How Strategic Environmental Monitoring Can Benefit Your Construction Project – PART 2

In part 1 we looked at some generic aspects of environmental monitoring in which we raised the concept of using your collected data to actually assist your operation – rather than using it to simply tick some compliance boxes. In this second part we want to examine this concept further.

But let’s start with a very fundamental but important issue – every project is different. Some of the more important differences from a monitoring perspective are geology, the proximity and type of surrounding structures, and the people – both your people and the neighbours. And then there are all the peripheral issues centred around data integrity (are the appropriate monitors used, have they been maintained/calibrated, have sensors been installed correctly, etc, etc). In getting a project up and running, it is very easy to forget some or all of these parameters.

This leads us back to the starting point – how we think about a problem largely determines the effectiveness of the solutions we implement. All too often, when told to measure vibration at a certain location, most people mechanically do just that, with no thought into whether or not that is appropriate. Our objective is to improve your productivity, not simply to comply with a regulation.

So, let’s now take a couple of case studies – simple ones to make the point – and examine how thinking holistically about projects can yield real improvements.

  1. Getting a project started properly:

The construction activity is to occur right up against a hospital building that contains very sensitive equipment (microscopes, MRL equipment, etc). We need to manage the impact the construction activities could have on this equipment.

While it is obvious what we are trying to protect in this project, translating that into an action plan needs to be worked out on a case-by-case basis. For a project like this, here are the types of questions we try to answer before the projects starts:

  • The first step is to determine if the manufacturers of the microscope/MRI equipment already have published information on acceptable vibration limits for their piece of equipment.
  • If they do, then we have standards to report against. If they don’t, then we must go back and establish best practice principles to report against.
  • In cases like this one, we recommend that acceleration, rather than velocity, be measured.
  • The next issue to resolve is where to measure – there will always be practical limitations on this, so together with the client, we establish the most appropriate place to install the sensors.
  • We then discuss with the client the proposed construction schedule so that we understand when issues are likely to arise – e.g. could the on-going impact on hospital staff become important too? If so, do we have a plan to address the concerns?
  • So now we know what data we will collect, how and when we will collect it. What then do we do with this data? Who wants it and when? What format do they want it in? Are official reports required and, if so, what format should they take?
  • If recorded levels get out of hand, who needs to be notified, how, and when? For exceedances, what actions need to be taken, by whom and at what point? It is important to have this established before operations start.
  • Having answered all these questions, we are now ready to install the monitoring instrumentation and start work. If any of these steps are not addressed, the benefits of your monitoring program will be limited.
  1. How monitoring objectives can change:

Sometimes, the initial monitoring objectives will change as construction proceeds. This can be the result of unusual site conditions, unforeseen impacts generated by the operation, and many other causes. The important part is to have in place contingency plans that ensure flexibility and facilitate changes as they become necessary – before outside forces mandate changes.

  • In a recent project, the only monitoring requirement imposed on our client was to measure vibration at a few places around the site.
  • However, once construction started, other concerns became apparent – initially they were structural concerns.
  • Our recommendation to the client was to measure acceleration at selected locations on the structure while continuing to monitor the vibration around the site.
  • As construction proceeded, a new concern emerged – a significant on-going impact on people working in the building. After sourcing an appropriate consultant, we were requested to measure VDV within the offices being impacted.
  • In summary, this very complex site required a far more comprehensive approach to monitoring than was initially envisaged.
  • Since we were monitoring the data being generated and were communicating with both our client and representatives of the building next door, we were able to address emerging concerns before they got to the point where construction activities were interrupted.

In both these cases, our holistic approach to thinking about the project and our ability to modify our approach accordingly enabled us to provide real value to our client from the monitoring activities. We were able to achieve far more than simple adherence to mandated standards.