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Power Plant Construction Management

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T his book, the second edition of the original Power Plant Construction Management: A Survival Guidehas been written to update and upgrade its predecessor. Almost a decade has passed since the first edition. A lot has transpired, and sometimes re-transpired, during those years.

 As discussed in more detail in the introduction, since the first edition was published the construction industry in general, and the power plant construction industry in particular, have had several ups and several downs. 

The construction industry went through major shifts in the availability and cost of labor, supervision, equipment, and materials. It has started to embrace advanced technology, tools, and processes made available with the exponential advance of computers (especially their downsizing) and computing power, intelligent cell phones, and the Internet.

 And during this same period, the power plant industry has seen shifts to and from coal-fired generation, gas-fired generation, solar, wind, nuclear, and other renewables. In other words, the only constant during this intervening decade has been change. 

As was the case for this book’s first edition, this second edition has also been written to provide economic guidance and support to those involved in the management of power plant construction activities, whether these activities are the building of a new plant or the rebuilding, repowering, or modification of existing components. 

This book is not intended to be a technical “how to” manual on performing construction work, on selecting the mechanical tools and equipment for executing the construction activities, or on directing the day-to-day activities of the work. Instead, this edition, just like its predecessor, is intended to provide a stimulus to perform these tasks in a cost effective manner—to think outside of the box—to think about the financial stakeholders of the project/s at hand. 

In other words, this book will not help the reader to select the right crane for a particular lifting task, but it will offer the reader support in deciding whether using a crane in the first place is the most economic thing to do.

 Although the book title and its supporting examples are specifically power plant oriented, the fundamental theories and practices discussed within are applicable to any construction endeavor, from power plant construction to road building, from refinery construction to chemical process plant expansions, and for commercial and municipal projects. 

The underlying premise is that the construction activities being undertaken are being performed for the ultimate benefit of the owner/stakeholder, and this owner/stakeholder expects a return for investing in this endeavor. Still today, too many projects, within and outside of the power plant industry, do not meet the expectations of their stakeholders from an economic perspective. 

Some of the reasons for this can be traced back to events that preceded the start of site activities, and for this reason this second edition includes information and provides examples of what to do, and not to do, early in the project cycle. It goes into the initial decision-making process of whether a project should even be undertaken from a construction risk point of view. It covers the development and understanding of construction specifications. And it drives deep into the budgeting and estimating phase of preparing for a construction project.

 The first edition only covered this material from a 30,000-foot level. As pointed out by many of the contributors to this book, maintaining awareness of the finances of the site construction activities is extremely important, but being able to predict and correspondingly impact the outcome, early during the project, is even more crucial. As one contributor, John Long, who is now retired from Constellation Energy, put it, “Surprises are not acceptable.” In other words, the outcome may be inevitable, but it is crucial to be able to predict this early on; the owner/stakeholder must be afforded the opportunity to mitigate. The first edition was written to provide support for several different circles.

 First, it was a treatise on managing the economics of power plant construction, intended to be useful for the site superintendent to get from today to tomorrow. Second, it was intended for the site general manager to direct his staff in performing their duties in a coordinated and focused manner. But third, it was also written to provide the management of all site personnel a primer on what to expect from their charges and how to offer them ideas and support. 

The first edition book provides detailed formats for accomplishing many of the tasks of performing construction management, and it offers examples of how to use these formats in various settings. This second edition does the same, even using some of the same language and examples, but it also enhances the information in the first edition by extending the circles to include much more of the pre-site work. Both are designed to be useful in teaching environments.