Feature Stories

Early Alignment of Engineering and Construction Planning

view of construction site through chain link fence with black mesh covering


July 15, 2014

Construction projects often fail because engineering planning isn't optimized to support field execution. Two CAEE researchers recently completed a long-term study to help provide a more comprehensive approach to project planning in the industrial sector. Their findings are expected improve front-end engineering and construction planning practices.

William O'Brien and Fernanda Leite served as academic leads on "Advanced Work Packaging: Design through Workface Execution," funded by the Construction Industry Institute (CII).  The Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA), a collaborative partner in the research, contributing data from its members’ implementations of workface planning.

Advanced work packaging (AWP) is a comprehensive approach to project planning and execution that cuts across the project lifecycle. It is directed at better integration of work packaging with engineering, procurement, construction, and project controls to deliver to the field in a timely manner.

During the past five years, the engineering terms reviewed case studies, collected best practices and standardized a model for implementing early planning techniques. This model, together with supporting definitions, assessment tools, and examples of leading industry practice, represents a logical synthesis of best practices across a range of work packaging activities.

O'Brien, who served as a principal investigator for the CII study, says "Advanced work packaging adds extra discipline in the front-end planning phase to force you to very carefully think through your path of construction and your execution planning."   

three thumbnails of building skeleton diagram

Detailed planning early in the process to reduce or eliminate incomplete portions is critical. According to O'Brien says "Managing the design process to support construction execution is where the money is spent and that's where you can win or lose a project."

"While many of these techniques are not unfamiliar to good practice, we offer a model to formalize that good practice and make sure it happens effectively," he says.

Leite led the effort of field work packaging (Installation Work Packages - IWP), which heavily relies on 3D modeling to break the project down into IWPs, as well as contractual strategies to support advanced work packaging.

The results showed that teams using AWP techniques have realized a 25% improvement in productivity, a 10% reduction in total installed cost and better safety performance on projects. Teams have claimed improvements in quality and better predictability of schedule and cost.

Overview of IR272-2 – Advanced Work Packaging, Version 3.0 from CII