Risk management in construction

The risk landscape within the UK construction and civil engineering sectors has seen a shift away from project designers and architects to contractors. These contractors are already operating within a tightly regulated environment and the last thing they need is to add more risk to the project.

One of the primary sources of risk on any project is uncertainty. Nobody likes surprises when it comes unexpected or unforeseen ground condition, so how can contractors minimise this risk? The answer is simple, get the geotechnics right from the start.

Geotechnical experts play an incredibly important role in any major development project. Part geologist, part civil engineer, they are all about mitigating risk. Phased site investigations, from desk-based research to site materials testing, can be used to validate any preconceptions you may have about the site.

However, testing shouldn’t really be carried out with an agenda in mind. If you are looking hard enough for a particular answer, the chances are you’ll find it. Engaging with a geotechnical consultant that has no horse in the race is a good way to ensure an objective assessment of the site.

The aim is to provide a 360-degree view of the site, a conceptual model of how you would expect the land to behave. Call it due diligence, call it best-practice. It’s basically just common sense.

Detailed desk research can shine a light on previous site use in a brown field development, going back decades. This can provide vital insight into likely ground contaminants, which will have an impact on remediation works and re-use of site claimed materials.

Contaminated land surveys generally deal with surface contaminants. If you’re digging deeper, you leave the world of environmental and enter the world of geotechnical. If your testing team can offer both, then it makes sense to use them for both.

Communication is key at every stage of a development, but none more so than before you break ground. Whilst the geotechnical testing phase is generally a short one (typically taking less than a month) and comprises less than 1% of the overall project cost, getting it wrong can have serious implications for both project timelines and budgets.

Site investigation works involve a large degree of crossover between environmental and geotechnical; though you are digging for different reasons, so samples need to be taken independently.

When you are choosing a testing partner, make sure they can add value to the process-driven elements of the project. If desk research suggests something, they should be prepared to go beyond what is specified to make sure of the results.

Also, get them involved earlier in the process – even to the point of pre-acquisition. Adopt a risk-management approach to testing, not a cost-management one. After all, forewarned is forearmed.

If you’d like to know more about what’s involved in phased site investigations, or would like to consult with one of our geotechnical specialists, email us on enquiries@cet-uk.com or call now on 0343 227 2362.