General Questions & Answers Related to Construction Field

1. What is the difference between working stress approach and limit state approach?

For working stress approach, service loads are used in the whole design and the strength of material is not utilized in the full extent.

In this method of design, stresses acting on structural members are calculated based on elastic method and they are designed not to exceed certain allowable values.

In fact, the whole structure during the lifespan may only experience loading stresses far below the ultimate state and that is the reason why this method is called working stress approach.

Under such scenario, the most economical design can hardly be obtained by using working stress approach which is now commonly used in the design of temporary works.

For limit state approach, for each material and load, a partial safety factor is assigned individually depending on the material properties and load properties.

Therefore, each element of load and material properties is accurately assessed resulting in a more refined and accurate analysis of the structure.

In this connection, the material strength can be utilized to its maximum value during its lifespan and loads can be assessed with reasonable probability of occurrence.

Limit state approach is commonly used for the majority of reinforced concrete design because it ensures the utilization of material strength with the lowest construction cost input.

2. What are the functions of different components of paint?

For normal paint application, there are mainly three main components of paint, namely primer, undercoat and finishing coat.

Primer: This is the first layer of a typical painting system and it is used to inhabit corrosion and provide a good bond for subsequent coats.

Undercoat: This component acts as a barrier to corrosion agents and even out irregularities of bonding surface. It also serves to hide the underlying background and prevent the details and colour of the area of application to affect the designed colour and finishing details of paint.

Finishing coat: This is the final layer of a typical painting system and it protects the underlying layers from the effect of adverse weather conditions (e.g. sunlight) and to provide the designed properties of paint like colour, impermeability, wearing resistance, etc.

3. If the contractor is liable for defective works for 12 years with contract under seal (6 years with contract not under seal), then what is the significance of Maintenance Period?

Defective works constitute a breach of contract in accordance with Limitation Ordinance (Cap. 347).

An action founded on simple contract (not under seal) shall not be brought after expiration of 6 years while an action founded with contract under seal shall not be brought after expiration of 12 years.

For construction works, the date of counting these actions should be the date of substantial completion.

To answer the above question, one should note that under the contractual requirement, the contractor during Maintenance Period has the right to rectify the defects and the employer has also the right to request the contractor to make good defective work.

However, after the expiry of Maintenance Period, in case of any arising of defects, the employer has to employ others to rectify these works and bring the action to court to claim the contractor for the costs associated.

4. In checking the quality of weld, what are the pros and cons of various non-destructive weld inspection methods i.e. ultrasonic test, radiographic inspection and magnetic particle flaw detection test?

Currently, there are three common non-destructive testing of weld, namely radiographic inspection, ultrasonic testing and magnetic flaw detection test.

The method of radiographic approach was used commonly in the past until the arrival of ultrasonic inspection technique.

Major difference between the two is that ultrasonic testing detects very narrow flaws which can hardly be detected by radiographic method.

Moreover, it is very sensitive to gross discontinuities.

Tiny defects, which characterize welding problems, are normally not revealed by radiographic inspection.what are the pros and cons of various non-destructive weld inspection methods

Moreover, ultrasonic inspection possesses the advantages that it can accurately and precisely locate a defect as well as figure out its depth, location and angle of inclination.

In the past, it was expensive to adopt ultrasonic means for inspection.

Nowadays, the rates for both inspection methods are comparable.

Most importantly, the x-ray and gamma ray used in radiographs are radioactive and pose potential safety hazard to testing technicians on site.

Reference is made to Paul G. Jonas and Dennis L. Scharosch.

Magnetic flaw detection test can only be used for checking flaws in any metallic objects.

This method is commonly used for inspecting surface cracks and slightly sub-surface cracks.

However, surface and sub-surface cracks can be readily detected by radiographs and ultrasonic inspection.

5. Why should acetylene gas cylinders used for gas welding be erected in upright position?

Acetylene gas is commonly used for gas welding because of its simplicity of production and transportation and its ability to achieve high temperature in combustion (e.g. around 5,000oF).

Acetylene is highly unstable and flammable and would explode in elevated pressure when reacting with oxygen in air.

Storing acetylene gas in cylinders under pressure is very dangerous.

Hence, for welding purpose, gas acetylene is stored in cylinders of liquid acetone contained in porous material (like firebrick) to enhance there is no free space left for acetylene gas and for cooling purpose in the event of thermal decomposition.

It also prevents the formation of high pressure air pockets inside the cylinder.

Dissolved acetylene in acetone will no longer in contact with oxygen and is not subject to decomposition.

On the other hand, acetone is used because it is capable of dissolving large amount of acetylene gas under pressure without changing the nature of the gas.

The cylinders for gas welding i.e. oxygen cylinders and acetylene cylinders, when not in use should be stored separately because any mixture of these gases resulting from accidental leakage can be highly explosive.

When in use, acetylene cylinders should always be kept in upright position because acetone liquid will be drawn from the cylinders with the gas if they are kept horizontally.

Consequently, significant leakage of acetone liquid will result.

Note: Oxygen and acetylene gas cylinders are commonly used in construction sites for gas welding.

6. Is stainless steel really stainless in construction application?

Stainless steel refers to alloy steels with more than 10.5% of chromium and consists of several groups like austenitic, ferritic, martensitic etc.

