Geotechnical advice on hospital site only now being sought by gov’t

–consultant refuses to respond to uninformed request

Government only requested a quotation for geotechnical investigation of the site for the proposed specialty hospital on Wednesday—over two months after groundwork had started and provided little of the required information, which will ultimately affect the cost of the facility.

Managing Director of Ground Structures Engineering Consultants Inc, Charles Ceres told reporters yesterday that his company received a request for a quotation but would not be responding to it because the document has “no concept of what the project entails.” The document from the Ministry of Health, signed by Naresh Mangar as project manager/civil engineer was dated March 21, 2012. Ceres, who is a geotechnical engineer and groundwater hydrologist, has been expressing concern about the poor service being rendered by local engineers and he cited the hospital project as an example.

“What essentially is happening here is that you’re seeing an indication of technical incompetence which is the norm,” said Ceres. He said this will ultimately affect cost and performance of the facility.

Charles Ceres

Ceres’ concerns will likely add weight to recent charges by the opposition that money allocated for preparation works for the specialty hospital had been improperly and imprudently spent.  This project was one of the items controversially voted against by the opposition in one of the financial papers that the government had taken to Parliament recently for withdrawals from the Contingencies Fund. It will also bolster the argument by the opposition and other stakeholders that many of these projects are being rushed by the government for political purposes and have not been adequately planned.

Stratification

According to the document, the purpose of the subsurface investigation is to determine the engineering properties and stratification of the soil underlying the site proposed for the preparation the foundation designs for the specialty hospital infrastructure, which is located at Block X, Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara. The scope of work includes the drilling of one deep borehole to establish the depth of the “corpina”; drilling of four shallow boreholes to a maximum depth of 20 feet, conducting standard penetration tests at each change of stratum with a maximum interval of five feet; collection of undisturbed samples at ten feet intervals; carrying out laboratory tests on samples collected to establish moisture content, density, Atterberg limits, grain size and distribution and triaxial test; preparation of borehole logs and preparation of geotechnical report.

Ceres pointed out that the document contains no description of the proposed facility, no layout or height plan. He said that typically, anywhere in the world, the document would come from an architect or structural engineer and any engineer anywhere else in the world would not respond to the kind of document sent by the ministry. “I want to make this point simply because here you see a document which has no concept of what the project entails. The document that should go to the geotechnical engineer should be a document that has a project concept,” he said adding that if, for example, a hospital is being built, there may be roads in the area or an elevator has to be built. “There are special geotechnical engineering considerations which are applicable to a roadway, which are applicable to maybe an elevator pit that are not applicable to a foundation,” he said.

Corpina

Ceres said that even the word used, “corpina,” is incorrect. “This is essentially what you see coming from… people who are supposedly engineers in Guyana and it doesn’t satisfy the minimum standards of what in fact should be going out as the request for a proposal,” Ceres, who has worked on major projects in the region and North America, said.

He noted that the document does not contain any information that would give an idea of where specific infrastructure is likely to be so that the geotechnical engineer can decide where to focus the investigation. The document does not even contain a drawing of the layout of the site “so how can you give someone a proposal that will have any level of credibility when you don’t have the kind of detail that is required?” Ceres observed. “This is a case of people who don’t understand their limitations.”

He said this is an indication of the quality of engineering in Guyana and reiterated his point that this is owing to persons’ inability to conceptualize properly what they are looking to do which leads to problems with projects. The document from the ministry does not make sense from an engineering perspective, he said, while adding that it will affect the cost of the project because if someone wants to be conservative they will go with something that is definitely not going to fail. An engineer is supposed to build for a minimum cost and optimize the performance of the structure, he noted.

The geotechnical engineer recalled an incident where he was contacted by an engineer working on the sea defence at Hope who said that they were unable to attain the dry density there and they were going to leave the material to dry out and get the dry density. This, Ceres said, “is a totally false concept.”

He declared that his desire is to lift the standard of engineering in Guyana and he will continue to identify these issues which are relevant to the quality and standard of engineering here.  “My interest is not in the political domain. My interest is in my profession, similar professionals like myself being able to provide that quality of service,” Ceres said.

He said the need for the hospital has been identified and at the end of the day, it is the engineers who have to execute it and they have to execute it in a technically and professionally sound manner.

In early January, preparatory works began at the site designated for the construction of Guyana’s specialty hospital. A $98 million contract was awarded to the G Bovell Construction Service for landfilling and preparation, building of the fence to the property, laying of drains, installation of four bridges and gates as entrances and exits and an access road.

Over the years, many infrastructural projects including major ones such as the Guyana Aquatic Centre and the Supenaam stelling have experienced problems resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to rectify the defects, adding to enormous construction costs. The quality of engineering advice on projects here continues to be a cause for concern.

Ceres in an exclusive interview with Stabroek News last week said that engineers are giving poor service to the country.