Opportunities in Construction Today
Howdy! I’m Erik Drentlaw, a post baccalaureate student in Texas A&M University’s Construction Science Department. I’m not your typical intern at JBKnowledge, Inc. After traveling around the world building golf courses, I’ve decided to change careers to vertical construction/real estate development. My original degree is from Oregon State University in Horticulture/Turf Management. I have a wonderful wife and two fantastic daughters who live in Dallas.
As I transition into my new career this May, I often reflect on some of the biggest impacts I can make in my profession. To me, there are two big opportunities currently; sustainability and technology. These two topics are starting to receive more attention but have hardly changed in the past half century. In fact over the past 44 years, while the productivity of nonfarm industries has more than doubled, it is estimated that the construction industry is now 10 percent less productive than it was back then. (Eastman 2011) This means that while other industries were changing, improving and implementing new technology, construction did nothing to improve. There are many reasons for this. The fact that each project is unique is one of the largest factors.
Today, construction is a three trillion dollar industry in which some have said there is almost 30 percent waste. (NIST 2004) This leaves large opportunities for improving productivity and eliminating that waste. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) the inefficient interoperability of the construction industry increased construction costs by $6.12 per square foot and increased $0.23 per square foot for operation and maintenance (O&M). This resulted in total added costs of 15.8 Billion. (NIST 2004) Inefficient interoperability according to NIST includes the fragmented nature of the construction industry, paper-based business practices, lack of standardization and inconsistent technology adoption.
One group that is trying to change the fragmented construction industry is the Construction Open Software Alliance (COSA). In 2004, the Associated General Contractors (AGC) began the effort to make construction software more efficient through the exchange of data between different software solutions with agcXML. Today, COSA has taken over the agcXML effort and has many construction technology company members all working for the seamless integration of different technology solutions for construction companies and improving interoperability.
Another part of the change that needs to be ushered in for this new era of construction includes building sustainably. Some organizations are even focused on net zero buildings. Organizations playing a large role in sustainability include the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and The Living Futures Institute who are helping to create buildings that actually generate excess energy, have net zero water usage and have very small carbon footprints.
Another way the construction industry is changing is with the implementation of Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM can be used in numerous different ways however, the basic concept is that it is a three dimensional model of what will be built. It includes all geometric data and when plans are changed the model automatically updates. It is a large database that stores all of a building’s information. It can be used to present to owners in the design phase, as a clash detection program during construction, or as a tool for facility management.
Hopefully with new technology being improved daily, increased collaboration, and new methods of building “green” we will be able to solve the problem of exponential population growth with finite resources!
Azhar, S. (2011). Building Information Modeling (BIM): Trends, Benefits, Risks, and Challenges for the AEC Industry. Leadership & Management in Engineering, 11(3), 241-252.doi:10.1061/(ASCE)LM.1943-5630.0000 127
Eastman, C., Teicholz, P., Sacks, R., & Liston, K. (2011). BIM handbook: A guide to building information modeling for owners, managers, designers, engineers and contractors. John Wiley & Sons.
McGrawHill (2009). SmartMarket Report, The business value of building information modeling: Getting building information modeling to the bottom line