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Discuss about the Engineers in various stages of the development and management of the projects.

Background

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the term ethics is defined as the framework that deals with what is good or bad, and governs the conduct on line of the moral duty and obligation (Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2018). Thus, term ethics is concerned with the actions that have the potential to affect the lives of the others in a serious manner. The matters of ethics are a concern for every individual and the group of individuals in the society, including the engineers. As the engineers possess specialised knowledge and skills which have been acquired through an intensive set of study and training, and can only be exercised by them; it is important that engineers assure the public that they are worthy of their trust (Luegenbiehl and Clancy, 2017). Thus, the public lives to an extent are dependent on the engineers. The work explores the various facets and the principles of the engineering ethics with the help of a case study. The case study chosen for the evaluation is popularly known as the “Big Dig” the megaproject based at Boston.

The project Big Dig was based at Boston, and was a Central Artery/ Tunnel Project. It had redirected the principal highway, i.e. the Interstate 93’s Central Artery through the heart of the city to the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel, which was 2.4 km in length (Boateng, Chen and Ogunlana, 2015). There were a number of incidental constructions to the project such as the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, passing over the Charles River, the Ted Williams Tunnel, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The project was basically aimed at reducing the chronic traffic congestion in the region of the Boston because of the intertwined streets and lanes. The project was regarded as the largest ever infrastructure project that was taken in the United States and the largest construction project in the world in terms of the construction within the heart of the major operating city (Greiman, 2013).


The July 10, 2006 witnessed the fail of the project when approximately 26 tons of concrete had fallen on a car travelling through the connector tunnel in the Big Dig tunnel system in Boston.

It is significant to note that the Boston Transportation Planning Review had perceived the idea of the project in the 1970s, and the planning work for the project has started in the year 1982, i.e. more than two decades back from now. As there was no initial standard time set for the completion of the project by the Federal Highway Administration, which led to the completion date of the said project consistently change over time. While the initial completion date of the project was 1998, seeing the complexity and the public interest of the project. The finish date later on deferred to the year of 2001, which accounted for around 20 years from the planning. Not only this, the occurrence of the further changes led to the final completion of the project in the year 2007. The management of time is an important principle in the field of engineering ethics.

Initial Planning and Work

In addition, it must be noted that the year 1997 witnessed the transfer of the responsibility of the management and undertaking of the said mega project via the state legislature to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA). The authority did not possess the required experience to handle the magnitude and the scope of such a project.

The construction within the city meant that the infrastructure would stand on already filled land and not on the consolidated soil, which meant the land for the construction did not had the potential resistance to sustain the weight of the infrastructure (Kassel, 2016). Some of the major causes of failures in addition to the faulty maintenance and the administration of the project were the fault in the design of the projects, selection of the material for the construction, and the errors in the construction activity itself. As depicted by the reports on findings by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the chief reason for the failure of the project was the usage of the anchor epoxy for fastening the concrete panels and the hardware to the tunnel ceiling (Harris Jr, et. al, 2013). It was found in the investigations that the product as distributed by the company Powers Fasteners Inc. had two variations. While one was the Standard Set, the other was the Fast set. The latter type of the epoxy that is the fast set was susceptible to the process of “creep,” which means the deformation of the epoxy, which further allows the pulling free of the support anchors (Hofherr, 2015). Thus, it was concluded by the investigation team that the ceiling tile had fallen because of the occurrence of the above phenomena because of the use of the fast set of epoxy. In addition, the report stated that the construction contractors had failed Gannett Fleming Inc. and the Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff had failed on their responsibilities to account and evaluate for the creep process under the long-term load conditions. The construction tea comprised of engineers should have performed the load tests initially on the adhesives before being used and the regular inspections should have been made of the portal tunnels.

Another significant fact to note is that the structure comprised of a number of the post construction issue such as far-reaching destruction to the fire proofing systems and the steel support system because of the water, about thousands of the leaks in various parts, and the drainage systems being overloaded. The cost overruns were conducted in order to repair the said leaks and damages, which accounted for a major cost of the overall projects (O'Neill, 2014). The same could have been avoided earlier, had the gravel and other debris was removed before the pouring of the concrete. Thus, failure to understand the process is evident in the case.

Design of the Project

The American Society of Civil Engineers was provided with the following inferences and the recommendations from the report of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) (Greiman, 2015).

  • The lack of knowledge on the part of the engineers led to the incident of the collapse, and the engineers must consider the concepts of ethics, safety, and responsibility even more comprehensively in their activities.
  • The engineers are required to be educated on the various types of the materials being used in the construction of the project (Nemeth, 2016).
  • The engineers must in addition must be equipped with the knowledge of the skills and the processes that are being employed in the construction activity.
  • The engineers are required to assess the characteristics of processes like creep. This would be done by the evaluation of whether the material (in this case anchor) used was able to sustain the tensile strength in terms of the load bearing capacity or not.

As stated by the reports of the federal task force, the initial cost of the mega project as determined by the federal officials and the managers was concealed and the overruns were not efficiently estimated (Montero et. al, 2015). The project which was intended to be completed at a cost of $ 13.6 billion, was later on completed after an add on in the costs of about $6 billion, in a period of 10 years. Applying the standards of ethics for the engineers (as described by the federal government), it can be stated that it is the duty of the project directors and engineers to efficiently estimate the cost overruns, to keep the project on schedule, and to arrange the financing for the increased cost (Colby and Sullivan, 2008). The cost escalations are crucial particularly in the cases of the engineering mega projects that take a long time for the completion and implementation of the project (Shane et. al, 2009).

