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Inspection Challenges: Rehabilitation

#talkingwith Sylvie Pereira / Gestart

In today’s construction industry, construction supervision is playing an increasingly crucial role, not only in complying with rules and regulations, but also in guaranteeing the quality, safety and efficiency of projects. The construction of São Bento, with its complexity and historical relevance, is an emblematic example of the challenges and opportunities faced by professionals in the field. In this #àconversacom we interviewed Sylvie Pereira, a professional with a rich and diverse career in the construction industry, and more recently founder and partner in charge of operations at Gestart – project management, supervision and licensing, who shares her experience and vision of the role of supervision in large-scale projects such as the São Bento project.

What is the most important role of supervision in a project like São Bento?

The most important role of supervision in a construction project is to guarantee compliance with all the rules and regulations, ensuring the quality of the materials used, the safety of the workers and compliance with the projects and technical specifications. Supervisors are responsible for monitoring the execution of services, checking that they are being carried out in accordance with the deadlines set and within the financial plan drawn up.

Supervision should not be seen from a “policing” perspective, but rather from the point of view of having someone in the field who can help detect an error in good time, remove a doubt and create strategies to minimize deviations, both in terms of time and money.

A very simple example: a material indicated in the project, but which has recently been used in other projects and has shown behavioral flaws. It is part of our job to come up with alternative solutions that meet the expected quality but do not exceed the cost and time objectives for the project in question. These alternatives should always be worked out and approved with the design team.

It is also common for the construction team to sometimes be very focused on solving a particular problem and overlook relevant secondary details. It’s up to us to alert them to these situations so that we can anticipate as much of the work as possible. If there are errors that lead to unforeseen work and thus result in financial deviations, the inspectorate can (and should) work with the contractor and the Owner to find alternative solutions that help to “balance the scales”.

What are the main difficulties for enforcement?

One of the biggest challenges for inspectors is dealing with teams that don’t cooperate properly, omit crucial information or pass it on in the wrong way. There are often young, inexperienced teams, and if we see that this is having an impact on the work, we must alert those responsible in order to avoid problems.

What are normally the main risks that inspectors should be alert to?

Inspectors should be alert to a number of risks, including the following:

Safety risks – This involves identifying hazards and applying appropriate safety measures to prevent accidents or damage to people, property or the environment.

Quality risks – Supervision must ensure that products and services comply with established quality standards, thus avoiding the delivery of a low-quality product to the client.

Environmental risks – It is essential that inspections ensure that companies and workers adopt appropriate practices to minimize the environmental impacts of their activities.

What are the most striking features of the São Bento project?

This is a refurbishment of a four-storey building plus an attic floor, of the original “gaioleiros type” construction from the late 1870s. Today, this type of building represents a large part of the masonry built in the city of Lisbon. The existing wall system is typical of this type of construction and consists of an orthogonal grid of brick and irregular stone masonry walls (on the exterior walls and main interior walls) and wooden partition walls (secondary interior walls). The floor and roof structure is made up of wooden beams supported on the load-bearing walls. This is an unconventional structure and, as such, everything related to the structure, fire safety, acoustics, infrastructure networks, etc., has very particular characteristics, and it is important to ensure that all these features are meticulously restored and/or modernized, maintaining the historical integrity of the building while updating it to comply with current safety and comfort standards.

What were the main challenges faced in this project?

In this project, as in any rehabilitation project, the main challenges we face are the “surprises” we come across when carrying out demolition and preparation work. There are countless situations that cannot be foreseen at the design stage because they are not visible. This is the big difference between a new construction project and a refurbishment project.

They are exactly the ones that are indicated, i.e. the “surprises” that involve financial costs and time deviations from what was initially planned.

Do you feel that environmental and sustainability issues are definitely starting to shape projects?

Yes, this is evident in current projects. More and more companies are becoming aware of the importance of considering environmental and sustainability aspects in their projects. These issues are becoming a priority in strategic decisions in different companies, both to ensure the preservation of the environment and to meet consumer demands.

In addition, there is growing pressure from civil society and non-governmental organizations for projects to be developed in a sustainable way. Investments in renewable energies, energy efficiency, recycling and the reduction of carbon emissions are becoming increasingly common, as is the consideration of environmental and social impact in the planning and execution phases of projects.

Are designers, building owners and contractors actively concerned about this issue, or do they stick to the obligatory?

The answer to this question may vary, as it depends on the mentality and environmental awareness of each designer, developer and contractor. Some may have an active concern for environmental causes and seek to implement sustainable practices in their projects and works, beyond what is required by law. However, there are also those who limit themselves to complying with the mandatory minimum in terms of environmental legislation. These people are only concerned with avoiding fines and penalties, without demonstrating a real commitment to the environment.

How do you see the future of construction inspection, especially as technology continues to evolve?

I believe that the future of construction inspection will be increasingly driven by technology. With the advance of innovations such as artificial intelligence and drones, there will be a greater ability to monitor and inspect works more efficiently and accurately.

For example, sensors connected to equipment and structures will be able to provide real-time data on their performance, making it possible to detect faults early and take corrective action. In addition, the use of drones could help inspect areas that are difficult to access, such as bridges and tall buildings, reducing the time and costs involved in this process.

Another trend is the adoption of 3D modeling and visualization systems, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), which provide a clearer and more precise view of the project, making it easier to identify problems and monitor the progress of the work.

However, it is important to note that even with technological advances, the presence of human inspectors will continue to be necessary. Technology is a tool that aids and complements human work, but it cannot replace it completely.

Finally, how would you describe Beelt’s work on this project?

Although my experience with Beelt is recent, I can say that they have a very dynamic team and have proven in the market that they can do things, and do them well.


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