Labor Productivity Declines in the Construction Industry: Causes and Remedies

This is an article by Paul Teicholz from Stanford it’s older but still very relevant today.  If you don’t intend to make the jump the nut of it is the lack of collaborative tools within the construction industry is inhibiting productivity gains.  Even as better tools and methods appear their adoption is slow and buildings are becoming more complex.

Typically, as informally described by PMs in the field, after the steel goes up or there’s a major renovation HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc. want to be in first, why?  Less problems and issues downstream, no worries if your stuff is colliding with anyone elses and minimum change orders.  Compare that to the last one in, who’s chases are now filled with other equipment, who’s runs are compromised by a plumbing stack or HVAC trunk.  I’d want to be first one in too.

One of my friends, and clients has a design/build firm.  He was a trained architect but got more into the building side.  He brought us into document the existing conditions of a residence.  We brought it into Revit and he then he sat down with someone from my team to design the proposed.  We phased it, rendered it, he used it for a variance hearing, etc.

Now the plans needs a stamp.  The architect does not work in 3D so need to export everything into 2D, not a problem since the architect does not work within  the Autodesk family of products, I am not trying to be a shill for Autodesk I am just showing the problems going cross platform, so he is going to use our stuff to trace over.   We export the floorplans, sections and elevations.  He goes to work.  Now the landscape architect still works with pencil and paper.  Even though we had a plot plan and brought it into Revit so all the grades and current information is in the model, the landscape architect went back out with a transit and paper and created his own plan on paper.

What is the number one cause of inefficiency due to interoperability. “The manual re-entering of data.” This was reported in the 2007 Smart Market Report from McGraw Hill. They also cite :

• Time using duplicate software
• Document version checking
• RFI processing
• Cost of data translations

and it is not difficult to see the time sink this becomes.

Now take the other end of the spectrum.  We sat in an IFMA round table at MGH (Mass General Hospital) where they told us they used BIM and IPD (Integrated Proejct Delivery) and they did everything digitally.  Scheduled it, collision detection, etc. and they found tens of thousands of collisions on the computer before anyone went into the field.  I have seen estimates, and I will try and dig up the source for you, that each collision was valued between $3,000 to $5,000.  That should provide enough of an answer as why anyone should switch to BIM.  And I keep coming back to what one of the construction mangers said to me, “we now have the time and inclination to things right.”


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  1. #1 by Moshe on June 12, 2009 - 6:28 am

    Good examples comparing efficiency Jim, thanks for the simple clarity. The more this concept is appreciated, the stronger the need for accurate and more detailed as-built data too.

    As for your previous post on appreciating the potential benefits of twitter, it seems ironic the same time-efficiency concerns mentioned above can be applied to our electronic communications. We have multiple ways to connect, email, facebook, linked-in, twitter, texting, etc. Managing one or more can be a tremendous time drain, and they don’t ‘cross platform’ well. . . I hope someone out there is working on a BIM / IPD for our multiple communication tracks . . . 😉

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