Awareness In Building Innovative Highways In Malaysia Construction Essay

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The need to build new highways and infrastructures, maintain existing roads and preserve resources has led to innovations in the analytical techniques and technological processes that can be incorporated in all phases of highway design, construction, maintenance and rehabilitation. The direction of the argument is to demonstrate that improving construction performance can take a number of paths. There is an underlying assertion that improving construction performance need not be the outcome of primarily pursuing procurement solutions. Innovative construction should produce a quality product which meets capital cost, lifecycle cost and time expectation as well as client and end user's satisfaction requirements. These practices can either shorten overall construction time or make it possible to do work during short term closures especially during off-peak periods. In Malaysia, the innovative construction concept in highway projects can change the industry paradigm and improve the efficiency of the construction process. The perceptions from Malaysian construction players foresee that innovative construction in highway projects is needed in our local construction sector. This is a pilot study that surveys the awareness of local construction players regarding to the innovative highway construction.

Keywords: innovative construction, highway construction

INTRODUCTION

Over the past few years, the construction industry in Malaysia has been overwhelmed by initiatives and programmes for reform. The direction of the argument is to demonstrate that improving construction performance can take a number of paths. There is an underlying assertion that improving construction performance need not be the outcome of primarily pursuing procurement solutions. A great deal of attention has been given to the drive towards improving construction performance through procurement and partnering (Cox and Townsend, 1998). It also includes innovative construction. Innovation in construction can be spearheaded by occur through research and development in construction materials, methods, equipment, new design concepts, just in time methods in procurement integrated project management, project delivery system and available readymade products (Aboobucker, 2009).

Highway sector is categorized as one of the most conservative segment of the construction industry in Malaysia. However, there have been a number of significant changes in recent years for the highway projects, such as the implementation of innovations in highway construction. It has been very challenging for engineers, contractors as well as client to implement and practice innovations in highway projects. The aging of the road infrastructures and the increases in traffic volumes have pushed the transportation sector to build more efficient highways in recent years. Therefore, there is a need to develop innovative and rapid highway construction method due to societal demands of high quality roads to be put in place as quickly as possible (Beceric, 2005; FEHRL, 2008). Besides, the highway maintenance and rehabilitation has to be fast to save time and money as well as to increase the safety of workers, road users and the public. In order to accomplish this, the mind sets of the construction players have to pursue innovative in construction methods that would allow the work to be completed in a quality manner and in a timeframe that will have a minimal impact on the travelling public.

The main difference between conventional and innovative highway construction is as shown in the following figure. Generally, conventional construction approach use control and mechanism to execute the construction task meanwhile in innovative construction approach, the innovative method is use and at the same time, the construction players gain knowledge and learns in executing the construction task.

Control

Knowledge Gain/ Learn

Input

Construction

Task

Output

Input

Construction

Task

Output

Mechanism

Innovative Method

Conventional Approach

Innovative Approach

Figure 1: Conventional and Innovative Approach in Construction

There are many advantages to use innovative construction methods in highway projects. By reducing construction time, the fast track innovative methods minimize delays, mitigate congestion, save money for the transportation agencies and the road users, and improve the safety of the motorists and the workers, without sacrificing the quality. Since significant costs are imposed on the public during highway construction, including driver delay and disruption to local businesses; as a result, political and public pressures mount for highway construction projects to become more efficient and require less time to complete.

While pressures to expedite highway construction increase, the public also reasonably expects high quality new roads to withstand decades of highway activity. Innovative construction methods provide a significant opportunity to reduce the congestion associated with the highway projects. These methods will lessen project durations while retaining the necessary quality. Opportunities for innovative methods are numerous. For example, pre-cast or modularization, alternative contracting strategies, and project incentives have shown that alternative methods can work. Although it may be uncertain which method to utilize on a specific project, some methods are immediately employable on many projects.

