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CN5203:Computer Applications in Construction Engineering and Planning

Unit No.1

Overview of IT Applications in Construction:

IT systems involve the conversion, processing and communication of


information. Data captured in digital format is flexible thus, easily revised, adapted
and distributed.

The combination of quantity and accessibility of information to compress space


and time makes computerized information extremely powerful (Day, 1997). However,
the construction industry has evolved technologically at a slower rate than other
industries because information components are set in a physical value chain.
Furthermore, transformation occurs due to a combination of factors such as
globalization, technology advancement, and cultural changes (Scheer, Leusin de
Amorim, Santos, Ferreira, and Caron, 2007).

To date, the use of IT in construction has been limited and mainly focused on
increasing productivity and reducing costs. However, IT continues to evolve in all
sectors and the focus on reengineering the construction industry promotes a vision of
a high-tech level of operations. Furthermore, fundamental changes in the process
should occur to better integrate communication between project participants. IT is
viewed as a means of solving communication and information management challenges.
Once an information system (IS) is implemented opportunities are created for the
internal process to improve. Technology implemented at operational level impacts on
the development and use of IT at project and organization level. Consequently, the
potential implementation of IT at operations level is perceived as a means to solve
these challenges. However, this potential is not recognized by all organizations.
Construction projects are specific, unique, and many are complex with varied time
constraints and budgets. These factors contribute to the challenge of IT application
during the production phase. However, a well organized project grants access to
systems software, utilities, electronically stored information or knowledge bases, and
other IT resources such as e-mail and discussion forums. Given the abovementioned a
study was conducted among general contractors (GCs) to determine the: • Extent to
which GCs use IT; • Degree of IT competency; • Type of hardware used in
construction; • Type of specialized software and intranet use, and • The impact of
design related IT on project parameters. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE The
construction process and the need for IT The production process involves the effective
management of resources such as plant and equipment, materials, transportation,
personnel, finance, technology and information.

Planning and organizing activities are essential functions applied to achieving


goals. Short term planning comprizes of a detailed programme that consists of
resource and labour schedules. A site manager programmes the work daily or twice
daily, therefore programmes that are linked assist in updating schedules. Furthermore,
subcontractors and trade supervisors require updated information on a regular basis
(Kwakye, 1997). Site supervisors control labour with the use of time sheets. Targets are
set and performance measured and recorded to enable future comparisons.
Information is used for remuneration and setting targets. Control in the form of daily
planning and site meeting attendance mitigates the outcome of unforeseen events such
as subcontractors working simultaneously in the same place. Quality standards are
achieved by implementing a quality system that includes: skilled operatives with
experience; materials to correct specification; correct storage of materials; effective
planning and programming of resources; supervision and inspection by site
management, and adequate protection of completed work (Kwakye, 1997).

Site operations include: materials delivery and storage, procurement of plant


and movement of equipment to perform activities. All activities should be coordinated
for the process to continue systematically. Task coordination is affected by a reduction
in Information technology in the construction process 505 project duration, delays and
alterations to contract programming. Activities are codependant, thus a negative effect
on one activity could impact others.

IT systems support the interaction between subcontractors performing


different tasks. There is a misconception that IT hardware is inappropriate on building
sites due to the physical work environment. Resource planning and management
improves with the use of appropriate IT. IT applications are designed for specific tasks
according to ARUP (2003) as cited by Magdic, Rebolj and Suman (2004): • Data capture
including applications such as time sheets and inspection forms; • Technical drawings
viewed and revised electronically; • Project management software applications used
for project administration, and • Collaboration software that involves interactive
communication systems extended to foremen and site managers through the use of
mobile phones and handheld devices. Decisions are made in project meetings with the
design team, consultants and site managers.

However, foremen and site supervisors often have the knowledge and
experience to evaluate a situation and recommend possible solutions. Foremen and
site supervisors are able to communicate on a project using the same software, thus
compressing the information gap enabling immediate on-site decisions relative to
problems encountered, with the benefit that correspondence is automatically recorded.
Potential use of IT hardware on construction sites Mobile computing is a key
instrument in facilitating the effective use of IT in each phase of a construction project
and can be defined as a combination of three components namely (Rebolj and Menzel,
2004):

Computers that are accessed while the user is in motion such as palmtops; •
Wireless computers with sufficient bandwidth to be accessed while the user is in
motion, and • Mobile applications that support the context or work process in which it
is used. The purpose of integrating mobile computing into an existing IT structure is to
reduce the effects of distance between various participants who retain specific
information (Rebolj and Menzel, 2004).

