CM at-Risk Is Underrated

As in many of your past headlines, ENR's Project Delivery Issue from this past summer once again leads a story with a spin that implies the dominance of design-build as a delivery method. No one questions the fact that design-build continues to increase in popularity. However, as demonstrated by your own data, the total revenue of work performed with CM at-risk actually surpassed design-build, starting in 2003.

In responding to the 2005 CMAA/ FMI Survey of Owners, in particular to the question, "Which delivery method do you believe offers the best value, whether or not you have used this method," the majority of owners answered CM at-risk. CM at-risk is probably the least understood project delivery method. As the amount of owners who chose "other" to this question (over 10%) highlights, without a well understood definition, more owners are probably using CM at-risk but not referring to it as such.

Based on your charts in the article, which includes ranking firms by project delivery approach, total CM at-risk revenue, for the third year in a row, is higher than design-build, $63 billion for CM at-risk versus $58 billion for Design-Build. I would maintain that if you included all the work that's getting done CM at-risk, but not called CM at-risk, this difference is even greater. When will ENR recognize this trend?

Bureaucracy Wins

The collapse of plans for the proposed Dulles Metrorail tunnel under Tyson's Corner represents the triumph of bureaucracy and politics over science and engineering. Sound analysis and informed judgment fell at the hands of funding cycles, environmental studies, FTA regulations and intergovernmental agreements.

It is a tragedy that we as a society have become prisoners of bureaucratic process and compliance, where acquiescence and conformance trump thoughtful and logical decisionmaking. Our profession must devote itself as much to correcting the wrongheaded extremes in administrative compliance as to advancing engineering itself.

Galvanizing Details

An article about the failure of a television antenna quotes the owner as saying that the fault with the antenna is "defective galvanizing". The article says that the antenna was immersed in the galvanizing tank for too long and this allowed the galvanizing material to "get behind the welds."

There is no metallurgical examination that can determine the length of time a steel article is immersed in a zinc bath. The zinc coating development on hot-dip galvanized steel is a diffusion process mixing zinc metal from the bath with iron from the steel. The weight of the steel part and size of the galvanizing bath determine how long the part needs to be in the tank to create a complete coating.

Additionally, zinc cannot diffuse or flow under a weld joint since the viscosity of zinc is very low in the molten state. In the heat-affected zone of the weld there may be small cracks due to the weld procedures. Zinc could be detected in these cracks but the cause of cracking is not galvanizing but the weld procedures.

The galvanizing process is performed in a bath of molten zinc at 850°F where the stresses in the materials tend to be slightly relieved by the temperature and crack initiation is highly unlikely.

Clean Fuels, Now

I am writing in response to the chicken little rhetoric in, "Costs Still Cloud Diesel Truck Cleanup". How odd it is that we can't afford clean diesel vehicles when our customers and competitors in Europe have been driving them for nearly a decade. The reason it will cost us more, temporarily, is that we have so studiously and bullheadedly avoided this conversion to avoid inconveniencing our refinery masters.

It's been a stupid and costly policy judgment by an oil industry-dominated government in this administration and the last. American industry and the American public need to bite the bullet of temporarily increased prices and make this conversion now.

The article should have at least mentioned why the Europeans have converted and why we should, the high cost of air pollution on public health, and the contributions of that pollution to global warming. These long-term costs far exceed costs to manufacturers, contractors and fleet managers and their customers (all of us). We need to quit whining and make smart long-term decisions. This switch isn't going to wreck our economy anymore than did $3.00 per gallon gasoline.