Eco-friendly Mulching – Enhancing Road Safety and its
Aesthetics through Value Engineering
Not only in Construction Phase of Road Projects, but even in Operation & Maintenance (O&M)
Phase also, there is a need to adopt Value Engineering approach in achieving Green objectives.
However many a times these aspects during O & M Phase are overlooked
Value Engineering Process needs to be practiced for maintaining the standards of Quality and
Reliability with reduced Costs in every phase of Activities for which Kaizen approach could be
Study was undertaken at 100 Km Road Project constructed on Build Operate Transfer (Annuity
Model) in Andhra Pradesh by Gammon India Limited. Untapped Mulching Technique in Road
Works was explored to convert one of the easily available nearby waste Materials (i.e. Paddy
grass) into Green Resource to enhance aesthetics of Highways besides improving Safety to
Commuters by virtue of better growth to Road Plantations and reduction in glaring effect
especially in Medians.
The Qualitative and Quantitative benefits attained using these approaches are:
Growth of plant : 3 times
Foliage Coverage : 2 times
Savings in water consumption : 52%
Reduction in Weed Growth : substantial
Thus, Eco-friendly Mulching Technology is aimed to preserve Natural Environment by going
Green apart from reducing costs by 10 – 12%.
Key Words: Mulching – Kaizen Approach - Green Initiatives – Cost Reduction
Bhavesh Kantilal Thakkar, PMP
Gammon India Limited
Value Engineering approach can be used to achieve one or more benefits like optimizing Project
Life Cycle Costs, saving time, Increasing Profits, Expanding Market Share, solving Problems
and/or using resources more effectively
Some of the approaches for Continual Improvement can be through various processes as listed
Innovation of methodology by rebuilding a new Technology
Continuous slow Improvements from the existing process
Reverse Engineering in the usage of alternate or similar materials for intended use;
Innovative Eco-friendly concept of Mulching never attempted in Gammon of its existence and also
found no records in either Internet or any records of its application elsewhere while developing
Road Works in India is used as Value Engineering concept to especially reduce the Cost of
Operation and Maintenance of Median Plantation on National Highways besides preserving
Environment using Kaizen Approach.
3.0 Fundamentals of Value Engineering
3.1 Value: It is defined as fair return or equivalent in Goods, Money or Services for
something exchanged. It can be commonly represented by the relationship as below:
Value ≈ Functions / Resources
Where Function is measured by the Performance requirement of the Customer in terms of
summation of its functionality, Performance and Quality of its Deliverables
Resources are measured in terms of summation Material, Labor, Price, Time etc. required to
accomplish the function in its Project Life Cycle.
3.2 Application of Value Engineering Concepts:
Value Engineering can improve Decision Making that leads to optimal expenditure of Owner
funds while meeting required function and Quality level. Hence, the timing of the application of
Value Engineering concepts is critical to determine the results of its benefits to the Project which
can be graphically represented as below:
Graph: 1 Pictorial representation of Value Engineering Benefits
The above graph clearly enunciates the following:
The Value Engineering benefits attained are very high when conceived during the Initial
Stages of Project Construction where the Cost to Change is very low.
In case of O & M Phase of Project Life Cycle, Cost to Change is not that significant but
potential savings continue to rise with the passage of time if pursued.
3.3 Tools and Techniques
The success of Value Engineering is due to the ability to identify the opportunities to remove
unnecessary costs while assuring the other factors as listed above.
The basic approach to improvement in Quality Parameters can not only be through Proprietary
approaches like ISO, principles recommended by Deming, Juran, Crosby and others but also
from Non Proprietary Approaches such as TQM, Six Sigma, FMEA, Voice of Customer, Cost of
Quality and also through Continual Improvement.
Tools for Continual Improvement are
3.3.1 Functional Analysis system Technique ( FAST ) Diagram:
The FAST model has a horizontal directional orientation described as the HOW-WHY dimension.