Objective of the Study

The objective of this study is to identify the awareness of the construction players in Malaysia about innovations in highway construction and suggest the innovation construction method that can be implemented for the highway project in Malaysia. As there have been innovations within the highway construction industry, the authors wanted to gain insight into what construction professional felt about the issue of innovation. The study sought specific opinion about current state of innovation within the highway construction industry.

INNOVATIVE HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION

Innovative construction is defined as construction involves the use of special materials or methods (Montana Department of Transportation, 2009). By all means, innovative construction should produce a quality product which meets capital cost, life cycle cost and time expectation as well as client satisfaction requirements. Innovative construction is due to market driven innovation (Rontakokko, 2007). It is a new process with a new organizational structure to create a new concept for success in the market. As this is a rapidly evolving area, newly emerging techniques and materials must continuously been develop. As mention before, in highway construction, innovations in construction involve the use of special materials or techniques that reduce construction time, saving costs, minimize or mitigate the effect of traffic congestion and increase safety.

There are many advantages from innovative highway construction which includes expediting construction and reconstruction project as many innovations are proven successful worldwide. The advantages from awareness in innovative highway construction can improve many aspects such as meeting road users' requirement, optimum life cycle and operational costs, eliminate waste in project, better management in supply chain, develop learning cultures in projects, create better health and safety records and move away from adversarial approaches between the industry and client.

Although it may be uncertain which innovative method to utilize on a specific highway project, some methods (Federal Highway Administration, 2010) can be implemented as an innovative construction includes, construction analysis for pavement rehabilitation strategies, design-build contracts, full road closure, high-performance steel bridges, innovative contracting, intelligent compaction, intelligent transportation systems, light weight deflectometer, movable barriers in work zones, prefabricated bridge elements and systems, precast concrete pavement systems, self-consolidating concrete, silica fume in high-performance concrete, self-propelled modular transporters, whitetopping and work zone safety and traffic flow initiatives.

Generally, innovations in highway construction can be categorized to 12 categories (Goodrum et. al, 2005), automation equipment/ construction technology, information technology, innovative contracting, innovative field methods, innovative management, innovative materials, innovative planning and design phase, innovative software/ databases, innovative financing, public awareness/ increased awareness, relocation of utilities and work zone traffic control. However, the authors felt that innovations in highway construction can be categorized into 4 major categories, which is innovative in planning and design, innovative in contracting, innovative in construction management and innovative in construction materials and technology.

Innovative in Planning and Design

Innovative in planning and design including establishing utility corridors and systematically locates the facilities prior before the construction, use comprehensive standard tools to standardize planning, develop traffic control plans through partnering with the transport department and file organization, use windowed milestone and etc. Besides, innovation in planning and design including employing engineers with experience both in highway design and highway construction as this may benefits the highway construction project as designers with the ability to think like contractors can help to speed up the projects and they will have the ability to analyze the project constraints and resources.

Innovative in Contracting

The traditional approach to contracting for highway construction projects has been design-bid-build (Hancher, 2000). Under this approach, projects are awarded to the qualified bidder with the lowest total price, pay items are established on a unit price basis, the specifications for highway projects are strict method specifications, and the role of the owner or agent is to inspect. Under innovative in contracting, team concept is establish whereby the right of way, utility and design team should coordinate issues and needs as early as possible and limit the number of people contacting with the property owner and frequently coordinate, cooperate and communicate between each party. New contract such as design-build with bridging, turnkey, warranty, maintain, privatization approaches shall be adopted. Besides, a big project can be packaged into multi-primes approach to contracting in order to expedite the construction process.

Innovative in Construction Management

Innovative in construction management include designated a single individual as project manager from early planning to completion of the highway construction, packaged multi-primes approach to contracting, exploit web-based team collaboration and project management system, use of windowed milestone, use pilot demonstration project for introducing new methods for expediting schedules, train selected field personnel in scheduling methods and claims and study optimal approaches to crew shifts and scheduling.

