MDA Projects

  • Institutional Developments

    Cape Town Stadium and Urban Park

  • Hotels

    Cape Grace Hotel

  • Institutional Developments

    Cape Town International Convention Centre

  • Public Transport

    MyCiTi / Cape Town Integrated Rapid Transport (IRT) 1A

  • Mixed Use

    V & A Waterfront Phase One Retail and Commercial Development (e.g. Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre and Pierhead)

  • Marine

    V & A Marina Canal and Lock

  • Mixed Use

    Intaba Residential, Retail and Commercial Redevelopment (next to Cavendish Square, Claremont)

  • Mixed Use

    The Terraces Commercial Office Building

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Scope Management: A Tool for Change Management in the Construction Industry

Project success in the construction industry, as with any business development in any other industry, is about delivering results. It requires meticulous planning of the work required to achieve project objectives according to agreed client baseline requirements, timeously and within budget. It also requires professional, independent and experienced orchestration of these two key success factors:

  • setting and managing progress goals and devising a scope management system to manage the evolving specification and
  • detailed design processes as the baseline requirements become the full project scope,
thus limiting risk through all phases of the construction project cycle from initiation to closing.

More than a linear process

However, scope management is not just a linear process of project scope ‘checks and balances’ blended together to assist in getting a project started. It’s about identifying project constraints, possible issues and challenges, effectively addressing these and, where possible, planning for them. It’s about taking the time required at the outset to clarify these real and potential issues and challenges, and to devise contingencies to prevent – or at least minimise diversions, delays and unforeseen costs. Essentially, it’s about helping to mitigate risk.

Why change occurs

Change is inevitable and can be a major project risk, which, if resisted or poorly managed could cause severe delays, overspend and even project failure. But before addressing how to manage change, its important to understand why it occurs.

The reasons for change are multiple and vary from project to project. They may result from:
  • Additional time required to contemplate user needs
  • An inadequately defined project brief Design errors
  • Site conditions
  • Inclement weather
  • Material shortages
  • Lack of skills and performance issues
The point is, change is unavoidable.

How not to manage change

Depending on where in the project cycle the change occurs the first person to feel the effect of that change – it could be a member of the design team or the contractor - may be tempted to ‘fix it’. Design changes during the pre-construction phase are the easiest to resolve as they generally only incur costs. Changes after construction has started are more difficult to manage as they may incur both costs and time.

Under pressure not to incur the costs associated with delays and disruptions, the contractor for instance, may be tempted to resolve the problem himself. This could have implications that are far reaching beyond the scope of the contractor to remedy. Invariably he is not the party best equipped to assess all the facts, conduct a complete assessment of the potential implications, and come to an all-encompassing project solution. Consequently, it is unlikely that he would be the best person to manage the associated risk and the subsequent impact on the project and all its stakeholders.

Who is best positioned to manage scope change?

As it poses a high risk, scope management is not just about flagging change and following a change-order process. As part of the overall scope management process it is a function of the independent project manager who is best able to manage the risk associated with change as he is in a pivotal position between the client, design team and the contractor. This is a key project imperative because we never know when change will occur, what form it will take or how big the ramifications will be in terms of project cost and project schedule. To achieve project success, effective change management requires knowing how to engage with the change process in a systematic way rather than a hit-and-miss reactionary response.

Monday, 11 September 2017

How to Manage Construction Project Risk

The management of risk is one of the most complex aspects of a construction project, more so, when it comes to large projects. Right from the beginning, from the inception phase, risks must be identified, assessed and methods must be applied to mitigate them.

One thing that is certain is that each construction project is a bespoke process. From typology, geology, design and materials used to the workforce required to ‘assemble’ a project in all weather conditions, risks differ from project to project. Consequently different approaches must be used to address them. In addition, allowances must be made for variability throughout the construction project’s lifecycle: change is inevitable and the ripple effect of the risks associated with that change must be managed to ensure complete and successful project delivery.

