Measurement Science for Breakthrough Improvements in Construction Productivity

The primary core competencies for the Strategic Priority Area of Construction Productivity are information, communication, and automation technologies for the intelligent integration of building design, construction, and operations.

Areas of expertise within this Strategic Priority Area include construction metrology, sensing and control technologies, and economics. The BFRL divisions active in this area are the Materials and Construction Research Division (MCRD), the Building Environment Division (BED), and the Office of Applied Economics (OAE). The active groups include the Construction Metrology and Automation Group in the MCRD and the Computer Integrated Building Processes Group in the BED. The primary BFRL goal in this strategic area is High Performance Construction Materials and Systems, and the key program is Construction Integration and Automation Technologies.

TECHNICAL MERIT RELATIVE TO STATE OF THE ART

Construction productivity is a very appropriate Strategic Priority Area for the BFRL. Construction industry productivity has generally declined over time, especially relative to other U.S. industries of comparable scale. The BFRL focus on measurement science in this area is appropriate because of the credibility of NIST in this area, the existing interfaces that NIST has with other organizations, its staff capabilities, the multiyear approaches that are necessary to have significant impact on this industry segment, and the rapid and fragmented nature of technology development in the building industry at large. By advancing measurement methods and related technologies, the BFRL work is a critical enabler of the adoption of performance-based standards in industry. Without such standardized and validated measurement methods and technologies, the introduction of performance-based standards will not occur on a large scale. The widespread adoption of performance-based standards is, therefore, vital to making the built environment more sustainable.

The specific activities of the BFRL in this Strategic Priority Area are fundamental to improving construction industry productivity and ambitious in their scope. If these activities are successful, they have the potential to achieve very large improvements in construction productivity; however, these activities, which befit the NIST mission, are relatively long range in nature. In the area of metrics for construction productivity, it is likely that the BFRL can continue to exploit its relationship with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the BLS data-gathering capabilities to expand the ability to correlate a myriad of variables and provide valuable industry insights. The BFRL work to establish standardized productivity measurement methods at the project and task level (e.g., methods to determine the quantities installed in an hour, during a task, or in a day) is well conceived and should continue or even be accelerated. The laboratory and field work (e.g., in Lansing) are excellent.

The real-time sensing and control efforts at the BFRL are well defined and implemented. They focus on the development of test methods for high-precision calibrations and standards development. The laboratory’s indoor facility for testing



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Measurement Science for Breakthrough Improvements in Construction Productivity The primary core competencies for the Strategic Priority Area of Construction Productivity are information, communication, and automation technologies for the intelligent integration of building design, construction, and operations. Areas of expertise within this Strategic Priority Area include construction metrology, sensing and control technologies, and economics. The BFRL divisions active in this area are the Materials and Construction Research Division (MCRD), the Building Environment Division (BED), and the Office of Applied Economics (OAE). The active groups include the Construction Metrology and Automation Group in the MCRD and the Computer Integrated Building Processes Group in the BED. The primary BFRL goal in this strategic area is High Performance Construction Materials and Systems, and the key program is Construction Integration and Automation Technologies. TECHNICAL MERIT RELATIVE TO STATE OF THE ART Construction productivity is a very appropriate Strategic Priority Area for the BFRL. Construction industry productivity has generally declined over time, especially relative to other U.S. industries of comparable scale. The BFRL focus on measurement science in this area is appropriate because of the credibility of NIST in this area, the existing interfaces that NIST has with other organizations, its staff capabilities, the multiyear approaches that are necessary to have significant impact on this industry segment, and the rapid and fragmented nature of technology development in the building industry at large. By advancing measurement methods and related technologies, the BFRL work is a critical enabler of the adoption of performance-based standards in industry. Without such standardized and validated measurement methods and technologies, the introduction of performance-based standards will not occur on a large scale. The widespread adoption of performance-based standards is, therefore, vital to making the built environment more sustainable. The specific activities of the BFRL in this Strategic Priority Area are fundamental to improving construction industry productivity and ambitious in their scope. If these activities are successful, they have the potential to achieve very large improvements in construction productivity; however, these activities, which befit the NIST mission, are relatively long range in nature. In the area of metrics for construction productivity, it is likely that the BFRL can continue to exploit its relationship with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the BLS data-gathering capabilities to expand the ability to correlate a myriad of variables and provide valuable industry insights. The BFRL work to establish standardized productivity measurement methods at the project and task level (e.g., methods to determine the quantities installed in an hour, during a task, or in a day) is well conceived and should continue or even be accelerated. The laboratory and field work (e.g., in Lansing) are excellent. The real-time sensing and control efforts at the BFRL are well defined and implemented. They focus on the development of test methods for high-precision calibrations and standards development. The laboratory’s indoor facility for testing 14