Very few organizations have implemented mobile computing systems at


operations level, thus it is visible that the general construction industry has not
recognized the potential use of such systems. IT is useful in particular construction
operations, and mobile workers are intended to input critical information to improve
information management and communication for the success of the project. Magdic et
al. (2004) report on a research project which confirmed that information exchange
between project team members and amongst site personnel improve with the use of
mobile devices. The second test monitored improvements of document exchange on
site with the implementation of a mobile document management system, whilst a third
test focused on on-site interpersonal communication whilst problem solving. The
findings emanating from the survey conducted by Magdic et al. (2004) demonstrate
that open project communication enhances project coordination, enabling participants
to become more actively involved. The future trend is to move toward the integration
of IP telephony, voice Koekemoer and Smallwood 506 and multimode technology,
video-mediated collaborative teamwork, and semantic web based services for
intelligent mobile construction. Use of software and intranet to improve project
communication and site efficiency Software is defined as the set of programs, and
procedures and related documentation associated with a computer program, compiled
to perform a specific task (Retik and Langford, 2001).

Applications software programmes provide a service such as word processing,


drafting and data management, for example spreadsheets. Specialized construction
software A range of specialized construction software is available: • Construction
Computer Software (CCS) - estimating, valuations, planning, and cash flow forecasting;
• JD Edwards - financial management and reporting; •

AutoCAD - design; •

Primavera - project management, scheduling, programming, resource allocation,


and costing; •

Buildsmart - estimating, procurement, accounting, and payroll functions, and •

Kwikest - estimating, pricing, and valuing. Intranet Organizations realized the


need to communicate information within the bounds of their organization. Employees
benefit from being able to perform various functions including: access information;
receive internal e-mails, and read company policies and newsletters. Intranets that
allow selected external access are commonly referred to as extranets.

At project level the use of an internet-based network facilitates sharing and


exchange of project related information between project participants. Influence of 3D
modelling and 4D CAD on construction projects The effect of technology on site
operations commences at the inception of design. The amount of information
increases as operations progress, due to a greater need to coordinate design and the
actual construction thereof (Day, 1997). Designers produce drawings and 3D models by
combining relevant information with the initial design to create a realistic perspective.
CAD is an important aid to productivity, however few contractors make use of the
software applications (Retik and Langford, 2001) 3D Modelling Modelling highlights
the ways in which elements relate to one another. Models are a communication aid that
facilitate coordination among trades and integrate architectural components, building
services, cladding and other building components (Dawood, Scott, Sriprasert, and
Mallasi, 2005).

Although more time is taken to create a detailed model, lengthening the design
phase, the construction time is reduced. Predetermined parameters assist designers
with the selection of suitable materials for a specific component. Furthermore, the
design can be communicated easily to the contractors and any adjustments to the
model made with ease (Finch, 2000).

Information technology in the construction process 507 Standardization


positively influences buildability, productivity, time, and cost. It is possible to relate
non-graphical information to elements and components of design drawings with the
use of 3D modelling (Day, 97). 4D CAD 4D modelling has evolved from the integration
of 3D modelling with the scheduling of construction activities. Models provide project
participants with a visual perspective to predetermine possible problems such as
sequential spatial process conflicts and temporal aspects of construction schedules
(Dawood et al., 2005). Product data is obtained from specialized design software in
either 2D or 3D format and process data is retrieved from programming software.
Components are tabulated in a database and linked to relative product information. 4D
models make use of start and end dates allocated to activities and those observed to
run concurrently and clashes would be highlighted.

Construction cost estimating software

Construction cost estimating software is computer software designed for


contractors to estimate construction costs for a specific project. An cost estimator will
typically use estimating software to estimate their bid price for a project, which will
ultimately become part of a resulting construction contract. Some architects, engineers,
construction managers, and others may also use cost estimating software to prepare cost
estimates for purposes other than bidding.

a) Traditional methods
Construction contractors usually prepare bids or tenders to compete for a contract award for a
project. To prepare the bid, first a cost estimate is prepared to determine the costs and then
establish the price(s). This involves reviewing the project's plans and specifications to produce a take
off or quantity survey, which is a listing of all the materials and items of work required for a
construction project by the construction documents. Together with prices for these components, the
measured quantities are the basis for calculation of the direct cost. Indirect costs and profit are
added to arrive at a total amount.[1]

Spreadsheets
Cost estimators used columnar sheets of paper to organize the take off and the estimate itself into
rows of items and columns containing the description, quantity and the pricing components. Some
of these were similar to accounting ledger paper. They became known as green sheets or
spreadsheets.