Risk management in a construction project lifecycle

In order to better understand construction project risk it’s important to know the phases within a construction project lifecycle. Academically, the construction project lifecycle is a straightforward process that follows six clearly defined phases:

  1. Inception and brief
  2. Concept design
  3. Design development or detailed design
  4. Documentation and procurement
  5. Construction
  6. Close out 

In practice, however these phases do not necessarily happen sequentially. While each phase of the project lifecycle should be signed off before commencing with the next phase, some phases require an iterative process. In other words, decisions taken in a previous phase are revisited, perhaps a number of times, before final resolution of a particular issue. The risks therefore need to be continually updated during project implementation until each item is identified and resolved at least risk to the client.

Iteration in one phase can occur concurrently with another project phase. It occurs particularly in phases three to five (see diagram). Iteration can involve increased risk, which must be addressed, managed and reduced to acceptable levels.

Stakeholder risk management

Managing risk is not just about systems and processes though. It’s also about the people involved in the project supply chain. In fact, it is the human component of a construction project; the stakeholders especially, that potentially pose the greatest risk. What does this mean?

Essentially, there are three key stakeholders on a construction project: The client, the design team and the contractor team. The entire project is generally led by a professional project manager who reports directly to the client while managing the efforts of the design team and contractor team. The design team is usually led by an architect together with various other professional consultants whom themselves enlist other specialists as required. Similarly, the contractor team is usually led by a principal contractor, who enlists sub-contractors whom themselves have a host of suppliers and specialist service providers in support of the construction effort.

In other words, the project lifecycle involves many people and organisations each with their own business expectations, financial objectives and internal processes. While motivated by sound practices, these individual agendas are not necessarily compatible with overall project goals.

Mitigating stakeholder risk

While having the initial vision and a clear end goal, the client is not necessarily geared up to manage the construction project. In fact, the building contract itself is an agreement between the client and the contractor. It could be argued that the contractor should act as project manager. However, this is counter intuitive to maintaining project objectivity, something the project manager is able to do having no vested interest other than to ensure project goals are met without undue risk.

Ultimately, the mitigation of stakeholder risk as with all other project risks requires independent and even-handed management. It requires someone who has an all-encompassing perspective and knowledge of all the stakeholder roles and related processes, to eliminate or at least reduce stakeholder risk. To achieve this, impartial judgement and a professional communication interface between stakeholders is key. Ultimately, risk management is the domain of an independent and professional project manager who has nothing to protect except the client and the integrity of the overall project.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Urbanisation and The Hidden Implications of City Developments

Urbanisation is a widespread global trend with unmistakable local impact. According to KPMG, “it is estimated that by 2050, more than 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, representing a growth of 95% globally and 257% for sub-Saharan Africa”. This rising influx of people to city centres will continue to place enormous pressure on infrastructure, which will necessitate further growth and development.

Beyond building structures

Buffered by mountains and sea, Cape Town is popularly known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. However, this buffer effect poses significant development challenges, which are further impacted by:

  • Countrywide service delivery problems
  • Energy shortages (electricity inconsistency)
  • Water shortages (extreme shortages in the Western Cape)
  • Limited natural resources
  • Limited human resources
  • Limited financial resources
  • An increasingly overburdened infrastructure (owing to the continuous emigration of people from other provinces to the Western Cape)
  • Severe traffic congestion
  • Lack of affordable housing in Cape Town’s central business district (CBD)
Taking all of this into account, a single fact emerges: Sustainable development that looks beyond building structures to ensure successful urbanisation within a fully functioning CBD is key.

Improving a bullet train on the move

Much like a heart, the CBD has arteries. If these arteries are constrained the heart is at risk. In other words, Cape Town needs responsible development that cleanly does its job with minimal disruption to the city. This includes heeding past solutions where structures already exist.

For instance, some would argue the unfinished Foreshore Freeway viaduct should be demolished to make way for extravagant engineering and architectural marvels with sprawling public parks. While visually appealing to some, under the lengthy construction phase that comes with all mega projects, traffic flow will undoubtedly be drastically impeded. Why not simply complete viaducts as they were originally intended? This would allow for increased capacity without placing unnecessary pressure on an already overburdened infrastructure.

