E-construction and construction partnering combine to shape the AEC industry

Posted in: Bridges, Construction, Transportation

To drone pilots in bright green shirts stand on pavement with drone gearThe AEC industry has always relied on technology, innovation and automation to improve quality, accuracy, and safety of projects. The shift from the manual board-drafting and design of 40 years ago to portable computers, CAD tools, and the automation of manual design processes is a prime example of this. We see the same drive for innovative improvements within the industry today.

Adding innovations to existing initiatives

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) e-Construction Initiative Program helps states establish paperless workflow management systems, so that they can produce secure electronic documents for all stakeholders; provide up-to-date field information to agencies so they can approve work orders quickly; improve information accuracy; and provide real-time updates on the construction schedule and daily workflow. This increased accuracy and efficiency of information is also very helpful when it comes to managing disputes and potential claims.

In 2017, FHWA integrated a new component under the e-Construction Initiative Program: construction partnering. This innovative combination of e-Construction and Construction Partnering (e-C&P) builds on and improves the original program. While e-construction is focused on saving time and providing better tools for communication and documentation, the partnering component focuses on helping project teams set common goals, build trust among stakeholders, resolve disputes, and ultimately improve project outcomes.

State and local Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and their industry partners can benefit greatly from e-C&P innovations. The benefits include:

  • Increased transparency and communication to resolve issues and minimize disputes
  • Quick information dissemination from project inspectors in the field to engineers who manage and administer projects electronically
  • Reduced exposure to hazards for inspectors through e-ticketing applications
  • Real-time access to data
  • Minimized travel—no need to gather paper documentation
  • Reduced costs associated with plans and contract documents
  • Fewer change orders and claims
  • Increased collaboration due to transparent workflows, stakeholder action item tracking, and a single source for project documentation

Combining innovations to increase benefits

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are another recent innovation we’ve seen in the industry. We’ve written before on the value UAVs can bring to our work. They can be used to collect accurate digital field inventory and data, and they can also monitor and respond in real time to developments on construction sites. UAVs, combined with other innovative technologies like GPS and high-resolution cameras, allow engineers to integrate imagery data into CAD and 3D models with land-based 3-D laser surveying. This offers a cost effective-and efficient substitution to labor-intensive ground level activities.

UAV technology is still relatively new within the AEC industry, and its wider implications are still being worked out. However, as the technology matures, it is expected that UAVs will become commonly used on construction sites for surveys, site inventory, bridge condition inspection, and other similar applications.

What can we learn from this?

Innovation is one of the few constants in the AEC industry. New technologies, systems, and initiatives often build on and complement each other to offer compounding benefits. A process of continual improvement is necessary to move forward, and implementing multiple innovations is more effective than any one solution alone.

Combining e-construction, construction partnering, and UAV technology allows contractors and owners to manage workflow and documentation more effectively, reduce construction cost, create a safer working environment, resolve disputes proactively, and build trust among stakeholders. Ultimately this leads to more efficient, effective, and successful project outcomes.

Ziad A. Sabra, PhD, PE, PTOE

About the Author

Ziad A. Sabra is a Mead & Hunt Vice President who leverages his extensive engineering experience to serve transportation clients throughout the mid-Atlantic region and nationwide. When not at work, Ziad enjoys the great outdoors. He spends his time hiking, gardening, and visiting with family and friends.

Read more posts by Ziad A. Sabra, PhD, PE, PTOE

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