Author: Hanna Stina-Sonts

A short overview of what I’ve been working on over the past month and more about the construction business game MERIT that our team from BuroHappold participated in.

Merit Competition

Throughout March and April, I took part in a construction business simulation competition called MERIT (standing for Management Enterprise Risk Innovation and Teamwork) with a team set up together with five other young engineers from BuroHappold. The aim of the competition is to put you and your teammates in charge of making all the business and managerial decisions of a virtual construction company, while competing to grow your business against teams from all around the globe.

The game was set up so that each week, as a team, we could evaluate our company’s progress throughout the previous week and, using the MERIT software, enter a new set of decisions. These covered a range of relevant areas including finance (investments in other firms and paying out dividends to shareholders), overhead staffing (coping with company turnover and conducting market analysis), bidding for new jobs and ensuring ongoing jobs had enough labour and competent managers.

Concentration levels intensified as we developed elaborate spreadsheets

We encountered some problems during the running of our company.  For example, we had been hiring a lot of workforce to cope with a high number of projects, but when we were unsuccessful in qualifying for new jobs, we were instead left with a large number of idle workforce, or ‘free men in pool’ as MERIT liked to phrase it. This might sound like a lot of fun for the workers, but for us it meant a lot of lost funds. Therefore, we had to make the decision of whether to lay off the excessive construction staff or keep them ‘in the pool’ in hopes of soon qualifying for more jobs. But not to worry! After long calculations and some moral dilemmas hardly any staff were deemed to be worth giving up.

During the first week or two, it proved to be quite challenging to take in a lot of information as well as having to familiarise ourselves with the nitty gritty of how the software itself operated. Having said that, the whole process helped me really appreciate how decisions made in different managerial positions interact and affect each other in the long term. Overall, the competition lasted for 10 weeks and, in addition to learning about all the different business functions, it was a really fun teamwork exercise!

The final meeting featuring glorious pizza

Platform design for KAFD Metro

On a more serious note,  in addition to MERIT, I have been doing some actual work as well. For the past month I have mostly been working on the design of the platform structure, which supports two train lines for the KAFD Metro in Riyadh. On top of analysing any basic loading such as supporting its own weight or the pedestrian traffic, one main design criterion is that the structure has to be strong enough to withstand any accidental loads. In the very worst cases, these accidental loads could be caused by the derailment of a train or collision of two trains. Although extremely unlikely, accidental loads are all still some of the most important factors affecting the final design of the platform.

Architect’s vision of the interior of the station by the platform level, image copyright of ZHA

To start with, I looked into the relevant design code and calculated the various criteria that the platform has to be designed for. I went on to set up more than a hundred loading variations on Excel which I could then import and easily amend later in the engineering software we had used to create the model. Due to the very high collision loads, the platform had to be redesigned in some local cases. In these instances, it was important to stick to the most minimal but effective changes so as to keep the amended design as close to the original. Bits of the platform are still being finalised with the architects and so this is all still a work in progress; therefore, until the next time!

Screenshot from Robot Structural Engineer with a view of the platform model

Posted in: Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate


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