Building punches way above its weight. This single industry has an inordinate impact on the overall economy. The numbers speak for themselves. As of May 2018, the total value of construction projects in the United States (seasonally adjusted annual rate) exceeds $1.3 trillion.
When one says “building,” one is referring not only to the classical elements of the craft (architecture, engineering, construction), but also to a whole host of interconnected industries: Mining, Transportation, Manufacturing, Energy Production and Distribution, and many more. Each is integral to the building process, and each is linked to the destiny of the building industry. Given the scope of its operations, how might we define building? My definition goes something like this: Building is getting the
“Right People” in the “Right Place” with the “Right Materials, Tools and Information” at the “Right Time.”
(And, I should add, in order to get the work done correctly the first time around.)
Just getting one of the above right is hard enough. Getting all of them right is difficult indeed. This is because building always occurs in project-specific custom conditions. Every project has to cope with unique sites, materials, methods, weather conditions, labor conditions, regulatory requirements and processes—to name a few of the most significant variables. Moreover, building materials and assemblies are typically manufactured at various locations throughout the world. So, believe me when I say that the simple task of just getting the “right materials” in the “right place” at the “right time” is not so simple!
Most other industries, such as aviation, electronics and telephony, have been able to leverage standardization and mass production to accomplish something the building industry has yet to attempt. Year after year, these industries create products that are of high quality, high performance and lower cost. We in building are still trying to agree upon what high quality and high performance look like. This is a serious question that concerns not only our clients and consumers, but also most building professionals and associations. Clearly defining high quality and high performance, as well as what constitutes good value, will have a profoundly beneficial impact on the building industry. It may even offer some solace to my aggravated friends, who constantly complain about the needlessly complicated nature of the building process.
These are challenging problems. Technology will definitely be part of the solution. In the not too distant future, the business of building for each project, inclusive of all project information and business transactions, will be located in only one of two places:
a physical construction site or a virtual collaborative platform.
All project data will be accessed and shared by all project team members in real-time. This operational change will require much more than just a change in software, but that is an issue that will have to wait for another day. However, when the change is made, It may enable building owners and developers to finally achieve that most elusive of all objectives: to deliver a:
High Quality, High Performing, low cost, finished product on time and within budget.