Documents and testimony suggest that BP’s engineering of its Deepwater Horizon well — the one that has been spilling oil into the Gulf of Mexico for a month now –was faulty from the start. Engineering plans created an unobstructed path for pressurized natural gas to surge to the wellhead if safety systems failed, experts say. This disaster is because of engineering arrogance.
You can read the full article in the Houston Chronicle. (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/energy/7022355.html)
“The entire well construction, in my view, was cavalier,” said an engineer and industry consultant who asked not to be named. “They were putting a lot of faith in their calculations that things would not go wrong.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s book The Black Swan – The Impact of the HIGHLY IMPROBABLE has clearly documented the cost of the arrogance of people in believing that something won’t happen, or that the odds are too great to take the precautions, or time to plan for that risk.
Was and is Taleb correct? It has been a long argument in the financial world. Taleb wrote his book in 2007. For someone who made so much money as a trader knowing that when the financial world crashed it would be “big time,” it is amazing that he has not been called in to solve the problem. It is amazing until we think about human nature and how we protect our own territory.
Let’s get back to engineering and construction. Will this lesson in the gulf help those of us in construction, whether it is the small remodel, building a home, building a commercial building, building a high-rise, developing a piece of ground or drilling a well a mile under water, stop and spend more time at the pre-planning stage?
That is what engineers and architects do. Kind of. Where is the collaborative effort? Most projects go from bid to construction as fast as possible. ”Get ‘er Done,” as Larry The Cable Guy says.
Hire a consultant? Bring the teams involved in the project together? Some argue that we have pre-construction meetings all the time. I would be interested in hearing on-line or off-line from people involved in those meetings if they think this is the solution to prevent all of the damage control that happens every day on construction projects.
Years ago I became intrigued with Six Sigma. I decided to take an official course on Six Sigma. In my class the instructor asked people to identify the industry they are involved in. Health Care, Manufacturing, IT, but I was the loner from Construction. Try and find a Six Sigma course specifically for construction!
Pictures tell the story. Engineers and contractors are to blame for the oil spill in the gulf. We are paying the price for the arrogance of thinking that we do not have the time to protect ourselves from the “black swans” that can happen.
For ideas of how to prevent black swans from occurring on your project, whether it is big or small, give QED Real Estate Consulting a call – 704-926-6576 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.