Project planning (part 1)

(Posted by Laurence)

I currently have two upcoming projects on my plate: Phase 2 of the Amazima School in Jinja (commencing March 2017), and the Cherish High School in Rakai (slated for August 2017).  I want to share some thoughts I’ve had recently as I plan for these projects: this post will deal with the Amazima School, and I’ll write about the Cherish High School next week.

EMI have been involved in the Amazima School for several years now, from conceptual design through to supervision of a general contractor during the first phase of construction.  I have already introduced Amazima in a previous post, and I have shared some photos from Phase 1.  Due to challenges experienced while working with a general contractor, Amazima have asked EMI to self-perform the next phase of construction: this means an EMI project manager and foreman will manage the construction, using locally employed casual labourers and sub-contractors.  I will be the project manager initially, as Matt (our other field project manager) will still be tied up with another project.  Once Matt is available I will hand the Amazima School over to him, and move to Rakai to start a new project (more on that next time).

A dormitory from Phase 1 nearing completion.

A dormitory from Phase 1 nearing completion.

Some of the challenges and opportunities I anticipate for the this phase of the Amazima School project:

  • Design scope.  We will be building a chapel

    Wooden doors: an example of an aesthetic feature, not detailed in the designs, which must be matched with Phase 1.

    and two classrooms; the classrooms will be similar in design to some of the completed Phase 1 buildings, which will make it easier to visualise some of the design details and finishes.  The challenge will be if the general contractor in Phase 1 has made alterations from the original designs; these will have been tracked, but not necessarily reflected in the separate designs for the Phase 2 buildings.  My natural inclination will be to build purely to the designs I have been given, but I will need to be alert to the fact that Amazima will want their buildings to be uniform, and these two factors may contradict each other.

  • Cost.  The EMI Construction Management (CM) team have some good tools and practices that aid project budgeting and accounting, but often a project is tracked as a whole.  Both the owner’s rep and I are keen to track the cost of each building during Phase 2 separately, which means that I will need to track exactly where materials are being used on site.  For example, if we buy 100 bags of cements I need to know how many went to each building, which may be under construction simultaneously.  This will require an organised store manager and some disciplined working practices on site.
  • Quality.  I have full confidence that work done by labourers under the supervision of our Ugandan staff foremen will be up to scratch, but the buildings include some sizeable steel trusses that will be subcontracted to a Kampala-based firm (yet to be chosen).  We have had issues in the past with poor quality steel fabrication, and so this is a key focus for this project.  The challenge starts now, as Carey (my line manager) and I prepare a bid package to issue to potential contractors, and will continue through fabrication and installation of the structural steel.  We need to ensure we make our expectations clear from the start, and hold the subcontractors to account.


    The chapel design, featuring curved steel trusses.

  • Personnel development.  This project presents an ideal opportunity to develop the leadership and site management capacity of some of our CM team.  For the first few months we will have two staff foremen on site, along with one or two up-and-coming assistant foremen (casual workers, but with an existing relationship with EMI).  My hope is to place our senior foreman in overall supervision of the site, with our second foreman and assistants responsible for individual buildings.  When I move projects in the summer the senior foreman will move with me, requiring a shift of responsibilities for those remaining.  The challenge will be growing individuals’ management skills, and transitioning between lead foreman, without affecting project success.



3 thoughts on “Project planning (part 1)

  1. Thanks for the update Laurence. There are clearly challenges in managing a project in Uganda .. we’ll be praying you make the right calls when needed an get good and trustworthy contractors


  2. Pingback: Project planning (part 2) | The Knoops

  3. Pingback: A new year, a new chapter | The Knoops

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