One of the most challenging and informative exercises students in engineering and architecture schools can be assigned are case studies for typical construction projects.
Case studies recount real life situations in the field and present students with a dilemma they must attempt to solve. Construction case studies begin with the architectural concept design and culminate in practical completion. But somewhere along the line professionals were confronted with a serious problem they had to solve. Eventually, of course, they solved it, that is why the project was completed. However, the solution was most likely a creative one and that is why it is being used as a case study. In fact, only projects that ran into roadblocks and faced delays and possibly even imminent cancellation are selected as case studies.
In general, case studies present students with a situation for which they must devise a solution. Upon review the teacher or professor will let the student know if their solution was the right one. And while being right is of course important, the professor is really looking to see if the student is a creative thinker and whether or not he can devise with original solutions to difficult problems.
The average case study is an in'depth look at everything that happened from the first sketch to the last nail. They are often at least ten to twenty pages long and it is imperative that you are up to speed with all of the industry terms as well as the primary players. Many case studies are highly technical. In fact, a person without experience in the field would likely feel as if they were reading stereo instructions if they decided to read a typical engineering or architectural case study.
Case Study Basics
Most case studies begin with the client’s brief and the project approval process. This lets us know exactly what the project is and why it is being offered. It also lets us know who the key players are. Next we move on to the consulting firm. It is the job of these consultants to approve the final project design and the budget. This is a stage that is often fraught with difficulties, such as the possibility that a project may go over budget and therefore is not economically feasible. If this is the case then the project will have to be redesigned. After the final design is approved, the project can move forward as scheduled.
As the student reads over the case study he can make comments after each problem or hiccup. Oftentimes, a project fails or encounters problems because of a whole slew of difficulties, so you are not just looking for one solution but several.
The primary stages of any construction project include: sketch design, schematic design, tender documentation, tendering, inspection and the post contract period. Although problems can obviously occur at any one of these stages, there are a few that naturally lend themselves to difficulty.
As we mentioned, the design stage is one that can be problematic. Since the project will obviously have a set budget, any design sketches or plans must comport to that budget. If it is discovered by the consulting team that a particular design is not feasible, then the designers will have to go back to the drawing boarding.
For obvious reasons, another stage that often reveals serious problems is the inspection stage. Therefore, the student may want to pay particularly close attention to these two stages as they are often the ones in which problems first surface.
After he has done so, the student must compose a conclusion in which he identifies the problems and offers possible solutions.