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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Building and Fire Research Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2010 3 Measurement Science for Advancing Infrastructure Delivery The primary core competencies for the Measurement Science for Advancing Infrastructure Delivery (MS-AID) Strategic Priority Area are consistent with those in the panel’s 2008 report, but they have been adjusted to reflect refinements in the nation’s needs and NIST capabilities. Areas of expertise within this Strategic Priority Area include the following: information, communication, and automation technologies for the intelligent integration of building and infrastructure design, construction, and operations; 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, and the Office of Applied Economics. The active groups include the Construction Metrology and Automation Group in the MCRD and the Computer Integrated Building Processes Group in the BED. The MS-AID Strategic Priority Area focus is on developing “measurement science” and thus inherently involves interfaces among the MCRD, BED, and OAE. This Strategic Priority Area has identified the following five key drivers for change: Energy independence, environmental security, and sustainability; Renewal of the nation’s aging physical infrastructure; Demand for better-quality, faster, and less expensive construction; Competition due to globalization and offshoring; and Homeland security and disaster resilience. This Strategic Priority Area is addressing the second and third of these key drivers for change in U.S. construction. The MS-AID Strategic Priority Area has also appropriately identified barriers to change, which are largely related to the size, complexity, and fragmentation of the industry. The challenges accompanying those barriers are compounded by prescriptive codes and standards and the low profit margins, resulting in a low level of R&D investment. The stock of U.S. infrastructure is enormous, and much of it has exceeded its design life. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that the cost for the renewal of existing critical infrastructure exceeds $2 trillion. In addition to buildings, other areas identified in the ASCE 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure5 (i.e., bridges, drinking water, energy, and wastewater) are closely related to the BFRL mission. Another study, commissioned by the BFRL in 2009 and conducted through the National 5 The ASCE 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure reported the condition (in terms of “grades”) of the range of infrastructure sectors in the United States. See http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/; accessed June 1, 2010.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Building and Fire Research Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2010 Research Council, identified specific challenges and offered recommendations for advancing the productivity and competitiveness of the capital facilities sector.6 The goal of the MS-AID Strategic Priority Area is to achieve significant improvements in the construction and operation of the nation’s physical infrastructure through the development of measurement science that enables the assessment and integration of information, communication, automation, and sensing technologies. The key MS-AID program is the Automated and Integrated Infrastructure Construction Processes Program. The construction industry is large, complex, and fragmented. Even individual projects involve three major phases—planning, design, and construction—that are traditionally performed by different organizations at sequentially different times. Communications among groups and individuals are difficult. (For example, a $100 million project will, over time, typically involve about 10,000 different individuals, resulting in 50 million potential communications channels!) The industry has traditionally managed itself by emphasizing experience and standardized procedures that vary among differing organizations. Recent advancements in communications, computers, and other technologies provide opportunities for significant improvements in project delivery methods. The MS-AID Strategic Priority Area is intended to develop a “measurement science” for assessing the effectiveness of improvements and quantify “cause-and-effect” relationships between activities in various project phases, and to correlate those with project results. The BFRL has appropriately chosen to select objectives that exploit the technical expertise of the laboratories and interface that expertise with other organizations, such as the Construction Industry Institute, ASCE, NRC, and universities. The word “productivity” appears in many MS-AID documents and is the basic driver for many MS-AID goals and activities. Although economists, including those in the Office of Applied Economics, recognize differentiating adjectives, such as “capital” productivity or “worker” productivity, MS-AID has properly used the term categorically as relating to construction industry improvement. Thus, the goal of improved productivity would relate to better designs, better schedules,, better quality of conformance and performance, improved safety, and lower costs. More so, the MS-AID Strategic Priority Area emphasizes the development of the “management science” to support and measure the effects of such improvements. The program objectives of the MS-AID Strategic Priority Area are to develop the measurement science to: Enable automated access and integration of diverse information systems; Enable real-time construction and process sensing and control of construction; Determine productivity at discrete and aggregate levels; Evaluate performance of promising automation and integration technologies; and Develop standard criteria for the measurement of the accuracy of the transfer of electronic engineering and construction data. 6 National Research Council, Advancing the Competitiveness and Efficiency of the U.S. Construction Industry, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2009.