Have you ever spent 8 hours in a conference room presenting your case in front of a mediator, arbitrator or judge and notice the other side looking at their smartphones, doodling on their legal pads, or even staring blankly into space. This scene is common because everyone has just sat through 100 page Powerpoint presentations filled with even more bullet points, bar charts illustrating delays with one bar extending beyond the other, and chronologies made from as-builts with over 3,000 cells in an excel spreadsheet. In other words, projects that last years are condensed into an 8 hour presentation and yet somehow, everyone is supposed to digest the information and recreate the project, with all of its impacts in their own minds.

The opposing sides have seen all the same documents, lived the project and yet have a different perspective of what happened. However, the mediator, arbitrator or judge did not live the project, and most likely in the past 8 hours that he or she is sitting there, it is the first time they’ve seen any of the 1,000 highlighted documents and hundreds of photographs supporting the case. Sometimes these word heavy presentations are intermixed with photographs, illustrative time lines, marked up drawings, and productivity bar charts. But what gives the decision makers the experience of elapsed time? Do bar charts that show a contract completion date on April 2, and a bar extending to August 5 accurately convey the amount of time that has elapsed, and the impact which has created this? Do the bullet points on a Powerpoint page that look something like this, link causation to damages:

• Out-of-Sequence Work
• Trade Stacking
• Contract Extended into Winter Conditions
• Lack of Site Access

Most mediators, arbitrators and judges have not been to your project site, they do not understand the typography, the logistical constraints, or even all available methods of construction that exist in the rapidly advancing construction world. The most important part of any causation presentation is to put the room into the project, show them time and space, show them the complexities of certain methods of construction, and help them create a mental image of what exactly you are claiming damages for.

The use of 2-D illustrations, 2-D animations, 3-D animations and even 4-D animations are not new ideas in the legal world, yet in construction claims cases, they are rarely employed. Trials involving motor vehicle accidents and other injuries now often recreate the accident in 3-D using sophisticated mathematical calculations involving physics. This is unnecessary and very costly for construction cases, but simple 2-D animations and illustrations can graphically convey all of the Powerpoint bullet points listed above.

Keeping in the spirit of this article, “Tell Them, then Show Them”, I will provide examples of what I am talking about, and imagine without these illustrations and animations how you would convey the impacts that occurred on these projects. This article will be broken down into three parts, Part 1: 2-D/ 3-D illustration, Part 2: 2-D animation and Part 3: 3-D animation. Part 1 begins below and Parts 2 and 3 will follow in subsequent posts.

PART 1: 2/ 3-D Illustration

Example #1: In a claim involving the termination of an earth support system (ESS) contractor, our client needed to show why one system was logistically better then the other. The client wanted to avoid using rakers to support the ESS wall so that they could proceed unabated with concrete placement in the interior footprint of the excavation. Ultimately the initial system failed and rakers were used which forced our client to leave out blocks of the foundation until the rakers were removed. Below is a comparison of the two systems and how the raker system affected the placement of concrete foundations.


As you can see, the system on the left does not obstruct the concrete placement in the footprint of the excavation, however, since this system failed, the contractor was terminated and the system on the right was used. Using soldier piles with wales supported by rakers, the footprint of the excavation was obstructed and created “pockets” of missing foundation, which would have to be poured once the rakers were removed. Does this show a change in the contract, or does it illustrate the inefficiency of completing work this way?

Example #2: On a similar project involving a soldier pile ESS wall, our client was claiming a differing site condition due to obstructions encountered in the field that were not evident in the boring logs provided with the contract. It was our assertion that the borings had missed many of the large pockets of cobbles and boulders, but without completing additional borings, how could we help our client prove this?

It was actually quite simple. We used the driller’s logs to create the as-built boring logs, and in turn, help us quickly identify the pockets of cobbles and boulders. Creating an illustration showing the depth of each soldier pile, the obstructions encountered in each area, and the proximity of the nearest boring recorded in the contract, we proved that there was indeed a differing site condition.

Below is an example of a graphic profile of one of the ESS walls that was installed.


The illustration above identified every soldier pile, every instance where a cobble field or boulder was encountered, and even the time it took to drill through each boulder. Along with this information, the multiple rounds of jet grouting were illustrated, as well as the proximity of the borings and which borings actually identified boulders (blue triangles). Notice on the right, 4 borings identified boulders after the bid was completed, but also notice of the left side the amount of cobble fields and boulders encountered where borings showed no obstructions. The total time of drilling was calculated for each wall, and the percentage of time drilling through obstructions for each wall was identified in red at the top of each sheet. This wall in particular spent 22% of the time drilling through obstructions.

Example #3: The final example deals with a mechanical subcontractor who was installing process pipe in a steam turbine building for a Heat Recovery Generation System (HRSG). The mechanical contractor claimed that a number of pipe spools were delivered late and buried in a laydown area far from the project site. It was our job to identify and illustrate the complexity of installing the late spools while other work was progressing in the building. Most of these pipe spools were quite large and required cranes to lift and rig them into place. The first illustration below identifies the missing spool (colored gold), its connection to its respective pieces of equipment and its location within the building.


Now to fully illustrate the complexity of the installation, actual photos of the area were used, as well as 3-D illustrations to illustrate how the spool had to be rigged into the building in it’s current state of construction. The photos of the area and amount of congestion are provided below.


As you can see from the photos, the building steel was completed, as well as the metal paneling and all of the exterior platforms that made rigging a pipe spool into a small opening in the building very complicated. The next illustration shows a simplified version of how the spool had to be rigged into the steam turbine building.


As you can see in the top 3-D illustration, the pipe spool had to be rigged on an angle into a small opening to avoid already installed cable trays with wire running through them. Also, below is an illustration of the overall site, and the logistical restraints of the crane to rig the spools into place. This was much more complicated then the mechanical contractor anticipated, and these obstacles were created by a delayed schedule and the acceleration of all trades to complete their work.

Now all of this could be explained in Powerpoint with bullet points, but which method is more effective? Do people’s eyes gloss over after bullet point #476? Using illustration, people have a much easier time retaining the images in their memories than the numerous amounts of bullet points that fly by them in the span of 8 hours.

Part 2, which will discuss 2-D animation is up next and will focus on one of the most important parts of construction; Time.