Innovative in Construction Materials and Technology

Innovation in construction materials including selection of appropriate pavement materials such as using quick curing concrete, in-place recycling, precast components, geosynthetic-reinforced or piled supported earth platforms for embankments, retaining walls and storage tanks constructed on soft soils and etc. Geosynthetic or pile supported earth platforms for embankment on soft soils is consider as the most frequent innovative construction materials in soil strengthening (Goodrum et. al, 2005). Other innovative field methods are using pre-stressed concrete panels for expediting pavement construction, compaction using automatic vibration control system, micro sensor for perform faster inspection and minimize field fabrication effort.

Conventional ground improvement method such as stabilization with lime, cement or combination of lime and cement are quite popular in highway construction. However, the constraints of this method are problem associated in attaining homogeneity of soil stabilizer mix in the field. Besides, the stabilization techniques needs appropriate training and capacity building of field engineers. Under innovative construction, ground improvement can be carry out by using waste material such as rice husk ash, fly ash and etc. Many studies have shown that the use of waste material has great impact in soil stabilization especially in clayey soil (Madhavi et.al., 2006) as these waste materials can improve the Atterberg limits and increase the unconfined compressive strength.

Innovation in ground improvement also includes the use of soil stabilization enzymes such as Fujibeton (inorganic polymer), Terrazyme (bio-enzyme product) and Renolith (polymer based chemical). Use of these products can minimize or eliminate the use of aggregates. The use of jute geo-textile can strengthens the soil subgrade as it act as a separation layer between subgrade and subbase and prevent intermixing of the two layers. It also prevents migration of fines to the subgrade. A study in India has shown that the use of jute geo-textile can save 12% (Madhavi et.al., 2006) of road construction cost. Soil stabilization using polymer such as nanostab can reduce the construction duration as well as reducing the emission of carbon dioxides during the construction period as compared to conventional method.

Innovation in construction technology include carried out maturity testing, perform faster inspection and construction monitoring, use automated construction technology such as GPS, use of innovative paver, computer integrated road compactor, onboard compacting meter, automatic vibration control system and etc.

METHODOLOGY

Since this is a pilot study on the awareness of the construction players about innovations in highway construction in Malaysia, the survey was conducted using the web-base questionnaires. Respondents were asked general demographic questions regarding their employment status, their professional within the industry in order to diversity the sample within the construction industry. A total of 135 emails were sent to those with civil engineering background, especially those who involves in the highway construction industry. Besides, a link of the survey questionnaires was also published in facebook to obtain some opinions from the general public. There are 5 basic questions in the questionnaires that seek the opinions of the respondents about the innovative highway construction and only completed and filtered responses were analyzed in this study.

FINDINGS

A total of 35 respondents' opinions were taken in this pilot study whereby these respondents have completed all the questionnaires. 91% of the respondents are employed and 9% of them are self-employed. The respondents serves in various sectors, which includes construction (23%), consultancy (28%), surveying (3%), education (26%), engineering (6%), research and development (6%) and others (8%). Others sectors includes sales and property development. The followings table shows the profession of the respondent.

Table 2: Respondents' Profession

Profession

Number

Profession

Number

Project Director

0

Supervisor

3

Project Manager

5

Lab technician

0

Lead Engineer

0

Surveyor

1

Design Engineer

4

Contract Manager

1

Assistant Engineer

1

Architect

0

Chief Resident Engineer

1

Lecturer

9

Resident Engineer

1

Researcher

0

Assistant Resident Engineer

2

Other

(Student/ Sales Executive)

4

Clerk of Work

3

The authors believed that the main driver of innovation in highway construction includes cost efficiency, sustainability, client's demands, time constraints, technology, health and safety, legislation, environment, global competition and end user. The following table shows the respondents points of view regarding the main driver of innovations in highway construction. Overall, majority of the respondents agree that the items stated by the authors are the main driver of innovations in highway construction. More than 70% of the respondents agree and strongly agree that cost efficiency and environment factor are the two main drivers of innovation in highway construction in Malaysia. 51% of the respondents' strongly agree that health and safety is the main driver of innovation in highway construction. However, approximate one-third of the respondents stayed neutral on client demands' factor and 20% of them disagree and strongly disagree that end user is the main driver of innovation in highway construction.