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Building and Fire Research Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2010 The key drivers for change are widely recognized and accepted within the industry. The size and complexity of the industry make it impossible for any single agency to address everything immediately. The MS-AID program objectives are consistent with a selective approach that utilizes the expertise within the BFRL to have maximum impact in developing the measurement science. TECHNICAL MERIT RELATIVE TO STATE OF THE ART Activities in the MS-AID Strategic Priority Area are compatible with programs conducted by other laboratories and universities throughout the world, but they provide a unique perspective on addressing these issues. The BFRL has long addressed specific technical issues in a thorough and methodical manner. The BFRL has more recently begun to apply its expertise and methodologies to its management science initiative. Program staff interfaces effectively with national and international counterparts, and it collaborates with key stakeholders. The BFRL has funded and has been heavily involved with CII’s Benchmarking and Metrics Program, particularly with regard to homeland security applications. It also funded the recent study, referred to above, by the National Research Council, Advancing the Competitiveness and Efficiency of the U.S. Construction Industry. It has funded construction robotics research at the University of Texas, and it was a principal sponsor a few years ago of an international ASCE Research Foundation Workshop on Sustainable Construction. The MS-AID Strategic Priority Area has related its program objectives to desired outcomes for the near term (FY 2010–FY 2013), medium term (FY 2013–FY 2018) and long term (FY 2018 and beyond). Each program objective includes multiple activities, some of which appear in each of the time frames. Ongoing activities in the MS-AID Strategic Priority Area include the Automated and Integrated Infrastructure Construction Processes Program and the following projects: Metrics and Tools for Measuring Construction Productivity, Performance and Use of 3D Imaging Systems, Construction Control Using 3D Imaging and Building Information Models, Development of an Indoor Intelligent and Automated Construction Job Site Testbed, Methods and Metrics for Conformance Testing of Construction Project Data Standards, and Virtual Project Data Integration Testbed. The ongoing activities utilize the expertise and abilities of the MS-AID group and are within the context of the objectives. They identify the development of metrics and tools, use of three-dimensional and automated systems, Project Data Standards, and Project Data Integration, which will all add to the industry’s productivity. Some of these activities—for example, the use of three-dimensional imaging systems, the Job Site Testbed, and the Virtual Project Data Integration Testbed—are internally driven, having interfaces with outside firms and agencies as necessary and appropriate. Other activities are more integrated with outside organizations, such as activities undertaken in cooperation with the Construction Industry Institute. All activities are coordinated or integrated with outside organizations, such as the
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Building and Fire Research Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2010 Construction Industry Institute, the Construction Users Roundtable, the Electric Power Research Institute, FIATECH, and the ASTM. The MS-AID Strategic Priority Area is also pursuing the development of measurement science for quantifying cause-and-effect relationships between activities in various project phases and correlating those with project results. Many examples of cause-and-effect relationships are possible, such as using the results of a “Project Definition Rating Index” during the planning phase of a project prior to entering the design or construction phases, or using “Constructability” tools during the design phase. In recent years, much implementation of new management tools and techniques has taken place, but with a mostly anecdotal reporting of results. The only public database for correlating such uses with project outcomes is that of the Construction Industry Institute, which is heavily oriented toward industrial projects. (As an example, the CII companies’ safety records are an order-of-magnitude better than those of the overall industry, partly because of correlations of cause-and-effect studies using its database.) The metrics and tools for measuring construction productivity developed by BFRL’s Office of Applied Economics should be expanded to examine a variety of cause-and-effect relationships. ADEQUACY OF INFRASTRUCTURE