A new workshop report from the National Research Council (NRC) identifies five key activities to advance the competitiveness and effectiveness of the nation's construction industry that employs millions of workers and affects home prices, consumer goods and the national economy.
The workshop commissioned by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) gathered industry experts to identify and prioritize technologies, processes and technology deployment activities that have the greatest potential to advance the U.S. construction industry's capital facilities sector, which includes commercial, industrial and infrastructure projects. The resulting report, Advancing the Competitiveness and Efficiency of the U.S. Construction Industry: A Workshop Report, identifies five interrelated activities that could lead to breakthrough improvement in the quality, timeliness, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability of construction projects.
The five key activities listed in the NRC report are:
- Widespread deployment and use of Building Information Modeling, which is a tool for all companies and workers involved in a building project to use to understand the technical specifications and precise order of steps involved in a building project;
- Improved job site efficiency through more effective interfacing of people, processes, materials, equipment and information such as improved material management using radio-frequency identification (RFID) and global positioning systems (GPS) techniques;
- Greater use of prefabrication, preassembly, modularization and off-site fabrication techniques and processes;
- Innovative, widespread use of construction demonstration installations; and
- Effective performance measurement tools to drive efficiency and support innovation as was the case when the construction industry began focusing on safety-related issues by tracking their performance against national statistics. These efforts resulted in best practices to improve safety performance.
"The National Research Council's recommendations are consistent with NIST's priorities for improved productivity measurements," says NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory Director Shyam Sunder. "Technological advances will facilitate improved efficiency in the construction industry and will allow the country to meet its construction challenges with a positive impact on the environment and the economy."
The report recommends NIST work with industry leaders to develop a collaborative strategy to implement and deploy the five NRC activities and to establish a "technology readiness index" similar to those of NASA and the Department of Defense to verify a new process's readiness for deployment. It also recommends that NIST work with government agencies and construction industry groups to develop effective measures for tracking productivity and to enable improved efficiency and competitiveness. NIST economists have already published a blueprint for industry change called Metrics and Tools for Measuring Construction Productivity: Technical and Empirical Considerations. (See "Blueprint for Industry Change Aims to Improve Construction Productivity", NIST Tech Beat, Oct. 20, 2009.)
Sunder and NRC report Committee Chair Ted Kennedy will be making a joint presentation Wednesday, Nov. 18 at the Construction Users' Roundtable Annual Meeting in Orlando (www.curt.org/CURT.pdf).
Advancing the Competitiveness and Efficiency of the U.S. Construction Industry: A Workshop Report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12717.