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Construction Planners: We Need You!

Hong Kong, as an international city with strong public finance and highly capable professionals, is full of construction engineering marvels. Over the past few years, Hong Kong has built extended railway and public transport networks, cross-harbor bridges and tunnels and sky-high towers. These projects not only create wealth, but they also contribute to quality of life, create job opportunities and improve Hong Kong’s image and reputation as a must-go city for tourists. But are all these projects being build as efficiently as possible and are they being completed on time and on budget?

In the recent months, several major infrastructure projects, such as MTRC Shatin to Central Link (SCL), West Kowloon Cultural District and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, have all been reported as being subject to significant cost and time overruns. The amount of such cost overruns ranges from a few billion HK dollars to over 10 billion HK dollars, and the time length of such delays ranges from a few months to 2 years.  Could these cost overruns have been planned for and mitigated better?

Let’s take the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge as an example. Because of some unusual seabed conditions which happened during the construction phase, the government is now seeking an extra 5 billion dollars or more to build the 50 km bridge. Instead of next year, the estimated opening time for this project is now extended to sometime in 2007 or even later. The delay in the express railway projects also results in an extra cost of 4.6 billion HK dollars.

Time may not always be money, but delay in construction almost always costs money. Completing the project within time and cost budget is one of the most important factors to determine the success of a project. Without doubt, excellent project management is a key factor which leads a project to its success. But prior to that, a clearly defined aspiration, together with a clearly defined completion criteria and construction method is the key for effective project management.

Although some of the more serious delays are claimed to have been caused by ‘unforeseen natural conditions’, most of the delays are in reality caused by avoidable human mistakes that in hindsight often could have been investigated further and dealt with better. With a well-developed and realistic construction plan, based on a full understanding of all the aspects of construction that could cause problems, most construction time and cost overruns could be reduced. As a systematic function, planning is definitely the principal cornerstone for project success.

It could therefore be argued that additional construction planners with a technical engineering background are needed to work within all stakeholder companies in the construction industry both in Hong Kong and worldwide to ensure the construction industry delivers all the benefits to society it promises – but that they are also delivered on time and on budget almost all of the time too.

Rita Chan
Maxim Recruitment 
Hong Kong and Asia Region

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