Austenitic stainless steel is normally used in structural applications because of its high corrosion resistance.

Austenitic and ferritic types of stainless steel cover about 95% of stainless steel applications.

Stainless steel is not stainless although it is corrosion resistant under a wide range of conditions.

A passive layer of chromium oxide is formed on stainless steel’s surface which renders it corrosion resistant.

This chromium oxide layer acts as a stiff physical barrier to guard against corrosion and makes it chemically stable.

Moreover, when this layer is damaged, it can perform self repairing where there is a sufficient supply of oxygen.

However, stainless steel will still corrode by pitting in marine environment where chloride attack occurs.

Therefore, appropriate grades and types of stainless steel have to be selected in polluted and marine environment to minimize the problem of corrosion.

Reference is made to Euro Inox and the Steel Construction Institute (2002).

7. Is the procurement of third party insurance necessary to be incorporated in contract for construction works?

The purpose of third party insurance is to protect contractors from bankruptcy in case there are severe accidents happened to the third party due to the construction work.

Therefore, in government contracts, contractors are requested contractually to procure third party insurance from the commencement of contract until the end of Maintenance Period.

If contractors have the financial capability to handle the claims due to accidents to third party, the client is not bound to include this requirement in the contract.

8. What is the mechanism of protection by hot dip galvanizing?

Hot dip galvanizing protects steel/iron from corrosion by:

(i) It forms a metallic zinc and zinc-iron alloy coating on top of steel surface. This zinc coating reacts with moisture in atmosphere to from zinc salts which act as an insulating layer for steel/iron.

(ii) Zinc is higher than steel/iron in the galvanic series and when these dissimilar metals with different electrical potential are in contact, the zinc anode corrodes and offers sacrificial protection to steel/iron and hence steel/iron is protected from corrosion.

9. The insurance policy of insurance companies has changed recently. What is the major change?

Original Clause 4.6.1 “Liability in respect of death, bodily injury, illness or disease suffered by any person employed by an insured Contractor or employed by any party to whom part or parts of the insured Contract have been sub-contracted.

However, this exclusion shall not apply to any liability which may attach to any sub-contractor insured under this Policy in respect of death, bodily injury or illness or disease suffered by a person employed by any other sub-contractor.”

Revised Clause 4.6.1

“Liability in respect of death, bodily injury, illness or disease suffered by:

1) Any person employed by any insured party i.e. principal contractors, sub-contractors, sub-sub-contractors for the purpose of execution of insured contract or any parts thereof and

2) Any person to whom part or parts of the insured contract have been sub-contacted including but not limited to self employed sub-contractors.

In essence, the original clause 4.6.1 has no cover for death/injury to employees of contractors or sub-contractors because they should have separate insurance cover under employee’s compensation ordinance.

However, it does not exclude the liability for “worker to worker” i.e. sub-sub-contractors.

For the revised Clause 4.6.1, it rules out the liability for death/injury to employees of any insured party.

10. Should design life be the same as return period for design conditions?

Design life means the minimum duration a structure is expected to last.

The longer is the design life; the higher is the cost of a project.

Therefore, in choosing the design life for a structure, engineers should consider the design life which generates a economical project without sacrificing the required function.

In selection of return period of certain design conditions, winds, waves, etc., one should consider the consequences of exceedance.

In fact, there are normally no extreme maximum values of these design conditions and its selection is based on the probability of exceedance which is related to return period.

Therefore, design life may not be equal to return period of design conditions because their selections are based on different considerations.

11. What is the difference between sureties and security?

In construction contracts, if a contractor fails to perform the works, the employer would suffer from severe financial loss and therefore some forms of protection has to be established in the contract.

For surety bond, the contractor obtains a guarantee from a third party i.e. a bank or an insurance company, which in return for a fee, agrees to undertake the financial responsibility for the performance of contractor’s obligations.

This third party will pay to the employer in case there is a contractor’s default.

For security, a sum of money is deposited in the employer’s account and upon satisfactory fulfillment of contractor’s obligations, the sum will be repaid to the contractor.

12. What is the difference between fasteners, bolts and screws?

Fastener is a general term to describe something which is used as a restraint for holding things together or attaching to other things.What is the difference between fasteners bolts and screws

The main physical distinction between screws and bolts is that screws are entirely full of threads while bolts contain shanks without threads.

However, a better interpretation of the differences between the two is that bolts are always fitted with nuts.

On the contrary, screws are normally used with tapped holes.

13. What is the function of washers when using bolts?

The purpose of installing washers in a typical bolting system is to distribute the loads under bolt heads and nuts by providing a larger area under stress.

Otherwise, the bearing stress of bolts may exceed the bearing strength of the connecting materials and this leads to loss of preload of bolts and creeping of materials.

Alternatively, flanged fasteners instead of using washers could be adopted to achieve the same purpose.

14. What is the difference between normal bolts and high friction grip bolts?

High friction grip bolts are commonly used in structural steelwork.

They normally consist of high tensile strength bolts and nuts with washers.

The bolts are tightened to a shank tension so that the transverse load across the joint is resisted by the friction between the plated rather than the bolt shank’s shear strength.

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