In addition, the environmental assessment of the Big Dig project had stated a range of the complexities for the project and the stakeholders. The stakeholders of this project numbered in thousands, with various interests, positions, influences and the motivations. The multiple government agencies, engineers, managers and other people involvement resulted in a conflict of interests at various stages of the project. The engineers being one of the stakeholders of the projects like the Big Dig should look the construction of the infrastructure while coordinating with the other stakeholder’s teams (Nicholas and Steyn, 2017). Some of the activities that the engineers must inculcate into their planning and implementations are maintaining the control of operations over the control site, meeting the performance requirements, working within the obligations of schedule of time and maintaining the required standards of quality (Kardes et. al, 2013).

As per the new roadways system, today central artery is capable of carrying 536,000 vehicles a day. Blockages have been minimised because of the use of the add-a-lane design. However, there are certain red flag areas still existing. The Big Dig does not solve the issue of traffic congestion in the areas of south and north of downtown. In addition, it must be noted that as per the reports of the Boston Globe in the year 2008, though the traffic seems better in the core, it continues to be worse in other parts (Flint, 2015). Greater Boston continues to rank high in national congestion surveys. Thus, it can be stated that the Big Dig is working within the scope of the plan, but only therein.

Further Overruns

Conclusion

As per the discussions held in the previous parts it can be concluded that ethics play a crucial role in the range of professions around the globe, including the prestigious profession of the engineering as well. From the point of view of the safety of the stakeholders, cost, and money involved and the development of the profession, it is crucial that the engineers follow a set of the framework that guides their activities and conduct. Some of the major reasons for the implementation of ethics in the profession of engineering are the occurrences of the structural failures leading to number of lives being lost, to protect the interests and the welfare of the public in general, enable the whistle blowing and lastly on the lines of the professional associations. As depicted from the case study of the Big Dig collapse in Boston, it can be stated that engineering fails coupled with the large investments of time and money lead to drastic economic and other losses to the country. The failure of the usage of the proper material, failure to understand the various processes and the failure of the overall management responsibilities led to the collapse. Thus, it can be stated that engineers are required to take due consideration of the various materials and processes being involved in the projects, as recommended by the American Society of Civil Engineers as well. Thus, ethics must play a chief role in the overall conduct, knowledge, and operations of the engineers.

References

Boateng, P., Chen, Z. and Ogunlana, S. O. (2015) An Analytical Network Process model for risks prioritisation in megaprojects. International Journal of Project Management, 33(8), pp. 1795-1811.

Colby, A. and Sullivan, W. M. (2008) Ethics teaching in undergraduate engineering education. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(3), pp. 327-338.

Flint, A. (2015). 10 years later, did the Big Dig deliver? [online] Available from: https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2015/12/29/years-later-did-big-dig-deliver/tSb8PIMS4QJUETsMpA7SpI/story.html [Accessed on: 06/10/18].

Greiman, V. (2015). Mega Project: Lessons from the Big Dig. [online] Available at: https://www.omegacentre.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/OMEGA-Seminars-2015-2015-05-27-Virginia-Greiman.pdf [Accessed on: 03/10/18].

Greiman, V. A. (2013) Megaproject management: Lessons on risk and project management from the Big Dig. UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Harris Jr, C.E., Pritchard, M.S., Rabins, M.J., James, R. and Englehardt, E. (2013) Engineering ethics: Concepts and cases. Boston MA: Cengage Learning.

Hofherr, J. (2015) Can We Talk Rationally About the Big Dig Yet? [online] Available from: https://www.boston.com/cars/news-and-reviews/2015/01/05/can-we-talk-rationally-about-the-big-dig-yet [Accessed on: 03/10/2018].

Kardes, I., Ozturk, A., Cavusgil, S. T. and Cavusgil, E. (2013) Managing global megaprojects: Complexity and risk management. International Business Review, 22(6), pp. 905-917.

Kassel, D. S. (2016) Managing public sector projects: A strategic framework for success in an era of downsized government. Oxon: Routledge.

Luegenbiehl, H. and Clancy, R. (2017) Global engineering ethics. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Merriam Webster Dictionary. (2018) Ethic. [online] Available from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethic [Accessed on: 03/10/2018].

Montero, R., Victores, J. G., Martinez, S., Jardón, A. and Balaguer, C. (2015) Past, present and future of robotic tunnel inspection. Automation in Construction, 59, pp. 99-112.

Nemeth, C. P. (2016) Resilience Engineering Perspectives, Volume 1: Remaining sensitive to the possibility of failure. CRC Press.

Nicholas, J. M. and Steyn, H. (2017) Project management for engineering, business and technology. Oxon: Routledge.

O'Neill, S. (2014). Boston’s Big Dig – one of the US’ toughest engineering challenges. [online] Engineers Journal. Available at: https://www.engineersjournal.ie/2014/11/11/boston-big-dig/ [Accessed on: 03/10/18].

Shane, J. S., Molenaar, K. R., Anderson, S. and Schexnayder, C. (2009) Construction project cost escalation factors. Journal of Management in Engineering, 25(4), pp. 221-229.

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