Advanced Work Packaging and Scaffolding

By Andrew Foy, O3 Solutions VP of AWP & Construction

I can’t count the number of times that I have been sitting in an estimate review meeting for hours, poring over historical data about the various disciplines to agree to accurate rates of placement for key quantities. And then, when we reach the topic of scaffolding, a collective thumb is stuck in the air and a vague percentage is used to estimate hours. (Typically somewhere from 18 to 24% of the hours for the other supported trades).

If this doesn’t sound particularly scientific, that is because it isn’t. Scaffolding is typically treated as an afterthought, a support service (if you will excuse the terrible pun). Very little rigor is placed on effective scaffold planning or estimating in the early project phases.

Then, when the project reaches field execution, the situation gets even worse. Scaffolding becomes a free-for-all, with each discipline making requests of the scaffold team, typically with very little notice or planning. It is every trade for itself, which makes the scaffolding effort entirely reactionary, and often overly complex. Scaffolds are erected for one crew, modified for another crew, removed entirely because they are in the way of a third crew, and then hastily erected again because something was missed or forgotten.

It is no wonder that many projects easily and consistently blow their budgets for scaffolding, and see percentages in excess of 30.

So what role can Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) play in helping to stop this madness? We can look at this in two phases:

  • Early Planning Phase

Much of the benefit of AWP comes from pulling the Construction planning into the early Engineering stages of a project when Construction input can have a meaningful impact on Engineering sequencing and project decisions.

The same concept can be applied to scaffolding. Don’t treat scaffolding as an after-thought. Elevate it to the status of a discipline, in the same way, that we consider pipe, steel, or electrical scope. Put as much thought into planning the scaffolding work as you would do into those other key disciplines.

Hire scaffolding specialists to provide constructability input. You won’t pre-design every scaffold on the project, but you can at least consider the major scaffolds and any design element that might benefit from permanent access considerations (like a ‘dance floor’ platform on a module).

The value in doing this will be the same as having your mechanical or electrical contractor involved early, and the hurdles to overcome will likewise be similar. Most companies don’t want to make early decisions on key contractors, creating an impression that the work will be handed to these contractors when it reaches the field. Instead, consider the option of awarding a “scaffold consulting” contract, with clear language that this in no way guarantees that the ‘consultant’ contractor will be awarded the fieldwork.

The ultimate goal will be to get a reliable plan for the major scaffolds and an estimate for scaffold manhours on the project, which will hopefully be more accurate and lower than the standard ‘thumb in the air’ percentage we often use.

  • Construction Phase

When you move to the field, AWP and Workface Planning principles can be applied to scaffolding:

  • Each Installation Work Package (IWP) that has an access requirement should produce a scaffold request form.
  • These scaffold request forms should be submitted when the IWP is developed, to allow the scaffold planners time to make a coordinated plan.
  • The scaffold requests can be combined (where possible) to create a multi-disciplinary approach to access management.

Doing this will ensure that scaffolding can be planned and managed as efficiently as possible while providing the necessary access to all trades.

Scaffolding needs to be seen as more than just a constraint on an IWP. Given the vast number of hours involved and the significant risk of cost overrun, it should be managed with the same intensity as other disciplines.

For more details about how AWP can be applied to Scaffolding, refer to the CII infographic and report at this link. (Infographic accessible to all. Report for CII members only).

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