Table 3: Respondents' Opinion on Main Driver of Innovation in Highway Construction

Opinion

Item

Strongly disagree

Disagree

Slightly disagree

Neutral

Slightly agree

Agree

Strongly agree

Cost Efficiency

2

2

0

3

3

11

14

Sustainability

2

2

3

0

5

12

11

Client's Demands

2

2

0

11

0

9

11

Time Constraints

2

0

5

6

2

9

11

Technology

0

3

2

2

6

8

14

Health and Safety

2

2

3

5

0

5

18

Legislation

2

3

2

6

6

9

7

Environment

3

3

2

0

2

15

10

Global Competition

3

3

2

5

5

9

8

End User

5

2

2

3

2

7

14

The respondents were also surveyed whether they have come across with any of the innovative in highway construction as shown.

Table 4: Respondents' Opinion

Have you come across any of the following before?

Yes

No

Global positioning system

29

6

Automated vibratory compactor

16

19

Innovative paver

17

18

Microsensor

14

21

Intelligent monitoring software

14

21

E-communication

24

11

Web-base team collaboration

13

22

Performance related specifications

24

11

Pre-stressed concrete

30

5

Jute geo-textile

13

22

Geosynthetic

22

13

Pile support platform

24

11

Soil stabilization enzymes

10

25

Soil stabilization polymer

12

13

Post-tension precast element of bridges

27

8

Innovative management philosophy

13

22

Cold in-place recycling

8

27

Cold in-plant recycling

8

27

Hot in-place recycling

14

21

Modified asphalt

24

11

Intelligent Transportation System

25

10

Quick curing concrete

29

6

Composite bridges

22

13

The items mentioned in the above table are some of the innovations in equipment, information technology, methods and materials that had proven successful to be used in innovative highway construction worldwide. Overall, majority of the construction players in Malaysia had never come across about the equipment (i.e. automated vibratory compactor, innovative paver, and microsensor) information technology (i.e. web-base team collaboration), methods (i.e. jute geo-textile, cold in-place recycling, cold in-plant recycling) and materials (i.e. soil stabilization enzymes) that were proven successful worldwide. When individual responses were analyzed, those whom come across with the innovations in equipment, methods and materials are mostly those involve directly in the construction sector. This shows that most of the professionals from other sector (i.e. consultancy and education) are lack of awareness on the new technology, materials and methods available worldwide that can help to increase the efficiency in highway construction in Malaysia.

The respondents were also surveyed whether they practice any of the innovative in highway construction as shown.

Table 5: Respondents' Opinion

Do you practice any of the following in any of your highway construction job?

Yes

No

Use global positioning system

12

23

Use automated vibratory compactor

7

28

Use Innovative paver

7

28

Use microsensor

6

29

Use other new equipment

9

26

Use Intelligent monitoring software

6

29

Use E-communication

9

26

Use Web-base team collaboration

2

33

Use other information technology

11

24

Establishing clear ROW, utility and design team

12

23

Include incentive and disincentive in design and build contract

4

31

Develop traffic control plan through partnering site and design team

9

26

Facilitate innovative and equitable contracting environment

4

31

Use performance related specifications

13

22

Shorter the construction time by full closure of roadway

16

19

Perform faster inspection and monitoring

10

25

Use pre-stressed concrete

22

13

Use jute geo-textile/ geosynthetic/ pile support platform/ soil stabilization enzymes/ soil stabilization polymer

12

23

Use post-tension in precast element of bridges to provide durability and expediting the construction process

