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The Never Ending BER Thread

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GQfluffy (Database Editor & Founding Member) 08 Jan 13, 13:58Post
I'd have to go back and re-read the thread but if it is truly as bad as he hints at, just go back and knock it down and start over. I know it is rather easy for someone like myself to say that but it could actually make the process move that much quicker.
Teller of no, fixer of everything, friend of the unimportant and all around good guy; the CAD Monkey

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AndesSMF (Founding Member) 08 Jan 13, 15:56Post
GQfluffy wrote:I'd have to go back and re-read the thread but if it is truly as bad as he hints at, just go back and knock it down and start over. I know it is rather easy for someone like myself to say that but it could actually make the process move that much quicker.

Well, from a construction standpoint it is often easier to simply start over from scratch rather than try to fix what is existing. I still would love to know exactly what happened.
Einstein said two things were infinite; the universe, and stupidity. He wasn't sure about the first, but he was certain about the second.
GQfluffy (Database Editor & Founding Member) 08 Jan 13, 16:07Post
I'd have to go back and read each post from the beginning but we have a crisis of our own now (would make for good reading in the Tales from the Trenches thread). Our best contractor ignored our drawings and we've busted a maximum height limit by 9 inches. {facepalm}
Teller of no, fixer of everything, friend of the unimportant and all around good guy; the CAD Monkey
AndesSMF (Founding Member) 08 Jan 13, 16:24Post
GQfluffy wrote:I'd have to go back and read each post from the beginning but we have a crisis of our own now (would make for good reading in the Tales from the Trenches thread). Our best contractor ignored our drawings and we've busted a maximum height limit by 9 inches. {facepalm}

Yeah, seen that before... {facepalm}

Recall a similar one years ago when the contractor told a hotel owner that he could save money by making the floors a little shorter, w/o taking into consideration the space that was already taken up by all the equipment.
Einstein said two things were infinite; the universe, and stupidity. He wasn't sure about the first, but he was certain about the second.
JLAmber (netAirspace ATC & Founding Member) 08 Jan 13, 19:28Post
GQfluffy wrote:I'd have to go back and read each post from the beginning but we have a crisis of our own now (would make for good reading in the Tales from the Trenches thread). Our best contractor ignored our drawings and we've busted a maximum height limit by 9 inches. {facepalm}


Reading through the various links on this story something similar happened at BER, only it is the fire safety requirements that have been compromised. That was the cause of the second significant delay (the first being the building of check-in desks somehow having been missed), the latest delay is due to the baggage handling system having been mis-maufactured and the fire systems having failed their checks, again.

Spiegel is reporting that the cost of the project has risen from an initial $2bn to over $5.7bn, a total of 53% of the airport being publicly funded. Reading the various articles out there, the German media carries the tone that the whole farce is now a national embarrassment.
A million great ideas...
AndesSMF (Founding Member) 08 Jan 13, 22:44Post
Planners reportedly didn't stick to official construction permits for an automatic ventilation system to keep people alive in the terminal in case of fire, the mass-circulation daily Bild reported, citing internal documents from a building firm.

The paper reported that tests conducted to prove that the system will still work despite the deviations from the original plans have not delivered positive results

OK, so they get it right about smoke evacuation. Essentially, you have an exhaust fan that gets rid of the smoke to allow evacuation of the area. You have to seal it and stop the air conditioning system from feeding air into the area. This is done via controls and dampers that stop the flow of air. You need a good level of control between the fire alarm system and the evacuation system.

Now, the contractor (builder) deviated from the engineered plans. Whom he told of this, if anyone, could be many. He could have informed the architect, the project engineer, and many others. Or maybe he told no one. I've had it happen where the information I relayed to the architect was not relayed to the proper person afterwards, so this is a possibility.

The person that installs these fans is not usually the one who installs the fire alarm system that controls these fans. If the zone that these fans were meant to evacuate was changed without notifying the fire alarm installer, then you have a serious problem.
Einstein said two things were infinite; the universe, and stupidity. He wasn't sure about the first, but he was certain about the second.
Zak (netAirspace FAA) 08 Jan 13, 23:02Post
JLAmber wrote:Spiegel is reporting that the cost of the project has risen from an initial $2bn to over $5.7bn, a total of 53% of the airport being publicly funded. Reading the various articles out there, the German media carries the tone that the whole farce is now a national embarrassment.

