Posted by: nedpelger | August 13, 2009

Opportunities Abound for Improved Construction Productivity: Part 1

An entrepreneur says, “For what opportunity do I have an unfair advantage?” Learning to see where those advanatages may be develops as a useful skill. Whether you’re trying to delight customers in your own business or add value in the company you work, learn to look for advantages you can bring to the game.

I see Building Information Modeling (BIM) as one of those advantages…probably the most important one I’ve seen in a decade. Most of us still work with 2D drawings, even though AutoCad produces them. Most architects still think in terms of plan, elevation and section. BIM doesn’t just take us to 3D drawings (which are only slightly more useful than 2d) but requires each component of the building to be modeled.

A conduit isn’t just a line on the print, it becomes a 3D tube that exists in the virtual design. Of course the obvious advantage is to see the intersection of conduits, ducts, sprinkler pipes, etc and prevent crashes. The more important advantage, though, involves the potential for huge construction productivity increases from BIM design. I haven’t read about anyone else seeing this potential.

Those of us who work in the day-to-day building design and construction business understand how much  inefficiency happens on a typical project. Designs typically aren’t well coordinated between all the professional disciplines and Owner’s change their minds often when they begin to see what they are getting. Labor productivity doesn’t suffer because workers don’t want to work, but because Owners, Designers and Supervisors don’t clear the way.

In 2004, a Stanford University study showed that construction labor productivity declined almost 20% from 1964 to 2003, while other non-farm productivity  increased by over 200%. That’s an astonishing statistic. Can construction really have done that badly?

If you have an opinion, leave me a comment. I’ll be writing more about it soon.

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