This dimension is described in this manner because HOW and WHY questions are asked to
structure the logic of the system's functions. Starting with a function, we ask HOW that function is
performed to develop a more specific approach. This line of questioning and thinking is read from
left to right. To abstract the problem to a higher level, we ask WHY that function is performed.
This line of logic is read from right to left.
Graph: 2 Pictorial representation of FAST Methodology
3.3.2 Creative Thinking:
The creativity thinking is adopted through various Group Creativity Techniques like Brainstorming,
Idea/Mind Mapping, Affinity Diagram, Nominal Group and Delphi Techniques on any process
execution or Improvement works.
3.3.2 Life Cycle Costing:
The sum of all recurring and one time (non-recurring) costs over the full life span or a specified
period of good, service, structure or system. It also includes Purchase Price, Installation Cost,
Operation Cost, Maintenance and upgrade costs, and remaining salvage value at the end of the
Ownership or its useful life.
3.3.3 Analytical Hierarchy Process (Weighing score technique):
It provides a comprehensive and rational framework for structuring a decision problem, for
representing and quantifying its elements, for relating those elements to overall goals, and for
evaluating alternative solutions.
3.3.4 Kaizen Costing:
Life cycle costing anticipates cost improvements during the Project Life Cycle well as recognizing
the importance of the design stage. This is sometimes referred to as Kaizen costing.
Kaizen costing, unlike Target Costing, is not accompanied by a set of techniques or procedures
that are automatically applied to achieve cost reductions. Workers are given the responsibility of
improving the processes and reducing costs.
Graph: 3 Relationships between Target Price, Profit and Cost
4.0 Project brief on Median Plantations
100 Km of 4 Lane divided carriageway was executed by Gammon – Punj Lloyd JV in BOT
Annuity Model for National Highways Authority of India which achieved Commercial Operations in
Oct 2004. Presently, it is in ninth year of Operations and one of maintenance activities is to
Enhance Safety measures, prevent Weeds, improve aesthetics besides periodic Overlay works
and other routine Maintenance activities.
Approximately 57 Km of Total length of 100 Km is encompassed by Median Plantations on a 4-
lane divided Carriageway from Rajahmundry to Tuni on NH 16 in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
The quantitative details of the Project are tabulated as below:
Package Identification Plants in Nos Approx. length of
1 Rajahmundry Expressway Ltd
(Contract Package : AP 15)
12,024 21.75 Km
2 Andhra Expressway Limited
(Contract Package : AP 16)
16,326 35.00 Km
Grand Total 56.75 Km
Table: 1 - Median Plantation details in the Project
4.1 Deliverables to Customer at any Point of time:
No Weed growth should be visible
Foliage of Plant should cover the entire median
Height of the Median Plants restricted to max 2.0m
4.2 Present Methodology of Execution
Conventional system of using Water tankers of 10KL Capacity are deployed daily (4 Nos) to
water the plants for the entire stretch which used to make 3 trips per day/ per tanker and regular
labor are deployed for cleaning the basin and removal of Weeds periodically, every 2-3 months to
ensure the deliverables as mentioned in the above paragraph.
5.0 Selection of Process Improvement Methodology:
Considering the balance Concession period of six years only, Process Improvement through
completely new innovation was out of reach. The activity being related to Environment Oriented,
Reverse Engineering cannot be implemented. The Project is already in Lean Management and
further optimization was not possible and therefore, the only option left out for process
Improvement was Kaizen Approach.
5.1 Method Approach;
Kaizen approach brings small improvements at a time and participation of team members is the
key element for its success.
Project Team was enthusiastic on change process and PM had a buy-in from team
Members and the Independent Engineer to undertake the Experiment;
Team was given the task of Brainstorming the Ideas for alternative and better
performance in terms of the Job requirements;
During Brainstorming Exercise, Drip Irrigation and Exploiting Mulching were identified and
Drip Irrigation was eliminated by using analytical hierarchy process and Mulching was
selected as Process Design to test the performance of the Median Plantations;
Team studied the results of Mulching in various landscaping activities of Hotels and other
6.0 What is Mulching?
It is a simple protective layer to cover the soil from the top by Organic or Inorganic Materials to
improve the soil conditions and crop plants generally by Farmers.
