Road to substainability paved with better project management

Utah Department of Transportation thinks ahead to cut major highway construction project -- and related carbon emissions -- to two years from three years.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Sometimes, in our rush to find the new latest and greatest what's-it, gadget or piece of software, we forget that acting sustainably isn't something that necessarily requires a whole IT overhaul.

Although it might, potentially, require an overhaul in how your team thinks about approaching certain projects and processes.

Take road projects. These projects aren't supposed to go on forever, although it may sometimes seem that way. And sometimes, they just can't go on that long: like when you're rebuilding roads for the Olympics, like Utah did more than a decade again.

The Utah Department of Transportation, or UDOT, learned long ago that it could improve the efficiency of its highway construction projects and thereby minimize the environmental impact by doing something pretty simple: planning ahead.

The agency has developed a process by which it uses its long-time project management software application, Primavera, to consider how better scheduling might effect the environment in terms of carbon dioxide emissions in particular. UDOT's Primavera software pulls information from in-house applications in Oracle Database and Oracle SOA Suite to help the department assess the environmental impact of different construction work scenarios.

"The software is a tool that we can use to find different scenarios. For example, if we shut down one lane versus two lanes. We look for how to minimize the impact," says Larry Myers, state project controls engineer, construction division, for UDOT.

The example that Oracle and UDOT are touting right now involved a bridge project on a major highway in Salt Lake City. Before even starting the project, the UDOT team studied the impact of various scenarios on the length of the project, resources required, and other factors such as vehicular congestion and pollution. "It's all about how do you go about getting this project done more quickly," Myers says.

Richard Sappe, industry specialist for construction with Oracle, says the construction industry can benefit dramatically by giving all the participants on a particular project better visibility into other phases of the project. That way, installations can be better coordinated and the chances that crews will sit idle are reduced, he says. Another burgeoning trend is the idea that certain pieces of projects can be prefabbed ahead of time and moved into place in large pieces, as was the case with UDOT's aforementioned project.

By assembling the seven bridges on the project, Myers says UDOT was able to slice an entire year off the project: So, instead of taking three years, it took two. This was accomplished by constructing the bridges remotely and then moving them into place at appropriate junctures.

Overall, UDOT figures that by better planning ahead of time, it was able to reduce the contractor-related carbon dioxide emissions associated with the project by more than 20,000 tons. It also cut estimated emissions due to congestion by more than 100,000 tons over the life of the project.

Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos/Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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