Only now? {boxed}

Calls for Mr. Wowereit's head as mayor of Berlin are getting louder. I guess his days are numbered. The Social Democrats can't use him as a burden in the upcoming elections.
Yes, the new EU copyright directive is that stupid.
helvknight (Founding Member) 09 Jan 13, 11:06Post
To put this into perspective Switzerland is building the Gotthard Base Tunnel, a 50 Km tunnel through the Alps.

The opening date of this tunnel has also 0been revised.

From 2018 to 2016

There has been a certain amount of urine extraction over this directed at the Gross Kanton from the Swiss press, especially the Blick.

By the way there've been a few extensions of the Zürich tram system over the last few years, these have come in on time and, in a couple of cases, under budget.
Hire Engineers to drive the vision and execute a plan. Hire MBAs to shuffle the papers and work in sales. Hire Accountants to manage your staff working a viable livable wage, and never have either an Accountant or an MBA run your company. - Steve Jobs
Zak (netAirspace FAA) 10 Jan 13, 09:53Post
AndesSMF wrote:Well, from a construction standpoint it is often easier to simply start over from scratch rather than try to fix what is existing.

This could indeed be an option, according to a current report by the reputable Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

Apparently, any attempt to fix the current mess might lead to a new opening date in 2017.

The FAZ quotes an airport export with a statement saying that it would probably be both faster and cheaper to tear the whole thing down and start from the scratch.

{crazy}
Yes, the new EU copyright directive is that stupid.
ShanwickOceanic (netAirspace FAA) 10 Jan 13, 10:29Post
At least we know it will burn ;)
Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast:
For it is the number of a man; and its number is One hundred threescore and twelve.
miamiair (netAirspace FAA) 10 Jan 13, 10:35Post
Jail is too good for the entities that defrauded the people; too bad they can't swing from a rope.

Starting from scratch may be better than retro fitting the place.
And let's get one thing straight. There's a big difference between a pilot and an aviator. One is a technician; the other is an artist in love with flight. — E. B. Jeppesen
JLAmber (netAirspace ATC & Founding Member) 10 Jan 13, 10:49Post
ShanwickOceanic wrote:At least we know it will burn ;)


Ouch! Just make sure there's nobody in when it's lit - apparently they might struggle to find an exit!

The kind of sums being quoted must be starting to impact on national spending - even a nation of Germany's size can't just magic up a few billion extra Euros. I can see lawsuits in the not too distant future.

miamiair wrote:Starting from scratch may be better than retro fitting the place.


It's certainly starting to look that way. Even if the airport was retro-fitted and brought up to standard it would always suffer the stigma of being such a disastrous build, which won't be good for business at all. The problem then would be convincing a capable of taking on the project of rebuilding the site - there's going to be a level of reluctance from reputable companies to having their name attached to such an embarrassment, even if they are the ones that put it right.
A million great ideas...
Zak (netAirspace FAA) 10 Jan 13, 12:07Post
JLAmber wrote:The kind of sums being quoted must be starting to impact on national spending - even a nation of Germany's size can't just magic up a few billion extra Euros. I can see lawsuits in the not too distant future.

Against whom? In the end, it was Germany itself that failed. And we can't sue ourselves...

Who will sue is the airlines, though, claiming hundreds of million Euros in losses over the disaster. Which will just increase the bill the taxpayer will have to pay.

And this is not nearly the only publically funded construction project that goes horribly wrong. Here in Hamburg, the construction of a new Philharmonic Hall takes exactly the same path as BER airport: years of delay, costs that will be many times over the initial budget (we're talking hundreds of millions here), and yet it is still unclear when it will open - if ever at all.

Same reasons - a megalomaniac project created by politicians who wanted to erect a monument to themselves, then planned and tendered by beancounters whose job was to sell the project to a public despite our country and state being broke already, and finally managed and supervised by people who lacked the slightest bit of competence to handle it.

Failure on all levels. And there are still more stories like these.

But hey... the grand total for these failed projects is still nothing compared to the costs for bailing out Greece. Not to mention Italy, should it come to that. But that's another story...

JLAmber wrote:It's certainly starting to look that way. Even if the airport was retro-fitted and brought up to standard it would always suffer the stigma of being such a disastrous build, which won't be good for business at all. The problem then would be convincing a capable of taking on the project of rebuilding the site - there's going to be a level of reluctance from reputable companies to having their name attached to such an embarrassment, even if they are the ones that put it right.