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three-dimensional imaging systems and developing synthetic data sets using standardized artifacts (e.g., spheres and patterned disks) can be used for measuring the performance of construction site object-recognition technologies. This facility provides a strong initial effort and basis for future interlaboratory cooperation and the evolution of protocols. A strong technical basis has been developed, and promising progress is being made. The development of an Intelligent and Automated Construction Job Site Testbed is underway at the BFRL; it is a natural extension of the three-dimensional imaging systems activity. The testbed development will be an evolutionary process in partnership with industry and academia and will be phased, first with an indoor testbed, followed by an outdoor testbed. The initial planning and conceptual thinking have been accom- plished, and interfacing with other groups is underway. The development of the Virtual Project Data Integration Testbed is consistent with the other strategic priority activities and incorporates those activities into its process. It brings together the various project phases and participants into an integrated potential for data exchange and the full utilization of building models. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a potential breakthrough technology for improving construction productivity—and indeed productivity across the complete life cycle of a facility, from pre-design planning, through design, fabrication, construction, commissioning, and operations and maintenance. The ongoing work within the BFRL in this Strategic Priority Area is of very high technical merit. Staff is involved in virtually all of the BIM activities currently taking place in the United States (e.g., Fully Integrated and Automated Technologies [FIATECH], ASHRAE, and the International Alliance for Interoperability) and in international standards development activities (e.g., International Organization for Standardization [ISO]). BIM activities in which BFRL staff members are participating are producing real products that are being adopted by industry, which illustrates the technical quality, usefulness, and relevance of this work as well as the working relationships of NIST staff with industry. Examples of these products include the Automated Equipment Information Exchange tools and the CIMSteel Integration Standards (CIS/2) work that responds to and supports the near-term industry adoption of BIM technologies for steel fabrication and construction. BFRL staff efforts within ISO and ASHRAE reflect a commitment to long-term activities to continue the development, dissemination, and adoption of BIM technologies. The projects on Metrics and Tools for Construction Productivity and the Virtual Project Data Integration Testbed address the NIST goal of identifying critical measurement gaps that act as a barrier to innovation, and specifically the need for reliable and unbiased performance data to speed the adoption of new and innovative technologies in the building and construction sector. The BFRL has already had a major participatory role in the Construction Industry Institute (CII) Benchmarking and Metrics program, which is responsible for the largest public database on construction projects in the industry. ADEQUACY OF INFRASTRUCTURE BFRL facilities and equipment appear at the present time to be adequate for the work underway. However, the BFRL currently has limited resources for addressing all 15