6.1 Benefits of Mulching:
Helps in preventing the soil erosion;
Decreases water loss due to evaporation;
Works against the Weeds;
Protects the roots from drying and temperature
Adds organic matter to the soil;
Adds Nutrient to the soil;
Feeds soil life and improve soil structure;
Fig : 1 Mulching view in Orchards
6.2 Different type of Mulch Material which are available that includes
But Unfortunately, Mulch, being generally treated as green waste, by majority people to get rid of
it but folks understands the value when this is treated as green resource.
As it is known fact, Organic Material gets decomposes and it needs to be replaced at certain
period depending on the type of material. The below table shows the various details like its
availability on Earth, its anticipated life and its major benefits which will give the Professional, a
ready reference to evolve the suitable design by constrained optimization techniques.
Graph: 5 Details of Mulching Materials
7.0 Broadly How Mulching Links to Process Improvement of Median Plantation
Material Benefits Application in our Project
Prevents the Soil Erosion Water requirement will be reduced and
deployment of Water Tanker can reduce and
decrease in OH and HSD expenditure (Eco
friendly measures)Decrease water loss in evaporation
Works against the weeds
Reduced Labor for jungle clearance towards
weeds removal will help in optimizing the
work force for other activitiesProtects from drying and temperature in
Adds Organic and Nutrients to soil, if
organic material used
Early growth of plants will enhance
Aesthetics and reduce glaring effects
Improve Soil Structure
Table: 2 – Comparison of mulching benefits vis-à-vis its application
India, presently on mega Infrastructure platform, for developing Road Network across different
corners is stressing on continual improvement process for sustaining Road Aesthetics and
Improvement of Safety to the Commuters and Mulching is evolving into one of the Process
Alternative at an reduced cost specifically to the Performing Organization which in turn will benefit
Customer and Project Sponsor.
8.0 Mulching Implementation at site as Trial Experiment:
One Km length of Stretch is considered for implementation of Mulch as Process Improvement
Initiative to compare the Performance in the areas of Non-Mulch areas for understanding the
Moisture Retention and Growth of Plants and its foliage as per the Methodology furnish below:
8.1 Understanding Moisture Retention
Form the basin at the girth of at least 0.75m diameter;
Clear the entire weeds existing in the basin;
Apply Mulch 3-4” thick in the basin and in our case, we have considered as Straw
(Paddy Grass) as easily available local material;
Record the Moisture content @ 500mm depth below the basin to know the present status of
the Plant which was 5% in our case
Apply Water to Plants in both the categories as per the Conventional practice;
Monitor and Note the Moisture Content (@ 500mm below the basin) twice a day at the fixed
times to under the Retention Rate of the Soil
Similarly, Monitor and Record the Temperature at the basin to understand the Evaporation
rate of the Soil
Apply the Water in the Mulch Areas only when the Moisture content attains 5%;
Record the Readings for every cycle and determine the Retention Rate and Evaporation rate;
8.2 Understanding Plant Growth:
Selected 6 Plants of Big and Small Plants in both Categories were measured initially in terms of
its Height, Girth, and Foliage Coverage;
The above listed parameters were recorded at the end of the Experiment Cycle of one month and
analyze the results in comparison to the Non Mulch Areas.
The Pictorial Representation of Mulch Performance is shown below.
