Technical faults in projects: Unskilled manpower to blame
Many projects being executed in the local levels are especially poor in design and construction. Mostly government buildings, bridges and other projects are constructed in phases over a long period of time
Many Nepali technicians are working abroad, although enormous innovative and technical works are pending in our country. The issues are solved sometime by contractors, most of whom hire unskilled manpower, which takes not only a long time to complete a project but also affects its quality. The major technical faults relate to poor quality materials and unskilled manpower used in those projects.
Still, the government awards projects based on who bids the lowest instead of going after design. This will affect the durability and quality of the project. Zero tolerance of political and design compromises must be applied for low bid projects to achieve best quality and durability as contractors tend to focus only on profit.
Many projects being executed in the local levels are especially poor in design and construction. Mostly government buildings, bridges and other projects are constructed in phases over a long period of time. Sometimes change of government or ministers could take a project more than 10 years to complete. The reinforcement of buildings is extended without using proper design, and the laying of old and new concrete is not considered in the design to make a project earthquake-resistant.
The technical faults seen in the design will lead not only to poor quality of projects but also cost overruns. It has been observed that designers go for unnecessary double or triple tie beams below the ground level, leading to high cost of construction, instead of opting for an effective design. Tie beams in buildings should be implemented as per the structural design of a building and should not be used as a rule of thumb. It has been observed from data collection that various designs are implemented in various places without proper and prior investigation of a project.
The negligence shown by a contractor and lack of supervision by government personnel lead to technical faults after some time. Cracks are observed in water tanks and bridges, and twisting of beams in buildings. However, the government can minimise such technical faults by providing proper training for unskilled manpower and engineers as well. The designer, contractor and supervisor must be held responsible for the implementation of such projects. Even when technical faults arise in such projects, there are technologies and methodologies associated with structural engineering to remedy them. University graduates in structural engineering must be oriented not only in theoretical studies but also in practical or laboratory works. The retrofitting works should be implemented by hiring only skilled manpower for better implementation of a project. Soil treatment is a necessary factor given the geological and seismic criteria of our country, which, unfortunately, is rarely implemented prior to construction of such projects. The government should promote soil treatment at places having low bearing capacity.
Mostly, in recent years, private buildings and other projects are constructed using ready mixed concrete to save time, but the concrete mix may not as per the needs of the design. The cube tests of concrete are not implemented, and it has been observed in some private buildings that the contractor is all in all until the completion of the projects. The owner is fully dependent on the contractor who is focussed only on his profit and hurries to complete the projects, ignoring the technical faults. The government should enforce proper supervision of private projects also as the adjacent projects will also be affected by a wrongly-constructed building or project.
In various road projects of Nepal it has been observed that the quality is bad due to lack of prior investigation of alignment and soil property, and are not well designed to resist the thrust of overloaded vehicles. Severe rain causes damage, creating potholes along highways. The thickness of the carriageway is thin without considering the road and speed of vehicles, and the drainage systems are poor on several highways. Mostly accidents are happening due to uncovered drainage along the roadside. The government and Roads Department should be concerned about those technical faults and apply new methodology to construct good highways. In recent years, new technology has been developed that provide top mix permeable concrete, which absorbs rainwater directly, and minimises the formation of potholes. Likewise, all drainage systems should be covered with a cover slab, which can adequately resist the thrust of vehicles. For economy, engineers should design the carriageway separately for each lane, observing the flow of traffic, gradient of road and drainage system. This will make maintenance of roads less expensive.
Management system and coordination are important factors in minimising severe technical faults in project. Likewise better supervision, quality of material and duration of construction are effective parts in implementing innovative and good projects. Sometimes, lack of coordination among the contractors, designers and skilled manpower will lead to severe technical faults.
Conclusively, low bid projects should be totally minimised and various innovative trainings should be held in various places of our country for the designers, contractors, engineers and unskilled manpower to enhance their ability to complete projects successfully.
The authors are teachers in engineering