Mega projects cost money and who pays?

More development to meet the rising demands of a growing population is inevitable, but this also means further spending. Mega projects cost money, lots of money. With municipal rates and grants from the National Treasury being the only source of income for the city, where will the funding come from?

City developments need to be carefully and realistically thought through from concept and construction to the operational phase, while taking into account the potential drag on taxpayers, both local and national. The pitfalls of ignoring the potential drag on taxpayers are well documented. 

National government needs to provide flexible opportunities for an ever-changing South African built environment to encourage private sector development. This will help to minimise public spend and generate a greater rates income for local government.

Important lessons from The Boston Big Dig

Unofficially known as The Big Dig, supporters of the Central Artery Tunnel Project (CA/T) project in Boston, Massachusetts enthuse that; “it was never a highway project but rather an exercise in urban beautification”. Were that the case, the project delivered.

However, the reality is that the Big Dig was fundamentally a highway project that was non-viable from the start. There were major design issues, construction problems, elaborate and unnecessary systems and inadequate cost controls among others.

All of these factors resulted in a failure to safeguard taxpayer money. Costs soared nearly ten times from $2.6bn to $15bn ($24bn after interest on debt). Projects in other parts of the state suffered. In fact, although the project was completed in 2007 the people of Massachusetts are still paying for it.

Is there an upside to urbanisation?

According to PWC, UK urbanisation presents substantial opportunities with the potential for cities “to act as powerful and inclusive development tools”. In Cape Town alone there are more jobs (255 000) than there are residences (55 000). That said, city living is aspirational and usually accessible predominantly to high income earners only. Nonetheless, the potential to mix low income with high income earners is a distinct and realistic possibility. It also presents an ideal opportunity to address Cape Town city’s legacy of inequality embedded in the last century.

It could be argued that more people working and living in the city means more cars and further congestion. On the contrary, safe, reasonably inexpensive and reliable, and successful mega public transit projects such as the My CiTi Bus system have helped to improve CBD accessibility and reduce traffic congestion. Unquestionably, successful urbanisation requires innovative sustainable development to build a more integrated environment that creates value for the city. However, this can only happen with considered and insightful planning and careful construction development project management.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Why Choose a Career in Construction Development Project Management?

Choosing the right career in a world that is constantly changing, where some industries and roles might not exist in 20 years from now, is daunting. The truth is, for the most part we have
no real idea of what things will be like in the future.

That said, we can assume with a fair degree of certainty that there will always be a construction development industry: the need for building structures has existed since humans first walked the earth. Like all industries, the built environment slows down and speeds up in response to the economic climate but, with an ever-expanding global population it will of necessity continue to evolve and advance. It will always exist.

What is a construction development project manager?

Everyone practices project management to some extent. In its most basic form, project management is about establishing and achieving goals. It’s also about the planning, organisation and oversight required to meet these goals.

However, whereas project managers in some other industries might take responsibility for a particular aspect of an area or project, a professional and qualified project manager in the construction development industry orchestrates and oversees all aspects of a construction project from concept to completion and beyond.

Typically the project manager identifies objectives, defines project scope, manages time, cost and quality, and factors in project changes. It goes without saying then that one of the most important members (perhaps arguably the most essential) of any construction development team is the project manager.

Is there a demand for project managers in construction development?

In the last 50 years, the industry has evolved and splintered from core disciplines such as architect, quantity surveyor, engineer and builder into increasingly specialised disciplines. This includes importance roles concerning environment, heritage, health and safety, BBBEE (broad based black economic empowerment), and green and sustainable buildings among others. Add to this all the laws and codes that come with these new and necessary disciplines and it becomes even more critical for an objective and interdependent project manager to bring all the various disciplines together to act as one cohesive entity. In other words, the construction development project manager is the binding element that holds it all together. The project manager takes responsibility for facilitating a successful project outcome.

How to know if it’s the right career for you?

There is an inordinate amount of pressure for young people finishing school to pick an industry, pick a qualification and then you have a career path perfectly slotted into a neat box. In the past, if you wanted to work with people you chose psychology. If you wanted to work with figures you picked accounting. Project management in the construction development industry doesn’t fit into a neat box. 

