Too often on construction sites – when unexpected situations occur or a different way of doing things to reduce risk and improve project outcomes are suggested – it can become a case of principal contractor versus subcontractor. When this occurs, it creates an environment that is not conducive to performance.

In order to have a successful construction project, it is vital that there is a strong partnership between the principal contractor and the subcontractor. Communication is key to this; as unexpected conditions can increase risks of a project failing.

Subcontractors need to be able to explain these risks as soon as they arise and present the best way forward, as well as the pros and cons of any other options – or the merits of keeping to the original plan. On the other hand, principal contractors need to be willing to listen and understand any concerns and solutions to help alleviate and mitigate risk.

A partnership built on this will ultimately create the right environment for successful outcomes as communication is encouraged and factual situations are embraced.

At the end of the day, both the principal contractor and subcontractor’s reputations are at risk if the project is unsuccessful, or there are budget and deadline blowouts that could’ve been prevented. No one wants this, so working together to ensure a successful outcome is important.

Communication in action

Edge Underground worked on one project recently where we had a principal contractor who is risk averse and sees the benefits of mitigating risk as much as possible in advance – to ensure the project is a success. This was crucial for the project as it was undertaken in an area that was notorious for the geotech being incorrect due to the mixed ground conditions.

In such situations, being agile and open to changing aspects of the project is needed to improve the chance of a successful installation.

As expected for the area, the team hit ground formations on two of the three lines that were not covered by the geotech and that created challenges. One challenge was that during one of the lines, a gaseous layer was found which can be extremely dangerous if machinery becomes an ignition point.

By running the AXIS laser guided system, this risk was eliminated; as it uses liquid ring vacuum pumps which don’t have an ignition point.

If a microtunnelling system with a blower style vacuum pump had been used instead, there would’ve been a much greater chance of it igniting.

The liquid ring vacuum pumps in the system also have the advantage of having a lot of power behind them. With this job, the shafts were quite deep, so having the power to lift heavy rock materials up through the shaft and into the tank was needed to get the job done on time.

Understanding the need for pre-planning to mitigate the worst case scenario

Sometimes a suggestion is made that will allow there to be a solution to be in place to account for the worst case scenario. This will often be communicated by the subcontractor when there is a high chance of the worst case scenario occurring, as it will ultimately keep the project on track and reduce costs in the long term.

Edge Underground saw this exact situation play out in a project, which was undertaken as it was heading into the wet season and the risk of flash flooding was high. While compromises were made with the first shaft, three days of flash flooding that stopped all progress on the project before momentum could be made, cemented the need for preplanning and preparing the shafts for such a scenario.

The flooding did make the job more complicated, and increased the scope of work and timeframe to complete it, but with the lessons learnt throughout, the other lines were completed without any problems and the full installation was completed within the timeframe.

Achieving successful outcomes

When the principal contractor and subcontractor can have a solid partnership, where every concern or issue is listened to and understood, fantastic project outcomes can be achieved. However, where an us-versus-them mentality permeates the partnership, there is a greater chance of identified risks impacting project costs and increasing project timelines.

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