With the advent of computers in business, estimators began using spreadsheet applications
like VisiCalc, Lotus 1-2-3, and Microsoft Excel to duplicate the traditional tabular format, while
automating redundant mathematical formulas.[2][3]

Many construction cost estimators continue to rely primarily upon manual methods, hard copy
documents, and/or electronic spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel. While spreadsheets are
relatively easy to master and provide a means to create and report a construction cost estimate and
or cost models, their benefit comes largely from their ability to partially relieve estimators of
mundane calculations. Accuracy, however, is not necessarily improved and productivity is not
maximized. For example, data entry remains tedious and prone to error, formula errors are common,
and collaboration and information sharing are limited.[2][3][4]

Commercial estimating software

Estimating Software Block Diagram

As cost estimators came to rely heavily on spreadsheets, and the formulas within the spreadsheets
became more complex, spreadsheet errors became more frequent.[4] These were typically formula
errors and cell-reference errors which would often lead to cost overruns. As a result, commercial
cost estimating software applications were originally created to overcome these errors by using
hard-coded formulas and data structures. Other benefits include the use of reference databases for
costs and other data, predictable and professional looking reports, speed, accuracy, and overall
process standardization.[5]

As cost estimating programs became more and more popular over the years, more advanced
features, such as saving data for reuse and trade-specific calculations, have become available.[6] For
example, programs that are designed for building construction, include libraries and program
features for traditional builders. In sharp contrast, programs that are designed for civil construction,
include libraries and program features for roadway, utility, and bridge builders.

Sophisticated, cost estimating and Efficient Project Delivery Software systems are also available to
integrate various construction delivery methods such as Integrated Project Delivery, Job Order
Contracting, and others (IDIQ, JOC, SABER...) simultaneously and securely. These systems enable cost
estimators and project managers to collaboratively work with multiple projects, multiple estimates,
and multiple contracts. A 'short list' of additional capabilities includes the ability to work with
multiple cost books/guides/UPBs, track project status, automatically compare estimates, easily
copy/paste, clone, and reuse estimates, and integrated sophisticated visual estimating and quantity
take-off (QTO) tools. Owners, contractors, architects and engineers are moving to advanced cost
estimating and management systems, and many oversight groups such are beginning to also require
their use. The level of collaboration, transparency, and information re-use enabled by Cost
Estimating and Efficient Project Delivery Software drives 15-25%+ reductions in procurement cycles,
six to ten times faster estimating, reduce overall project times, as a significant reduction in change
orders and the virtual elimination of contract related legal disputes.[citation needed]

Typical features
Three functions prove to be the most critical when buying cost estimating software:

 Takeoff software - this provides for measurement from paper or electronic plans
 Built-in cost databases - this provides reference cost data which may be your own or may come
from a commercial source, such as RS Means
 Estimating worksheets - these are the spreadsheets where the real work takes place, supported
by calculations and other features[6]

Other typical features include:[7]

 Item or Activity List: All estimating software applications will include a main project window
that outlines the various items or activities that will be required to complete the specified
project. More advanced programs are capable of breaking an item up into sub-tasks, or sub-
levels. An outline view of all of the top-level and sub-level items provides a quick and easy way
to view and navigate through the project.
 Resource Costs: Resources consist of labor, equipment, materials, subcontractors, trucking, and
any other cost detail items. Labor and equipment costs are internal crew costs, whereas all other
resource costs are received from vendors, such as material suppliers, subcontractors, and
trucking companies. Labor costs are usually calculated from wages, benefits, burden,
and workers compensation. Equipment costs are calculated from purchase price, taxes, fuel
consumption, and other operating expenses.
 Item or Activity Detail: The detail to each item includes all of the resources required to complete
each activity, as well as their associated costs. Production rates will automatically determine
required crew costs.

