The design and construction industr y continues to evolve, testing innovative organizational structures and project deliver y methods in which designers, builders, and owners assume less adversarial and less compartmentalized roles. Such approaches share characteristics such as:
• Contractual relationships and working arrangements that foster collaboration between project members
• Participation of the construction contractor during the design phases of a project
• Overlapping of design and construction activities to reduce the “time to market”
• Expanded definitions of project ser vices to encompass the full life cycle of a project—from its original conception, through planning, design and construction, to postconstruction occupancy—to better ser ve the needs of the building owner
The growth of design/build in the construction marketplace is one example of this trend: Between 1980 and 2005 the share of private, nonresidential construction work performed as design/build construction increased from roughly 5 percent of the total market to an estimated 30 to 40 percent. Alternatives to traditional design/bid/build project deliver y have gained increased acceptance in the public construction sector as well. Other new practice models, with such names as teaming, concurrent design, integrated practice, or alliancing, combine efficient project deliver y methods with innovations in team member relationships in a variety of ways, with the aim of aligning all parties’ efforts with the shared goal of a finished product of the highest possible quality and value to the owner.
Improving Efficiency in
Other efforts within the construction industr y focus on improvements in the efficiency of construction methods themselves. Unlike factor y production, much building construction takes place outdoors, is performed within constrained and often physically challenging work areas, and is executed by a highly fragmented workforce. Despite the differences in these production environments, the construction industr y is looking to lessons learned in factor y production for approaches to improving the quality and efficiency of its own processes. Such so-called lean construction methods attempt to:
• Eliminate wasteful activities
• Structure the methods of production and the supply chain of materials and products to achieve the quickest and most reliable workflow
• Decentralize information and decision making so as to put control of construction processes into the hands of those most familiar with the work and most capable of improving it
Current estimates of labor inefficiency in building construction run as high as 35 to 40 percent, and estimates of materials wastage are 20 percent or more. The challenge of lean construction is to restructure the way in which construction materials and building components are manufactured, delivered, and assembled so as to reduce these inefficiencies and improve the quality of the delivered product.
Developments in information technology also are influencing the way buildings are designed and constructed. Most notable is building information modeling (BIM), the computerized, three-dimensional modeling of building systems. Unlike the two-dimensional representation of building systems characteristic of conventional computer-aided design (CAD), BIM involves an intelligent model. Components are not only represented geometrically, but are also linked to data describing their intrinsic properties and their relationships to other components. Originally developed for use in highly capital-intensive industries such as aerospace and automobile manufacturing, this modeling technology is now finding increased application in the design and construction of buildings.
BIM has the potential to impact many aspects of the building life cycle. It can aid the design team with the visualization and realization of complex geometries. It can improve coordination between design disciplines––for example, searching out “collisions” between mechanical system ductwork and structural framing or other such physical interferences between systems––and it can facilitate the modeling of building energy use and the performance of other building systems. For the builder, BIM can be used to improve coordination of trades, to drive the automated fabrication or preassembly of building components, and to integrate cost and schedule data more closely with building design. For the building owner, information accumulated in the model during design and construction can be carried for ward for use with postconstruction building operations and facilities planning.
As the implementation of BIM matures, it is expected to have a profound impact as a communication tool used to improve the coordination and sharing of information among all of the parties to a project. As the integrated building model is shared across the traditional boundaries of disciplines and project phases, the boundaries of responsibility between the designers, constructors, and owners will also blur, and new, more integrated relationships between these parties will likely be required to fully enable the potential of this technology.