Picture 2: Experimental results of Mulching in Site
9.0 Experiment Results
9.1 The results of Water Properties in terms of Moisture and Evaporation during one month of study
in five cycles are tabulated below:
Moisture Retention and Evaporation Results
Mulch area Non Mulch area
content / Deg C)
Content / Hour
/ Deg C)
Cycle 1 0.045 0.36 0.090 0.72
Cycle 2 0.047 0.69 0.065 0.95
Cycle 3 0.038 0.42 0.053 0.58
Cycle 4 0.033 0.69 0.048 1.00
Cycle 5 0.046 0.46 0.063 0.63
Average 0.042 0.523 0.064 0.776
Variation 1.52 1.48
Table: 3 Test results of Moisture Retention and Evaporation
Non Mulch Area requires 52% more of Water due to its direct exposure to Sun which also
indicates evaporation is higher by 48% in Non Mulch Areas
9.2 Plant Growth and its Foliage Growth rate are tabulated below:
Table: 4 Physical growth results of Plants
10.0 Costing Parameters:
The Costing per plant per year for the maintenance of Median Plantations when being executed
as per Conventional practice is around Rs.147/- per Plant as per the details below:
Table: 5 Activity based Costing of Median Plant using Conventional Methodology
Incorporating the Experiment Results lead to the reduction of the following:
Lower Consumption of Water resulting in reduction of Water Tanker by 1 No and
corresponding Labor Helper:
Fuel consumption reduced by 25% due to reduction of Water Tanker from 4 Nos to 3
Requirement of Periodical Labor for Weed Removal gets eliminated and on the other
hand, Cost of Mulch has been added;
With the above Methodology, the Revised Cost of Maintenance of Plant using Mulching
works out to Rs.128/- per Plant per year as per details tabulated below:
Table 6: Activity based Costing of Median Plant using Mulch Technology
Exploiting Mulching Technology (by converting the Waste) into Green Resource can yield
around 12% reductions in Costs;
Implementation of Mulching activity looks to be feasible and easily executable;
The above Technology not only reduces costs but more importantly is contributing the
Society (which is the Primary Responsibility of the Organization) by way of proper
utilization of Scarce Resource Like Fuel and Water besides converting the Waste Material
into Green Resource resulting in Preservation of Environment for a span of seven years to
any project having around 50 odd Km of 4 laning work;
The Organization can have better Branding due to application of Go Green Initiatives;
Small Improvement by using Straw will pave the way for the usage of Alternate Materials and
subsequently can help in developing the Standard Operating Procedure by getting more
inputs from other working Professionals across the Country.
The Author thanks PMI for giving the opportunity to present the paper. The Author also thanks
entire team of Rajahmundry Site team comprising M/s. Bhagavan Raju, Kashinath, Apparao and
other team members besides GIPL Management for facilitating this experimentation to give way
for this new thought process. The Author also thanks Mr. M. U. Shah, member- BoM for his
constant guidance and encouragement in submitting this paper. The Author also thanks Mr. E.
Krishna Murthy, PMP and Mr. V. S. Pillai for their valuable support to undertake this submission.
The Author also thanks various authors shown in the references for providing their various
valuable insights in their respective fields to culminate this overall innovation into possible new
thought process of sustainable project execution
1) Project Management Institute, “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge”,
Chapter 8, pp. 189-213
2) CTAHR, “Mulching for healthier landscape plants”, Oct – 2007, L-3
3) MM Odendaal, thesis on the estimation and management of cost over life cycle of metallurgical
research projects submitted to university of Pretoria, Feb 2009
4) Giedrius Grondskis, Alfreda Sapkauskiene – Cost Accounting information use for product mix
design, Eknomica IR Vadyaba, 2011:16
5) James R. Wixson, CVS, CMfgE, Function Analysis and Decomposition using Function
Analysis Systems Technique
6) Hussein Ali Mohammed, University of Karbala, Role of Value Engineering in the Sustainable
Bhavesh Thakkar has completed B. Tech in Civil Engineering from KITS,
Warangal in Jun 1994 besides Executive MBA (PGEMP) from S.P. Jain
Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai in April 2012. He is a PMI
Member since Oct 2011 and obtained PMP Credential in May 2013. He
has experience of 18 years in the construction of Bridges, Roads and
Canals. Presently he is associating with Gammon India Limited at Head
Office, Mumbai in Costing Department for Process Improvement.