Personnel within this Strategic Priority Area are distinguished both by their technical competence and their passion for their work. The priority area involves staff with advanced degrees and industry experience. It has produced numerous publications and presentations at professional meetings and is active in appropriate interfaces with other agencies. However, current staffing levels may not be adequate to achieve program objectives, and consideration should be given to increasing the staffing level consistent with overall BFRL priorities. In particular, it would be appropriate to add staff with advanced degrees from the many developing graduate programs in project management, construction management, and facilities management that are at the forefront of developing new management science tools. Laboratory space for this priority area had been limited during previous evaluations, but this appears to have been rectified by the provision of space for the Indoor Intelligent and Automated Construction Job Site Testbed, which is currently being renovated. Computing capacity and speed are critical to the successful performance of activities within this priority area. Efforts should be made to ensure that state-of-the-art computing capability is available and continuously upgraded. ACHIEVEMENT OF OBJECTIVES AND IMPACT Feasible milestones have been identified and incorporated in MS-AID project plans, and the MS-AID program is managed to achieve these performance targets. Extensive interfaces with all stakeholder groups, including codes and standards organizations, have been established, and the incorporation of program outputs into codes and standards development is inherent in all program activities. Program results are made available through conferences, workshops, and NIST technical publications and journal articles.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Building and Fire Research Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2010 The program has made progress toward addressing current and emerging priority area needs through the sponsorship of workshops, conferences, and independent assessments by the National Research Council. Figure 3.1 illustrates the potential for MS-AID activities to have a significant impact on project delivery. The cost-influence curve (shown in the figure) has long been recognized by construction industry practitioners and researchers. The timing of total expenditures on a project is represented by a typical S-curve that shows a relatively low level of expenditures in the planning and design stages, with the majority of expenditures occurring in the construction stage. However, the activities and decisions made early in a project’s planning and design stages are increasingly recognized as having a dominant influence on a project’s cost, as well as on its quality, safety, and delivery schedule. The unique modeling and measurement capabilities of the MS-AID program could be used to identify and exploit cost savings and other benefits that could accrue from a better understanding of the earlier phases of the construction process. FIGURE 3.1 Cost-influence curve for phases of the construction process.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Building and Fire Research Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2010 CONCLUSIONS Opportunities and Recommendations Following are opportunities identified and recommendations made by the panel on the basis of its assessment of the Measurement Science for Advancing Infrastructure Delivery Strategic Priority Area: The valuable metrics and tools for measuring construction productivity developed by BFRL’s Office of Applied Economics should be expanded to examine a variety of cause-and-effect relationships. Examples include using the results of a “Project Definition Rating Index” during the planning phase of a project prior to entering the design or construction phases, or using “Constructability” tools during the design phase. Worker safety offers an excellent opportunity to launch this cause-and-effect initiative by the OAE. The MS-AID staff should maintain its strong relationships with the construction community in order to identify new opportunities to add value. Current staffing levels may not be adequate to achieve program objectives, and consideration should be given to increasing the staffing level consistent with overall BFRL priorities. Efforts should be made to ensure that state-of-the-art computing capability is available and continuously upgraded. The MS-AID Strategic Priority Area has the potential to have significant additional impact by expanding its scope to include other phases of project delivery. Conclusions Following are the conclusions of the panel based on its assessment of the BFRL’s MS-AID Strategic Priority Area: The work conducted by the Measurement Science for Advancing Infrastructure Delivery (MS-AID) Strategic Priority Area is supportive of broader BFRL goals for measurement science. The work conducted within this Strategic Priority Area is consistent with the BFRL definition of the scope of measurement science. The outcome of this work will be significant progress toward achieving the following: Renewal of the nation’s physical infrastructure; Better-quality, faster, safer, and less costly construction; and Improved global competitiveness. MS-AID has a broad spectrum of opportunities and the potential to expand its scope of inquiry and analysis.