In fact, if you have a strategic and analytical mind and have an affinity for people but don’t want to be desk bound then this could be the career for you. First, it’s important to start by knowing yourself, who you are, what your talents and skills are and then making an informed decision.

Requirements for a career in project management in construction development

Project managers must be professionally qualified and registered. The minimum qualification is a relevant four year degree or diploma in engineering, building management or similar with appropriate industry registration. This includes the SACPMP (South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professions) and ACPM (Association of Construction Project Managers). 

Seasoned construction development project managers will tell you that on-the-job learning is lifelong, particularly the kind of learning that happens on site, during the building process.

Typical profile of a construction development project manager

Real project managers are not averse to getting their boots dirty. They spend time on and off site. They take time to observe, listen, ask questions, and they show a healthy appreciation and respect for people. They interact with a kaleidoscope of personalities from all walks of life: From professionals in various disciplines to the on-site workforce that has the responsibility for the physical construction of a development.

The best construction development project managers are exceptional communicators who take responsibility for conveying the bad news as well as the good. They are natural born planners but, while planning is central to the role, experienced project managers are always prepared for the unexpected. It’s part of what makes the construction development project management role exciting and challenging.

Related topics:
Does A Construction Development Project Manager Add Real Value?

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Does A Construction Development Project Manager Add Real Value?

The Construction development industry has existed since the beginning of civilization and, like other industries, has evolved and grown over time. Historically, the “master builder” was the carpenter or stone mason, who performed the tasks of project manager, architect, quantity surveyor, engineer, and builder. In fact, the master builder oversaw the entire building process.

Over the years there has been an evolution of additional complexities burgeoning the construction development industry, which requires management and facilitation beyond historic development project requirements: hence the need for professional qualified project management to align these factors. These evolving complexities include among others:

  • Construction development industry fragmentation and specialisation
  • New regulations and legislative requirements
  • Industry skills shortage
  • Technological advancement
  • Materials innovation
  • Economic constraints and risk management
  • Contractual claims environment
  • Stakeholder and community involvement
  • Additional construction industry management services
Construction development industry fragmentation and specialisation

Evolutionary construction industry growth, particularly in the last 50 years or so has fragmented industry roles from core construction disciplines (architect, engineer and builder) into a multi-faceted and growing list of specialised disciplines. With the built environment becoming increasingly specialised (and fragmented) it becomes more difficult for all these disciplines to work together to produce one cohesive product in line with the client’s expectations.

New regulations and legislative requirements

There is also increasing concern about important issues such as environment, health and safety, BBBEE (broad based black economic empowerment), green building, sustainable buildings, and heritage. This has resulted in new legislation leading to new disciplines within the built environment, which produce additional independent silos that need to be coordinated.

While critical in tightening up industry practices and conduct, building laws, codes and regulations are onerous. They add another layer of  industry ‘rules’ to the built environment project management process. The application of these rules requires precise and specific implementation and management expertise from within the industry and on each construction development project.

Industry skills shortage

As new disciplines splinter and emerge, the demand for skilled and specialist labour increases. However, skill levels in the South African construction industry do not always meet this demand.

Top professionals such as architects are lured away by better opportunities overseas. Reduced standards of education and insufficient training and experience yield lower levels of competence among professionals, sub-standard contractor supervision and poor workmanship. This places greater pressure on the project manager to monitor and ensure that the various construction disciplines are delivering on a given project: to enforce high standards and exceptional quality workmanship at an affordable cost.

Technological advancement

Technological innovation helps to advance construction efficiencies, building quality, and asset longevity. For instance, BIM (building information modeling) has become the worldwide standard in engineering and is fast becoming the international standard for construction and project management. That said, technology is best executed, and delivers the best results, when complemented by human endeavour.

While IT systems provide management tools to enhance efficiency, they do not reduce the time required to manage people nor do they obviate the critical people management aspect of project coordination and facilitation.