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productivity problems in a $1.4 trillion industry. Even though the space available for the work on the metrics for construction productivity has improved over the past years, NIST should find additional ways to further upgrade the space available for this work. A primary limitation in resources at the present time relates to staffing. Increased staffing with technical competencies in information modeling and standards committee participation is needed. If new hires can be attracted to the BFRL, additional funding will be needed to support and retain them. The advancement made in establishing the Intelligent and Automated Construc- tion Job Site Research Testbed facility is noteworthy. This facility will become the testbed for new measurement science and is therefore critical to the BFRL’s future in this area. ACHIEVEMENT OF OBJECTIVES AND IMPACT Active participation and leadership in organizations such as FIATECH, CII, ASHRAE, and ISO are effective dissemination channels for products from the BFRL work in this Strategic Priority Area. BFRL staff members are extremely well positioned to have a consequential long-term impact on the advancement of BIM. The researchers should develop better links to the software vendors who might develop tools for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating construction productivity measurements so that industry uptake of the methods developed at the BFRL can be quicker. Opportunities should also be explored for more collaboration with other laboratories at NIST on the productivity measurement methods concerning emerging large-scale problems, such as the state of the infrastructure in the United States, to see if this might drive the research agenda and focus. The BFRL work is critical to illuminating the underlying issues of construction productivity and to establishing a framework and specific measurements, including standard specifications for carrying out and reporting such measurements, at the project and task levels. A suggestion in this respect is to establish such measurements for the office work (design, detailing, construction management, coordination), for the work in the supply chain (fabrication), and for the work in construction and facility handover and start-up. Such a focus would enable the BFRL to establish a framework that is currently lacking for assessing the impact of automation and integration technologies on engineering and construction productivity. In the future, this work should extend to the establishment of standard methods to measure the life cycle impacts of the materials and processes used in construction. The recent success in several areas of work that have been ongoing for several years solidifies the good track record of the small, but productive BFRL team in this strategic area. These achievements include the following: The Automated Equipment Information Exchange data exchange protocol is now being adopted by industry (e.g., American Petroleum Institute, American Society for Manufacturing Engineers, Electric Power Research Institute, Hydraulic Institute, Institute for Nuclear Power Operations, and Process Industry Practices) for interoperable information representation and exchange. The laser-scanning work, in particular the walk-about scanning, holds great 16

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promise to measure on-site production of physical work more rapidly and precisely in order to validate model-based design, detailing, planning, and coordination methods and to enhance safety on-site. The BFRL/NIST report5 on the cost of the lack of interoperability in the facility and construction industry has been extremely well received. The BFRL should consider further development and testing of the method for measuring the impact of interoperability (including interfaces and interactions) and should determine and standardize the underlying measurement methods and overall framework. The work at BFRL on the definition of model-based design and construction will also contribute significantly to the current discussion and adoption of building information modeling in the construction industry. CONCLUSIONS The ongoing work in this Strategic Priority Area of Measurement Science for Breakthrough Improvements in Construction Productivity within the BFRL offers the potential of very large improvements in industry productivity, is relatively long range in nature, and is befitting of the NIST mission. However, the phrase “construction productivity” may be a misleading rubric for this Strategic Priority Area, because the evolution and life cycle of a construction project involve many phases, including the definition of business need, facility planning, project planning, design and procurement, construction, start-up, commissioning, and operations. The overall measure of productivity involves much more than just the construction phase and is strongly dependent on the material/equipment/worker interface, which in turn requires flexible rules and regulations if it is to capitalize on emerging technological opportunities. It should be noted that the BFRL staff is actively involved with other organizations, such as the CII, that are aggressively addressing all life cycle phases and so are already familiar with these issues. The BFRL has limited resources for addressing all of the productivity problems in a $1.4 trillion industry. A number of worthwhile projects are currently underway, but the BFRL’s portfolio of projects needs to be clearly mapped to the larger context and evaluated for maximum impact given currently available resources. This strategic area is an example of an area in which roadmaps and portfolio management techniques would be most useful additions to the management tools used by NIST leadership to plan and execute projects. High-impact activities need to be resourced properly and over multiyear horizons in order to achieve the necessary results for the desired—and needed—impact. For example, while BIM is recognized as a potential breakthrough technology for improving productivity throughout the building life cycle, this has been true for quite some time. BIM is a technology that requires a significant and sustained effort to push the industry toward adoption. The current pace and direction of effort within the BFRL are sufficient for initiating that push. However, a significant additional effort will be 5 National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2004, Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry, NIST GCR 04-867, August, Gaithersburg, Maryland. 17

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required to respond to stakeholder needs such as certification testing once adoption is in progress. The importance of the development and implementation of protocols for certification testing (i.e., actual testing of products) has been recognized by the BFRL staff; however, this importance will increase as adoption progresses, and rising to the challenge will require a significant effort, including resourcing and recruiting appropriate staff levels and expertise that likely cannot be adequately undertaken with existing BFRL staff levels. 18