Toward Cost Control

The article "Mega Projects Need More Study Up Front To Avoid Cost Overruns" was interesting but nothing new (ENR 7/15 p. 11). It doesn't take a brain surgeon to know that a definitive project scope of work and competent cost estimate, taking into account all variables and preferably performed by a cost engineer or quantity surveyor, are part of the solution.

Another factor not mentioned is the practice of owners predominantly awarding the contract(s) to the lowest bidder and not the right bidder. A serious analysis of all bids and a post-bid interview with all bidders to determine if they have, in fact, included all items and considered all variables should always be performed before an award.

A review of the project documents for accuracy and a detailed cost estimate by an independent firm before bids are solicited would go a long way to reduce the occurrence of cost overruns. The old adage that an hour in the engineering office can save 10+ hours in the field applies. Don't wait until the contractor finds the problems and subsequently files claims for extras. Also, freeze the project scope of work. Owner representatives often do not realize the cost impact of changes in the scope.

Trade Center Confusion

I couldn't disagree more with the opinion expressed by Glenn Corbett in the viewpoint, "Twin Towers Demanded More" (ENR 7/8 p. 71). Mr. Corbett continues to confuse the purpose and scope of an engineering building performance study with that of a fire investigation. Such an investigation would surely be beyond the purview of ASCE, and would likely fall under the jurisdiction of an agency other than the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Still, such unfounded comparisons should not obscure the value and necessity of building performance assessments to the public and engineering community.

Building performance assessments have a long history of contributing to the design and construction of buildings and other structures that can better withstand extreme events. Typically used following natural disasters, the BPAT procedure was first used to study performance of buildings following a terrorist event at the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Office building in 1995. With teams deployed to study the World Trade Center towers and the surrounding buildings, and the Pentagon, we now have a thorough understanding of unique obstacles encountered when the event is of a criminal or terrorist nature, rather than a natural disaster. We have shared our experience with the House Science Committee to aid in the development of the National Construction Safety Team Act, and have publicly supported its passage.

The ASCE/FEMA World Trade Center Building Performance Study yielded a number of significant findings, recommendations and data that will serve as the basis for continuing investigations led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This includes documenting more than 100 samples of recovered steel that will undergo further analysis. The ASCE/FEMA study is the first step in what will eventually lead to safer buildings. This will be our legacy to those whose lives were cut short on Sept. 11.