That's the problem - reputation. That's probably the only reason not to knock the whole thing down: the reputation of the decisionmakers will be at stake.

So they will rather try and fix it up. Which means this thread will remain active for a loooong time.

Because there is another problem: the capacity calculation for the airport was faulty. Even if they would somehow manage to open it in 2014, the airport would likely be at its capacity limits straight from the opening day.

So there is another alternative to knocking it down and starting from the scratch: knock it down and don't start from the scratch, but keep TXL and SXF open, and maybe add a third regional airport for the region, if needed.

But again, that would mean that some people would have to admit that BER, the way it was planned, was a stupid idea from the getgo.

One thing is clear - we need foreign help to clean up the mess we created. Bring in cornish for the rescue! :))
Yes, the new EU copyright directive is that stupid.
AndesSMF (Founding Member) 10 Jan 13, 15:42Post
Zak wrote:
AndesSMF wrote:Well, from a construction standpoint it is often easier to simply start over from scratch rather than try to fix what is existing.

This could indeed be an option, according to a current report by the reputable Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

Apparently, any attempt to fix the current mess might lead to a new opening date in 2017.

The FAZ quotes an airport export with a statement saying that it would probably be both faster and cheaper to tear the whole thing down and start from the scratch.

{crazy}

You have no idea how stunned I am to hear that it is even an option... {bugeye}

Such levels of failure will place this in the top engineering failures of all time.

Personally, the more people that have a say in the direction of any project, the more expensive the project will get. And trying to get all these desires into something coherent and functional is not always possible.
Einstein said two things were infinite; the universe, and stupidity. He wasn't sure about the first, but he was certain about the second.
ShanwickOceanic (netAirspace FAA) 10 Jan 13, 22:27Post
Is there any use for this structure that doesn't involve fixing these faults? Can you use turn it into a warehouse or logistics centre (with a handy runway), for example?
Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast:
For it is the number of a man; and its number is One hundred threescore and twelve.
AndesSMF (Founding Member) 10 Jan 13, 22:53Post
ShanwickOceanic wrote:Is there any use for this structure that doesn't involve fixing these faults? Can you use turn it into a warehouse or logistics centre (with a handy runway), for example?

Maybe, but that is a big maybe. I'd have to know far more about the building to say so.

Zak wrote:Because there is another problem: the capacity calculation for the airport was faulty. Even if they would somehow manage to open it in 2014, the airport would likely be at its capacity limits straight from the opening day.

OK, it may be me, but does that terminal in Google Maps not look a little small in comparison?
Einstein said two things were infinite; the universe, and stupidity. He wasn't sure about the first, but he was certain about the second.
GQfluffy (Database Editor & Founding Member) 10 Jan 13, 22:58Post
I'd second what Andes said. It doesn't look much larger than Tegel...
Teller of no, fixer of everything, friend of the unimportant and all around good guy; the CAD Monkey
Zak (netAirspace FAA) 11 Jan 13, 11:08Post
From today's Daily:

German Efficiency In Doubt After Airport Debacle

Germans take pride in their engineering skills and efficiency, but that reputation has been tarnished by a farcical series of delays in building Berlin's new international airport. Although the postponements in opening have drawn the most attention, Germany's stifling bureaucracy, red tape and planning rules have also blighted dozens more big projects. The embarrassing and expensive delays in multi-billion euro projects such as Berlin's airport, Hamburg's new opera house, Germany's BND spy agency headquarters, Cologne's underground, Stuttgart's train station, and thousands of kilometers of overhead power grid are no laughing matter for a country whose reputation for engineering excellence is a major selling point.
Link

That article hits the nail on the head. As I wrote above, this is not nearly the only public project that is about to fail spectacularly. Several others are mentioned in the article, and the list is even longer.
Yes, the new EU copyright directive is that stupid.
halls120 (Plank Owner) 11 Jan 13, 12:42Post
Zak wrote:That article hits the nail on the head. As I wrote above, this is not nearly the only public project that is about to fail spectacularly. Several others are mentioned in the article, and the list is even longer.


What do you attribute these failures to?
AndesSMF (Founding Member) 11 Jan 13, 19:50Post
halls120 wrote:
Zak wrote:That article hits the nail on the head. As I wrote above, this is not nearly the only public project that is about to fail spectacularly. Several others are mentioned in the article, and the list is even longer.


What do you attribute these failures to?

I'll give you an example:

When we bought our house, there were three on the market with the same floor plan. The ones that looked nicer were purchased first, while ours (that didn't look as good) was purchased last.

