Finding solutions to Construction’s biggest challenge: Inefficiency

Change is essential to ensure that we can keep up with demand, Naji Atallah, Head of AEC and Manufacturing at Autodesk writes

The significant population increase expected through 2050 along with the prediction that urban dwellers will double by that time is an unprecedented pressure on the construction industry. A lot of change is essential to ensure that we can keep up with the demand, efficiently and sustainably.

One of our biggest challenges is that a third of all project resources goes to waste. This includes material being thrown away and idle man hours. These inefficiencies cost the industry billions each year and along with demolition add up to 30% of the world’s solid waste. A major contributor to the problem is the typical disconnect between design and construction. The industry still assumes roles that are sequential so a designer’s data and models do not always take constructability into consideration.

The result is that a lot of contractors and sub-contractors cannot correctly consume the models that are presented to them. These types of issues result in the normal delays and budget over-runs we see in the construction process.

The issue is magnified by the type of contracts that govern the industry in the region: separation of scope, reducing contractual liability and retaining one’s intellectual property are held in higher regard than better project outcomes that the owner, design and contractor can share.

This also results in a lack of feedback from the construction phase back to the design team. With the wealth of information that is generated on-site, it is imperative that this information gets back to the designers to enrich future designs. The great benefit here is that the owner retains these insights, and the knowledge can also be shared with other stakeholders and filtered into future projects as well.

The good news is that the technology and processes to address the challenges have been around and proven for a few decades now.

Building Information Modelling, or BIM, with its more recent cloud extensions, gives project stakeholders the ability to one single source of truth, a validated and data rich 3d model. This improves communication and coordination issues, vastly reducing rework and waste material on site. The project’s quality and safety record of BIM enabled projects tend to be higher in projects that follow collaborative methodologies than those that keep stakeholders in isolation.

It also helps project owners and contractors engage with the designer early on and throughout the design process. This allows the designers to ensure the ongoing constructability and ease of operations and maintenance of their design. This results in much better project outcomes and, usually, much lower project costs.

Projects on the higher end of innovation have started to use Machine Learning for risk prediction too. Algorithms project data and identifies high-risk areas that impact design, quality, safety, or project controls. Those algorithms can learn from anonymous data of other projects across the world. Patterns that are similar before an issue are identified so a human mind can decide on how to address them.

With the capability to better predict risk, companies can take corrective measures early in the project and avoid costly delays.

Improving the efficiencies from design to construction has been something many companies see as a luxury, but the signs are clear, if you are not able to keep innovating you will certainly be left behind.

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