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Project Life Cycle Economics_ Cost Estimation, Management and Effectiveness in Construction Projects

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The evolution of Project Management practices up to the last 70–80 years of its history shows the promising level of accomplishment that has been mostly achieved so far in the accurate definition of the degree of efficiency in projects, in cost reduction, in optimal resource allocation, in project breakdown techniques, in the formalization of responsibility assignment, in the critical analysis of variances affecting projects and in project risk management.

 Each of these pieces of the Project Management puzzle has been developed so far by using convenient and accurate techniques. This has been an expeditious way to enable raising Project Management to the rank of a scientific discipline.

Project Management has always been primarily based on planning. Planning is, actually, a daily habit that everyone follows, albeit quite often unconsciously. Daily ‘macro-activities’ are usually composed of a series of ‘micro-activities’ that each one of us accomplishes (for example, home-based tasks before going to work in the morning) in line with a personal choice to spend the least amount of time possible in the completion of each macro-activity. In the majority of cases, then, the specific sequence of micro-activities and their timelines are determined by personal preferences in order to minimize the total duration and, maybe, stay in bed somewhat longer. Essentially, human beings are familiar with planning their own actions every day, sometimes instinctively, in their private lives as well as in professional lives or in social relationships: planning is a strongly natural and individual habit, and is also a primeval practice of men and women everywhere in the world.

In the field of construction projects, thousands of years of history witness the survival of great pieces of work that were completed through the support given by often rudimentary systems of governance. The pyramids of Egypt, which were built more than 45 centuries ago, are a representative example of earliest projects, especially the Pyramid of Cheops, the largest one, which – according to historical sources – took more than 20 years to be completed and is still in good shape today. Certainly, the construction enterprise selected by the Pharaohs had to face a number of key challenges: the procurement of material, composed of gigantic stones, that had to be moved for hundreds of kilometres from the mountain quarries, where they had been cut and flattened, down to the site where they were lifted up to the maximum height of 146 metres with the help of simply designed equipment made of wood, which also came from distant sites. 

On the human side, hundreds of thousands of slaves were engaged in the works, requiring a sound logistic support to ensure the provision of sufficient amounts of food and water; complete personnel changes occurred four times a year, so that at the beginning of every quarter, an enormous number of men had to be moved to the worksite while the survivors of the previous shift were sent back. Therefore, the site manager had to solve a certain number of problems (of which those mentioned above are only a few) every day; this meant that he had to put in place some system – albeit unsophisticated and plain – of operational planning and work advancement control, reflecting an early version of current Project Management systems, as necessary to address these problems. More recently, a similar situation occurred in Athens, where, after the year 500 BC, Phidias successfully managed the efforts related to the construction of the monuments on the Acropolis, the first of which was the Parthenon with its imposing look and its paradigmatic architectural style. Later on, during the third century BC, work on the Great Wall of China was started by connecting individual older pieces, which would be brought to completion no earlier than the fifteenth century AD! Certainly this is the all-time longest project …