18

17

Use innovative management philosophy

4

31

Use waste/ recycling material for pavement construction

10

25

Use modified asphalt material for pavement construction

8

27

Use the application of Intelligent Transportation System

7

28

Use quick curing concrete

15

20

Use composite bridges with light weight composite

11

24

The respondents' responses shows that almost all of the innovative in equipment, information technology, methods and materials for highway construction were not practice in Malaysia except for the pre-stressed concrete and post-tension precast bridge elements. When comparing table 4 and table 5, the respondents' responses has gave an idea that some of the Malaysia's construction players are aware of the new equipment, information technology, methods and materials, however, not many of them has practice to use those new equipment, information technology, methods and materials in their highway construction projects. There are many reasons behind these. The authors can foresee that cost or budget may be one of the most important factor that discourage the construction players to practice innovations as most of the new equipment and technology are high in initial cost. Besides, most of the new equipment and technology required training prior to operation that may discourage Malaysia's construction players. Another discourage is that the lack of research and development in the innovative highway construction industry in Malaysia.

The respondents were also surveyed on their opinions about how important is innovation in highway construction. Only 3% of the respondents felt that innovation is not important. 29% and 68% of the respondents felt that innovation is important and very important respectively.

Last but not least, the respondents were asked how creativity or innovation is encouraged in the highway construction industry.

Figure 7: Method to Encourage Innovation in Highway Construction

31% of the respondents believed that government schemes can encourage innovative in highway construction. This is followed grants or funding (23%). None of the respondents chose awards as they do not believe awards can encourage innovations in highway construction. Other method includes healthy engineering works without the interference from client and authority that will encourage innovations in highway construction.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

This pilot study gave an idea on the awareness of the construction players about innovative highway construction in Malaysia. Generally, the sample size of the survey is small but it is sufficient as this is only a preliminary study.

Based on the survey, almost all respondents feel that innovations in highway construction sector are important or very important. However, looking into the new equipment, materials, method and technology use in innovative highway construction, it is seems that most of the Malaysian construction players are unaware about the innovations that can be use to enhance the highway construction projects. Besides, they are not ready to adopt or practice innovative highway construction in their current or past highway construction projects. This may be due to constraints in budget and time, lack of information and government policies to encourage innovative practices. Another factor could be the client is doubtful about the return of investments if they apply innovative solutions in their projects.

The construction players shall always update themselves with the latest development of the highway construction industry in order for them to develop themselves and build up their professional skills. They should always attend seminars, forums, conferences, trainings and involves in engineering activities which can help them to develop their engineering skills so that they are always aware about the current development of the highway construction industry.

Based on this survey, the government schemes seem to be the greatest force in encouraging innovations in highway construction. Therefore, the government department such as Malaysian Highway Authority and the Public Works Department can take few paths to encourage the construction players to develop innovative highway construction method by introducing new construction technology in new highway projects, rewarding the highway designers for using creativity and innovations in the highway design, rewarding the contractors for early completion in government projects and etc. The government can also invite overseas contractors that practice innovations in highway construction in special projects so that local contractors will have the opportunity to learn from them.

Besides, the engineering association such as the Institute of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) can introduce innovative highway construction materials, technology, equipment and methods through their monthly bulletin. IEM can also organize talks, seminars, workshops and provide trainings to their members regarding the innovations in highway construction projects. IEM can create a platform to nurture and progress certain ideas from within the industry regarding to innovations in highway construction and to widen awareness of the local construction players. The institute can encourage greater communication of innovation, where people can share their ideas with other industry professionals in order to find out what technology is actually available.

Education and training also have a serious role to play as a springboard for creativity and innovation in highway construction. The creative thinking through lifelong learning and training can improve the awareness of the local construction players. It is believes that investing in innovation would help tackle other issues within the highway construction industry like skills shortages. If the industry invests in developing new technologies it could increase productivity and create greater efficiencies.

This pilot study can be expanded to a detailed survey. However, more questionnaires shall be included in order to obtain a wider view or opinions regarding to the awareness of the local construction players about innovations in highway construction. One of the important questions is the age or number of years that the construction players had involves in their profession as this factor also greatly affect the survey. Last but not least, the respondent shall be survey when they practice innovative highway construction whether in a government project or private project or maybe they practice it in overseas project. There are still many queries as this pilot study is only a stepping stone for the authors to carry out a better and more detailed survey.

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