Improving Construction Efficiency through CEI

Improving Construction Efficiency through CEI
We interview Virgil Rook, CDM Smith's Construc­tion/CEI practice leader.

When schedule, cost and quality are the line, state and local trans­porta­tion agencies can rely on con­struc­tion en­gi­neer­ing and in­spec­tion—or CEI—service providers to make sure projects are kept on track and built ac­cord­ing to plan. Virgil Rook, CDM Smith Construction/CEI practice leader, talks about the role CEI plays on trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture projects big and small.


What tasks is a CEI con­sul­tant typ­i­cally re­spon­si­ble for handling?

A CEI provider’s scope may vary. It can involve ordinary reviews of con­trac­tor com­pli­ance with federal em­ploy­ment and wage laws (such as Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity and Davis-Bacon) or more com­pli­cated tasks such as complete con­struc­tion man­age­ment of a project and ad­min­is­tra­tion of the contract. Other CEI ac­tiv­i­ties gen­er­ally seen on projects include document control and man­age­ment, con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als sampling and testing, con­struc­tion schedule reviews, project man­age­ment and utility co­or­di­na­tion. The extent of services depends on the client’s needs and re­sources.

Some state agencies only need in­spec­tion services. In those cases, CEI con­sul­tants act as an ex­ten­sion of staff, per­form­ing the role of in­spec­tor along­side the client’s onsite field engineers. Other agencies may entrust CEI providers to in­ter­pret plans and spec­i­fi­ca­tions, execute con­struc­tion change orders to correct issues on their behalf and to keep the schedule on target. Many mu­nic­i­pal clients do not require in­spec­tion services but look to their CEI con­sul­tant for com­pli­ance support if their project includes federal funding.


How critical is CEI’s role in de­liv­er­ing trans­porta­tion projects in ac­cor­dance with ex­pec­ta­tions and schedule?

In­spec­tors are, ul­ti­mately, the last entity a client is dealing with on a project. They are charged with ver­i­fy­ing the project is being built and closed out cor­rectly by the con­trac­tor, ac­cord­ing to the client’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions. This fact is critically important, because clients are ex­pect­ing their projects have been con­structed properly to avoid future main­te­nance and safety problems.

Inspectors are charged with verifying the project is being built and closed out correctly by the contractor, according to the client's specifications.
Virgil Rook, CDM Smith Vice President and Transportation CEI Director

Ad­vanc­ing the schedule is another sig­nif­i­cant function of CEI. Clients face immense public pressure to complete projects on time and budget, while min­i­miz­ing the burden on the trav­el­ing public and tax­pay­ers. If in­spec­tors can help the con­trac­tor expedite the job (while main­tain­ing com­pli­ance and meeting re­quire­ments), it is always better for the client.

While chal­lenges are bound to arise every day on con­struc­tion sites, in­spec­tors can keep projects ad­vanc­ing by ini­ti­at­ing timely in­spec­tions, sharing in­de­pen­dent ob­ser­va­tions on con­struc­tion methods and com­mu­ni­cat­ing po­ten­tial site issues promptly and ac­cu­rately to es­tab­lish an en­vi­ron­ment of trust and respect between the client, con­trac­tors and en­gi­neers. Ul­ti­mately, the best CEI is the most agile, ready and willing to respond to and resolve issues.


Looking back through your career, how can CEI con­tribute to worksite safety—for both project staff and the driving public?

While CEI con­sul­tants are often not con­trac­tu­ally re­spon­si­ble for a con­trac­tor’s safety program or traffic control, good inspectors will urge the contractor to adhere to their safety plan. ‘Is your staff fol­low­ing Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­to­cols? Is your staff wearing hardhats, vests and other required gear? Have you put up ap­pro­pri­ate bar­ri­cades to keep drivers safe from con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties?’ If the safety plan is not being followed, CEI in­spec­tors can step in and put a halt to work.

Safety is a major concern for me per­son­ally. If I see an issue, I am going to halt con­struc­tion until it is resolved. The thing I always say—and what I instill in our CEI staff—is how im­por­tant it is to do every­thing in your power as an in­spec­tion pro­fes­sional so that everyone gets to go home to their families at night, safe and sound.

How will in­spec­tors help trans­porta­tion agencies realize greater efficiency in the future?

Efficiency is huge. If more can be done with one person, then clients save money. In recent years, tech­nol­ogy has created many efficiency opportunities—from smart phones and tablets, which can improve onsite com­mu­ni­ca­tion and doc­u­men­ta­tion; to drones, which are being in­ves­ti­gated for their utility in bridge in­spec­tions and other con­struc­tion-related tasks. CEI in­spec­tors who stay up to date on new tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments will be able bring them to bear for agencies.

In­spec­tors can also help clients be more efficient through planning. For example, if a local gov­ern­ment wants to resur­face all of its roads, CEI staff can assist them in in­spect­ing the roads and iden­ti­fy­ing those that will fail in the near term. By lever­ag­ing CEI and asset man­age­ment ex­per­tise, agencies will be better po­si­tioned to pri­or­i­tize im­prove­ments while bal­anc­ing limited funding and re­sources.

Virgil Rook Virgil Rook
Clients expect their projects to be constructed properly to avoid future maintenance and safety problems. Our mission is to ensure that happens.

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