most frequent words in a table. These words represent the most recurrent themes in RFIs. Results present the list of the most recurring themes in the projects and their impact on the quantity of RFIs and response time. Some RFIs contain several themes. A figure can be used to represent the themes in pairs most frequently present in a series of RFIs. This may allow a better interpretation of the results.

Case Study

The case study is the investigation of recurrent design problems in analyzing RFIs from ten steel construction projects of more than 5,000 tons of steel.

The ten selected projects have a total of 15,211 RFIs. These RFIs correspond to 508 594 cumulative days of response time.

After analysis, the following themes were identified.

Table 1 Most Recurring Themes Identified

Themes identified in request for information

The analysis of Table 1 allows us to make the following observations:

  • Clarify, Confirm, Connection, and Level are the most recurring words.
  • Connection is found in 15% of the RFIs.
  • Connection represents 15% of the total RFIs, for 10% of the response times.

 The recurrent themes identified can be used to realize Figure 2.

Relationship between themes in RFI

Figure 2. Relationship between the most recurring themes

Figure 2 shows the links between themes found in the RFIs (Figure 2).

In the framework of this case study, the recurrent problems identified are:

  • The need for additional information about location sketches and Beam.
  • The need for additional information related to Connection.

Findings Derived from our Results

This study presents the following findings:

  • A summative analysis of RFI contents can lead to the identification of recurrent issues between designers and manufacturers.
  • This analysis can identify the number of RFIs and the corresponding response times according to the identified themes.
  • Professionals in this industry validated the issue of connections in steel construction projects. The results of this study confirm this state of affairs.

Conclusion

This article proposes to improve the quality of projects through qualitative analysis of RFI contents. RFIs are a reliable source of information that can reveal recurrent problems. This study’s particularity is that it proposes the use of RFIs rather than interviews with professionals. As a result, this study shows that RFIs can improve the quality of construction projects. In this view, our study proposes to apply the recommendations stemming from our analysis for the continuation of projects in the context of the case study to appreciate the changes made.

Mathieu Fokwa Soh

Author's profile

Mathieu Fokwa Soh is a PhD student in the Construction Engineering Department at ÉTS.

Program : Construction Engineering 

Research chair : Industrial Research Chair in the Integration of Digital Technologies in Construction 

Research laboratories : GRIDD – Research Group in Integration and Sustainable Development in Built Environment 

Author profile

Daniel Barbeau

Author's profile

Daniel Barbeau is the Manager of Digital Innovation at Canam and a lecturer at ÉTS.

Program : Construction Engineering 

Author profile

Sylvie Doré

Author's profile

Sylvie Doré is a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at ÉTS. Her research interests include additive manufacturing design methodologies, orthopaedic biomechanics and Engineering Education.

Program : Mechanical Engineering 

Author profile

Daniel Forgues

Author's profile

Daniel Forgues is a professor in the Construction Department at ÉTS. His research includes information technology and communication in construction, management of megaprojects, and process reengineering.

Program : Construction Engineering 

Research chair : Industrial Research Chair in the Integration of Digital Technologies in Construction 

Research laboratories : GRIDD – Research Group in Integration and Sustainable Development in Built Environment 

Author profile


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