Posted by: nedpelger | August 19, 2009

Opportunities Abound for Improved Construction Productivity: Part 2

In the previous post on this topic, I discussed the potential power of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and of decreasing productivity in construction trades. For many years, I’ve understood the industry fails in building design and planning. All parties allow the acceptable level of performance to be so low, then we resolve things in the field. This pattern harms construction productivity more than any other factor.

Owners, Architects/Engineers and construction Project Managers have failed to achieve good designs and planning. Too many traditions remain from the early 1900s, things like shop drawings really showing all the critical information. This process allows A/Es to be sloppy in their design, knowing what they show isn’t what anyone builds from.

Let’s consider structural steel. The structural engineer lays out a grid and sizes members, but doesn’t design the connections (which are the most critical element of the design, i.e. most likely to fail). The old rationale for this procedure was that various steel fabricating shops did their connections differently and there were cost benefits to letting them decide. In current times, any steel shop can do any connections. The Structural Engineers just don’t want the liability of fully designing the steel…and it’s just the way we do things.

We miss an opportunity for truly efficient design, with one party (the Structual Engineer) going through the design process one time, correctly. The current method also keeps everyone else that works around the structural steel somewhat vague about what will really be installed. So the trim carpenter doesn’t really know how the framing of the columns can be detailed since the connections aren’t clear. Also, the duct and sprinkler contractors have to make assumptions in their shop drawings which may or may not be correct.

Have you ever struggled with the system as it currently works? What improvements could occur? How?

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