Germany’s construction industry is very disputatious. The A7 Altona Tunnel project team wants to do things better and is exploring new forms of cooperation.
When news came in on 21 December that Implenia had won the contract for the major A7 Altona Tunnel project, Jan Göttsche was delighted, and not just because it was the most important acquisition of 2020, a challenging year dominated by the coronavirus. It was also a special moment for him personally following an intensive tendering phase in which things went rather differently from most other projects he has handled in his career.
Over the decades, German procurement law has created a confrontational culture. The cheapest provider automatically has the advantage in a pure bidding process, so the interests of the parties involved are often not aligned to the same objectives. And the specifications set out in the tender often differ significantly from what actually gets built in the end. Disputes are almost inevitable. Especially if each company is solely focused on its own success.
But what if people got together with the express purpose of starting a project that not only stays on schedule and budget, but that also turns out to be profitable for everyone involved? What if these people devoted twelve months, more than thirty planning meetings and all their combined expertise to optimising the project, from the technical and financial side, in order to reduce the risks involved in actual construction to a bare minimum? And what if these people also explicitly agreed to take the team spirit that has been created into the execution phase, and to ensure that the expanded project team also upholds the principles of fairness, honesty and respect at all times and in all its dealings?
“I am absolutely optimistic that we will continue to find solutions for any problems that come up during the construction phase.”
Jan Göttsche, Head NL Northeast , Civil Germany
“I am extremely optimistic that during the next eight years of construction we will continue to find solutions to any problems that arise,” says Jan Göttsche, Head NL Northeast, Civil Germany, who represents Implenia on the joint venture’s management committee. The foundations have been laid. All of the parties showed themselves to be flexible during the bidding phase: the client, DEGES, altered the tender three times, while bidders Implenia and Hochtief voluntarily brought their execution planning forward. This meant there was scope to optimise the construction schedule and explore alternative solutions, and risks could be shared more equally by e.g. agreeing price adjustment guidelines and amending the service agreement. “Above all, though, the clear desire to try a new approach to the contract brought our team together,” says Jan Göttsche. “We now have to take this spirit into the wider project team, which in just a few months will expand to a hundred people.”
Cultural change is the goal
To make sure this happens, the project participants want to develop guidelines for a culture of cooperation and all work under the same roof: the new office right by the construction site offers enough space for the client’s employees, the construction managers/supervisors and the joint venture team. All rooms are shared, so that information can be exchanged easily at all levels, all the time. Creating the best conditions for a successful project.
A7 ALTONA TUNNEL
Project: 2,230 m noise abatement tunnel and expansion of the A7 motorway to eight lanes Total value: EUR 580 million Planned construction period: Eight years Joint venture partners: Implenia / Hochtief Implenia share: 35%, commercial lead