Materials innovation

Whereas materials selection options were limited in the past, the more recent explosion of materials innovations, has resulted in a multitude of materials and finishing options. While exciting for the industry this necessitates far tighter management of the materials procurement process. If improperly managed, too many choices lead to indecision, more and more samples requested, unnecessary time wastage and unforeseen costs.

Economic constraints and risk management

The demand for greater efficiency in a constrained economy, means that the construction industry is compelled to work with tighter budgets and competitive tendering. This means stringent and exacting cost management. Add to this the proliferation of industry specialist materials and the increased complexity of construction projects. The result is more construction work being taken on at far greater risk.

In the current economic climate, the professional project management consultant is expected to carry more risk work at no additional cost to the client. Construction projects are undertaken, sometimes with years of non-paying foundational risk work with no guarantee that the project will proceed. Risk management is a critical and fundamental scheduling process, and requires meticulous detail and a great deal of expertise and time to mitigate risk for the project as a whole. As such, it forms an integral part of effective construction project management.

Contractual claims environment

With clients demanding more for less to meet the demands of an increasingly regulated development environment, contractors and consultants charge significantly reduced fees. Reduced contractor mark-ups and professional fees are a prevailing and problematic local and national economic issue. As a result, professional consultants and contractors need to become more conscious of this and claim for additional expenditure. However, the claims process requires monitoring, mediation and facilitation. The tighter the budget, the greater is the need for professional risk management.

Stakeholder and community involvement

Given the chequered history and demography of the country, there is a growing need for more community participation and other stakeholder involvement in construction projects. BBBEE is important for the country to encourage the participation of previously disadvantaged groups to further economic growth.

That said, while important for the country, stakeholder engagement and the responsibility to ensure government BBBEE and community involvement targets are achieved becomes the domain of the project manager.

Additional construction industry management services

There is an increasing demand for project managers to take on additional built environment functions over and above the ‘standard’ project management services. These functions often constitute all or part of the role of a separate construction discipline, such as the development manager’s role or the design co-ordination function. In fact, they become part of the project manager’s standard portfolio of services. Consequently, the project manager’s scope of responsibility increases significantly, often at no additional fee for the added service.

The glue that binds it all together

While professional project management is a specialist standalone built environment discipline in its own right, it is multifarious. In other words, true project management requires sufficient knowledge of all construction development disciplines and cross sector experience. Professional project management is the glue that integrates the combined knowledge and experience so that all parties involved work as a cohesive entity to deliver a successful project outcome. With the myriad of expanding complexities and risks in the construction development industry can you afford not to have a professional project manager overseeing your project?

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

How ‘BIM’ is Revolutionising the Construction Industry (Part 3 of 3)

Is BIM the future?

It goes without saying that with any construction project, meticulous record keeping of every exchange, decision and approval is imperative. Without detailed records the volume of information (data) produced becomes overwhelming and unnecessarily confusing. The negative pitfalls are endless.

Building information modelling (BIM) is without a doubt a more efficient and visually effective method of managing data. The benefits of using BIM data for multiple applications makes it an incredibly powerful tool because it covers so much more than mere geometry.

Utilising BIM data for other purposes is particularly evident when the 3D model is used to design and produce greener buildings. BIM enabled simulation of a building’s lifecycle means that the benefits of green investment over time can be measured to within single digit accuracy. This is exciting from an investor’s perspective.

Leveraging BIM’s full benefits

Creating a building or asset in virtual reality requires specialist, high-level management and expertise. It also requires effective communication between project participants at various levels so that the integrated intellectual capacity of all parties benefits the client.

From a project management perspective model integration and facilitation of information flow is not as simplistic as it might appear. In other words, BIM is not just a software change.

It takes time to become familiar with and proficient in the use of the software. It also takes time and expertise to understand the protocols to be adhered to when models are either combined or shared. Ultimately, BIM is a process fully and properly comprehended with extensive first hand experience.

How should it be managed?

By way of example, the client often assumes that everything is in 3D and therefore easy to manipulate or change. This is problematic because regardless of whether changes are two or three dimensional, any changes to a building can impact various services and possibly structural elements. 

