State departments of transportation (DOTs) are currently facing the critical challenge of an increased demand for highway system rehabilitation and construction work with reduced funding and staff. NCHRP Synthesis 450: Forecasting Highway Construction Staffing Requirements found that DOTs are managing larger roadway systems with fewer in-house staff than they were 10 years ago. Experienced staff have developed skills to make effective decisions and address specific risks during the performance of their duties, however, those skills are lost when they retire and/or are replaced by less seasoned staff. NCHRP Synthesis 450 found that staff constraints and the lack of needed skills are affecting virtually all DOT functions, with major impacts on construction inspection capabilities. This situation has motivated DOTs to seek out effective strategies to accomplish construction inspection operations and optimize resource allocation. There is an immediate need to incorporate risk-based approaches into current practices for construction inspection with an emphasis on increasing the value of inspection and optimizing inspection frequency.
The objectives of this research were to (1) develop an AASHTO guidebook for risk-based construction inspection and (2) plan and conduct a workshop to introduce the proposed guidebook to an audience of DOT staff and other stakeholders. The guidebook shall be presented in a format suitable for adoption by AASHTO.
Accomplishment of the project objectives required at least the following tasks.
Task 1. Conduct a literature review of relevant domestic and international research considered to be the state-of-the-practice in using risk-based approaches in construction inspections of transportation projects, as well as in other relevant industries. The domestic review shall include research conducted through the NCHRP; FHWA; and other national, state, and pooled-fund sponsored research.
Task 2. Conduct a survey of DOTs to identify strategies currently used for construction inspection programs and collect data needed to achieve the research objectives with consideration to the maturity of the construction inspection programs. The survey shall be reviewed and approved by NCHRP before distribution.
Task 3. Synthesize the literature review and survey results to identify the knowledge gaps for risk-based construction inspection. Discuss the quantity and quality of data required for the application of probabilistic approaches and practical limitations. These gaps should be addressed in the final product or in the recommended future research as budget permits.
Task 4. Propose a draft risk-based construction inspection methodology, to be fully developed in Phase II, based on currently available data. At a minimum, the methodology shall address the following:
a. Identification and evaluation of the uncertainties related to field inspection (e.g., in-house and outsource inspection, personnel availability and qualifications) with consideration to different contract delivery methods, various construction operations, and construction techniques and materials, and
b. Description of statistical data sampling requirements and probabilistic procedures to develop the risk-based constriction inspection guidebook.
Task 5. Propose a preliminary outline for the guidebook based on the proposed methodology. At a minimum, the guidebook shall include the following:
a. Risk assessment tools based on the developed methodology and
b. Strategies for mitigating risk associated with construction inspection while optimizing value. The strategies should be based on prioritization of resource allocations including the application of new technologies, materials, construction methods, and contract delivery methods.
Task 6. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents Tasks 1 through 5, includes the data archiving plan (see Special Note C), and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research. This report must be submitted no later than 4 months after contract execution. The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phases II though IV.
PHASE II—Methodology Development
Task 7. Develop the methodology according to the approved Interim Report No.1.
Task 8. Select 4 states to pilot the developed methodology (i.e., a state from each AASHTO region) to demonstrate the full range of applicability of the proposed methodology.
Task 9. Provide an annotated outline of the proposed guidebook with a complete sample section of the proposed guidebook. This section should be publication-ready (i.e., AASHTO-style) format with appropriate level of detail.
Task 10. Prepare Interim Report No. 2 that documents Tasks 7 through 9 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the project. This report must be submitted no later than 12 months after approval of Phase I. The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phases III and IV.
PHASE III—Guidebook Development
Task 11. Develop the proposed guidebook according to the approved Interim Report No. 2 no later than 6 months after Phase II approval.
Task 12. After NCHRP approval of the draft guidebook, plan and conduct workshop with 20 representatives of owners and other stakeholders to review the draft proposed guidebook and implementation plan. Revise the draft proposed guidebook according to the outcomes of the workshop.
Task 13. Prepare Interim Report No. 3 that documents Tasks 11 and 12 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the project. This report must be submitted no later than 12 months after Phase II approval.
PHASE IV—Final Products
Task 14. Revise the proposed guidebook and workshop materials taking into account feedback gathered during the workshop and comments from the NCHRP project panel and prepare a ballot item for the AASHTO Committee on Construction.
Task 15. Prepare final deliverables including: (a) a final report that documents the entire research effort and (b) the proposed guidebook, workshop materials, and implementation plan.