Construction SuperConference 2011

By: Chris Sullivan

The 26th annual Construction SuperConference, held at The Fairmont San Francisco from December 14 – 16, 2011 was well attended by construction industry professionals and featured over 35 high-quality presentations and breakout programs. For those unfamiliar with the Construction SuperConference, it is held annually in San Francisco, California, each December and caters to construction owners, contractors, attorneys, and consultants, like Interface Consulting, that specialize in construction management issues and in assisting troubled construction projects. I, along with Interface directors Frank G. Adams, PE; Philip D. Barnard, PE; and Lisa S. Heard, found the programs and networking opportunities well worth the trip from Houston to The Golden State.

The conference was kicked-off by the keynote speaker Najmedin Meshkati, PhD, professor of civil/environmental engineering and industrial and systems engineering at the Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California. Dr. Meshkati, an expert in evaluating industrial accidents, summarized his work by assessing the root cause of various industrial mishaps, including infamous disasters such as those involving the BP Deepwater Horizon platform, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. The lessons learned from Dr. Meshkati are that industrial accidents are rarely caused by one event, and are typically caused by a series of events, some of which may occur years before the accident during the design phase.

Later in the week, attorney Richard H. Lowe from Duane Morris LLP moderated a panel that compared location-based scheduling (LBS) with the traditional critical path method (CPM) of scheduling. While LBS is similar to CPM scheduling in many respects, it also incorporates the work location into the analysis, enabling project crews to better schedule and manage construction projects, thus maximizing labor productivity and reducing overall project costs.

A later session presented by Joseph F. Moore, P.E., Esq., with Watt Tieder Hoffar & Fitzgerald; Nick Henchie with Vinson & Elkins; Donald Harvey with Secretariat International; Adam Constable with Keating Chambers; and Katherine Child with CB&I, discussed the growth in international arbitration and provided insight into items to consider. The panel first noted international construction estimated over $5.4 trillion worldwide and that requests for international arbitration were increasing. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) experienced over 800 requests in 2009, which was a 23% increase from 2008. Other international arbitration forums, such as the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and the American Arbitration Association (AAA), also noted similar growth. The panel also provided insight into other issues such as whether various countries were signatories of The New York Convention and items with respect to enforceability of international awards.

The conference showcased many additional high-quality presentations ranging from discussions concerning construction claims, public-private partnerships for large infrastructure projects, integrated project delivery systems, insurance coverage issues, and construction risk management issues.

Overall, the Construction SuperConference continues to be fertile ground for expanding our knowledge and relationships in the legal and commercial construction industries. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s SuperConference 2012!

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