The couple that purchased one of the homes are actually our friends now so we have visited their house a number of times and I can tell you that the 'bones' of our house are far better than his.

As stated on the article, when you don't know what you're looking at, you worry about looks and veneer, not the actual guts of the house. That wall may have a gorgeous finish, but what about the wiring and the plumbing behind those walls?

And so go with politicians and the decision makers involved. What they can see is important to them, while they neglect (or don't have the experience) to notice and worry about what's inside.

If the structure of the house sucks, the finish of the house won't matter in the end.
Einstein said two things were infinite; the universe, and stupidity. He wasn't sure about the first, but he was certain about the second.
Zak (netAirspace FAA) 11 Jan 13, 21:21Post
halls120 wrote:What do you attribute these failures to?

Politicians love big projects. They love the thought of erecting a monument to themselves.

But we are neck-high in debt, so spending billions on prestigious projects is nothing you can sell to the electorate.

So politicians and construction companies, both set on the goal of being allowed to spend tax payer money for a grand project, are looking for ways to plan the project in a way that makes it look like it would not cost that much money after all. If that project plan works is secondary. At this point, you don't need a plan that works, you need a plan that the electorate will buy.

Now you tender the project. We have all sort of red tape, originating both from Brussels and Berlin, and sometimes even the state capital, so you have to be very careful how to do it. You may not be able to select just one company to handle the entire project (which might increase the chances for the project to succeed, as more companies will cause internal friction, lack of coordination, and, in the end, failure). Instead, you may have to award different parts of the project to different companies.

In the end, one or more companies will be awarded the contracts. Based on a plan that cannot work, and on a funding that won't even cover a fragment of the actual costs.

And so the project begins. The next target is to reach V1 as quickly as possible. The mere existence of a V1 in a construction project is exclusive to tax-payer funded projects. Every businessman knows the principle of sunk costs, and that it does not make sense to throw good money after bad money. If a business venture goes wrong, the entrepreneur will pull the plug.

In a public project, the politician will look for ways to convince the electorate that there is no alternative to increasing the budget (i.e.: spending more taxpayer money).

The project companies will assist him in that mission. After all, they will get that additional money.

Construction and project companies know this. And they consider it from day one. They have experts who, during the tender, do nothing else than scanning the tender documents for weaknesses (and, considering that it was politicians who created the docs, will find plenty of them), and calculate at which point they will be able to increase the budget by how much.

So for the project companies, this is part of the initial planning already. And it is essential for them, because if the project would go exactly as it was tendered in the first draft, it would ruin the project companies. Keep in mind, they had to keep the figures low, so that the politician could sell the plan to the electorate.

So the question is: did the BER project really fail? Did the Hamburg Opera and the other projects really fail?

Or aren't things in fact going according to plan, and it's just that the plan was never really introduced to the people who pay the bills, as those who made the plan, and benefit from it, knew they could not sell it to the people who funded the project?

Tin-foil hat theory? Maybe. But I know a thing or two about project business, and that is often how it works. When I am bidding for a (private) project, I will often bid on basis of my buying costs. Sometimes even below. I know that I won't get the project if I added a profit. But I know that, in a larger project, things will not always go according to plan. And when the plan stops working for reasons beyond my responsibility, I usually start earning money. And quite often, I will know in the tender stage already when and where things will go wrong later on.

In private business, this isn't even a problem. The client plays his trump cards in the tender phase, when service providers are battling for the business. And as a service provider, I play my trump cards in the project phase, whenever problems occur due to a lack of planning on the client's side, and the client essentially has no other choice than to pay whatever I am asking for solving his problems. I won't overdo it, though. After all, I still want to do business with the client later on.

And there is another difference in public projects. The service providers care rats ass for the client, as the client is a) a politician whom they will never have to deal with again, and b) the taxpayer who doesn't even begin to understand what's going on. So the providers can rip off their clients big time. Which is exactly what they are doing.

What could be done to prevent this?

Start with a realistic planning. Have the initial planning and tender documents reviewed by at least 1, better 2 independent consulting agencies. After they give thumbs-up to the budget, increase it by another 40%. Then tender the project.

But of course, that would mean that the politicians would have to tell the electorate from the getgo how much the shiny new airport, shiny new opera house, shiny new railway station etc. would cost.

Amd then the electorate might come to the (correct) conclusion that we cannot afford the project, and that the cost-benefit-ratio makes it unreasonable to build it anyway.