While BIM makes changes more easily communicable to the client, it does not lessen the impact of these changes. Professional project managers know that BIM can never replace the fundamentals of project management, which include clear and effective communication with client, the professional team, and various contractors.

If the BIM implementation process is not managed properly the benefits of BIM usage from the perspective of both the professional / construction team and the client are lost in a mountain of data. The importance of project management professionals steering the BIM process, and the entire project from concept to completion and beyond cannot be overemphasized.

The jury’s in

In countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Brazil, various Scandinavian countries and others there is no argument about whether BIM is worthwhile or not. The fact is it works.

At a BIM conference held earlier this year in Johannesburg, South Africa it was encouraging to see that local firms and building contractors are swiftly moving towards international standards. 

However, South Africa has a long way to go to keep pace with countries that are deep into the BIM adoption process. The question therefore is not whether BIM is the future of the South African construction industry or whether project management companies should prepare for it. Rather it is a question of how soon it can be implemented. To its credit, the South African construction industry is starting to realise that the sooner it commits to BIM, the greater the benefits will be.

Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3

Friday, 29 July 2016

How ‘BIM’ is Revolutionising the Construction Industry (Part 2 of 3)

A South African and African context

Building information modelling has taken giant steps in a relatively short space of time. Its global growth and adoption rate has been massive. In South Africa the overwhelmingly positive benefits of BIM are driven by consulting engineering and project management companies like WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff Consulting Engineers and MDA Projects pushing beyond merely producing ‘pretty pictures’.

In some countries such as the United Kingdom, BIM has been legislated. South Africa is not yet at the same level but usage is rapidly growing as the benefits of BIM for larger projects become apparent.

Towards a South African package with national benefit

5D BIM is not yet utilised in South Africa. This is because the digital costing process is not in line with South African quantity surveying processes (Standard Systems of Measurement and Standard Bill of Quantities among others). Herein lies an opportunity for quantity surveyors to step in. In fact, MDA Projects is currently in dialogue with quantity surveyors so that South Africa can potentially put its own stamp on the process through a proudly South African package that will have national benefit.

Beyond day-to-day information systems

The ability to effectively integrate the various built environment disciplines such as electrical, mechanical, fire, water and sewerage will set companies apart. MDA Projects is on a drive to undertake the majority of its larger built environment projects using BIM, in order to go beyond day-to-day information systems. Currently operating predominantly at a 4D level, they have set their sights firmly on incorporating the entire BIM range of services.

From a project management perspective BIM process implementation is not without its challenges. With many contractors and suppliers in South Africa having little or no opportunity to work with BIM, facilitating the interphase between the design team and contractors is tricky. Granted, information flow and contractual arrangements related to this element of the construction process are easily documented. However, it takes a high level of cooperation and skill to manage the process effectively.

Can BIM work in an African context?

Africa does not have the convenience of readily available material suppliers or specialised contractors. To overcome these challenges, detailed project planning becomes a critical precursor to project success. Much like a Meccano set, a key benefit of BIM is that regardless of resources required, equipment and necessary materials can be:
  • Predetermined with a high degree of accuracy
  • If required can be premanufactured / preassembled 
4D simulation enables the project management team to find the best possible design methodology. It also ensures that resources are allocated with a higher degree of accuracy.

Through the BIM process materials and equipment can be manufactured in South Africa or another African country that has the capability and capacity to do so. Similarly, modular systems can be prepared off site, in a controlled factory-type environment. In this instance, the delivery sequence is then synchronised within the BIM programme to ensure that everything is transported when and where required.

By simply starting the design process earlier, pre-manufactured items can be shipped or transported ahead of time. This is particularly prudent when building on an island or at a remote location.

Positive socio-economic outcomes

With the application of simplified construction methods (modular systems) unskilled and unemployed local community members can be trained and employed within the assembly component of the construction process, without compromising the quality of the end product. Translated, this means that BIM potentially has a far-reaching positive impact not just for the construction industry but for African communities too by creating semi-skilled opportunities for people previously not utilised in the construction industry.

Part 1 of 3
Part 3 of 3