And then the project would not be built.

And then the politician would not have a monument, and the project company wouldn't have their pockets full of taxpayer money.

And that's why it won't happen.

Tl;dr: we're screwed. Again.
Yes, the new EU copyright directive is that stupid.
AndesSMF (Founding Member) 11 Jan 13, 22:31Post
Not a bad assessment of the situation, Zak, as even contractors here will scour the contract for ways of making profit.

However, having dealt with both public and private projects I can easily tell you that a public project will easily run you double the equivalent private project.

As an example of this we did design for a courthouse. Someone up high decided that each printer in each office required its own dedicated electrical circuit. Adds cost for no reason.

My last one was doing an office for the Social Security administration. The easy explanation is that for most electrical circuits, 2 wires are required to provide power. The SSA required FOUR.

For the last one, we have a project where a judge is spending $90,000 to raise the ceiling of his courtroom a foot to match other courtrooms.
Einstein said two things were infinite; the universe, and stupidity. He wasn't sure about the first, but he was certain about the second.
JLAmber (netAirspace ATC & Founding Member) 11 Jan 13, 23:32Post
Sounds like less noses in the trough and more accountability for the end product is required. To their credit, our local authority tender construction projects on an 'on time and on budget' basis where delivering late, sub-standard, or at extra cost activates penalty clauses. The upturn in both the schedule adherence and quality of recent projects is remarkable.
A million great ideas...
helvknight (Founding Member) 12 Jan 13, 00:02Post
JLAmber wrote:Sounds like less noses in the trough and more accountability for the end product is required. To their credit, our local authority tender construction projects on an 'on time and on budget' basis where delivering late, sub-standard, or at extra cost activates penalty clauses. The upturn in both the schedule adherence and quality of recent projects is remarkable.


{check}

That's the way to do it. In the job I did in Indonesia we revamped 2 mills on a copper mine. A days production loss on a mill was about $2 million. So we ended up with a very experienced Aussie PM on the customer side who would ride us unmercifully. I actually got on quite well with the guy, he realised that I knew what I was doing and treated me with respect.

Anyhow like Blackpool corporation (JL's local authority I'd guess) we were subject to swingeing penalties if we were late. We also got bonuses if we were early and the way the contract was written part of the bonus was passed on to the people who actually worked on the project. We brought it in 6 days early, our company got umpteen million francs as a bonus and I ended up with a rather nice extra few CHFs in my December payslip.

Bt the thing is that the project was professionally managed both by us and by the customer. We had a couple of problems, we identified them and fixed them (in one case getting me a ride to Bali in an eggbeater as it was the only way off the island. )

I suspect that the big problem is that there is nobody involved in the BER job that has experience in building big projects. The project was run by the politicians who are taking a short term view and seeing it as an ego job. They need to bring in a decent PM team (looks like they finally have) and make it clear to the pols that we have reached design freeze. build what is on the drawings now.

Major civil jobs do tend to overrun, it's the nature of the beast. The Channel Tunnel was years late, buggy and way over budget. Ask any Manc about the Metrolink extensions and the reply will be unprintable (that one's down to Thales, the French outfit that did the signalling system)
Hire Engineers to drive the vision and execute a plan. Hire MBAs to shuffle the papers and work in sales. Hire Accountants to manage your staff working a viable livable wage, and never have either an Accountant or an MBA run your company. - Steve Jobs
Richie D. 12 Jan 13, 10:29Post
I don't think we should blame German engineering as a whole. Products Made in Germany are still known to be of highest quality. The problem is the competence (or lack thereof) of politicians who want big projects. Ole von Beust wanted the Elbphilharmonie as another landmark for Hamburg, but instead it is a single construct that is swallowing tax payer money and which many consider simply something that OvB wanted to put as a memorial for his time as Mayor (I call it the Ole von Beust Memorial Tower or Ole-von-Beust-Gedächtnisturm).

Project BER doesn't make sense to me either. We all know that most of the traffic to and from Germany goes via FRA. BER is to me simply a project that politicians want because the capital "deserves" a bigger and better international airport and thus closing without any need TXL, SXF and THF. It's just pure megalomania, and because politicians wanted it, they calculated the budget as low as possible for the local and federal parliament to approve the budget, and this meant also making concessions in the planning.
Nothing is more important than your health ... except for your money. - Ferengi Rule of Acquisition 23

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