 Calculations: Most estimating programs have built-in calculations ranging from simple length,
area, and volume calculations to complex industry-specific calculations, such
as electrical calculations, utility trench calculations, and earthwork cut and fill calculations.
 Markups: Every program will allow for cost mark-ups ranging from flat overall mark-ups to
resource-specific mark-ups, mark-ups for general administrative costs, and bonding costs.
 Detailed Overhead: Indirect costs, such as permits, fees, and any other overall project costs can
be spread to billable project items.
 Closeout Window: Many estimating programs include a screen for manually adjusting bid prices
from their calculated values.
 Reporting: Project reports typically include proposals, detail reports, cost breakdown reports,
and various charts and graphs.
 Exporting: Most software programs can export project data to other applications, such as
spreadsheets, accounting software, and project management software.
 Job History: Storing past projects is a standard feature in most estimating programs.

What is BIM?

Building information modeling — BIM — is not a product or proprietary


software program. It is an integrated process built on coordinated, reliable
information about a project from design through construction and into
operations. BIM is not just for architects.

While it has its roots in architecture, the principles of BIM apply to


everything that is built, including roads and highways, and the benefits of BIM
are being experienced by civil engineers in the same way they are enjoyed by
architects. BIM is not just about 3-D (although that is part of it). BIM allows
engineers more easily to predict the performance of projects before they are
built; respond to design changes faster; optimize designs with analysis,
simulation, and visualization; and deliver higher quality construction
documentation. Furthermore, it enables extended teams to extract valuable data
from the model to facilitate earlier decision making and more economic project
delivery To understand how BIM applies to civil engineering, and to road and
highway design projects specifically, it is helpful to first take a look at the
legacy 2-D drafting-centric design process. This process, which can best be
described as “siloed,” starts with preliminary design, moves to detailed design,
and then on to construction documentation.

Each step is completed before the next one begins, and collaboration is
very limited. This process works well until the inevitable design change needs
to be made, at which point time-consuming and error-prone manual drafting
updates are required. As such, this process has inherent practical limitations.
The graph in Figure 1 maps the level of effort required over the life of a typical
road design project from preliminary design all the way through to
construction and into operations.

As the blue line indicates, the ability for the civil engineer to impact
project cost and performance over the project lifecycle is at its maximum
during preliminary design, but sharply decreases as the project progresses. The
red line shows how the cost of making and executing design changes is low
during preliminary design, but sharply increases during the project. Finally, the
black line illustrates where civil engineers and designers expend the most effort
and resources with a drafting-centric process — during the construction
documentation phase.

The problem with this picture is that the peak of the effort (black line)
coincides with a point in the project when the ability of the engineer to impact
project performance is declining and the cost of making design changes is
increasing. This gets to the heart of the limitations of a drafting-centric
workflow. While it is theoretically possible to use this process to perform
iterative design for optimizing project performance, realistically, very little of
this is done. It is just too costly to make multiple design changes and evaluate
impacts on project performance once the documentation is started. As a result,
a drafting-centric process typically yields the first design that meets code, and
not necessarily the optimal design.

New workflows with BIM Contrast this legacy approach with one that is
becoming a standard across the AEC industry — BIM. Implementing a BIM
process for road and highway design starts with creation of coordinated,
reliable design information about the project. This results in an intelligent 3-D
model of the roadway in which elements of the design are related to each other
dynamically — not just points, surfaces, and alignments, but a rich set of
information and the attributes associated with it. For example, perhaps halfway
through a roadway design project the profile needs adjustments to a vertical
curve and the grades. By adjusting the profile, all of the related design elements
update automatically, allowing the designer instantly to see the impact to cut
and fill and right-of-way. In this way, BIM facilitates evaluation of many more
design alternatives. As part of the design process, civil engineers can leverage
the information model to conduct simulation and analysis to optimize the
design for objectives such as constructability, sustainability, and road safety.
Finally, with a BIM process, design deliverables can be created directly from the
information model.

Deliverables include not only 2-D construction documentation, but also


the model itself and all of the rich information it contains, which can be
leveraged for quantity take off, construction sequencing, as-built comparisons,
and even operations and maintenance. So what about this BIM approach is
different? The use of modeling, 3-D visualization, and analysis is nothing new
for road and highway design professionals. The difference is that with
traditional drafting-centric approaches, design, analysis, and documentation are
disconnected processes. This makes evaluation of what-if scenarios inefficient
and cost prohibitive.
While it has its roots in architecture, the principles of BIM apply to
everything that is built, including roads and highways, and the benefits of BIM
are being experienced by civil engineers in the same way they are enjoyed by
architects. BIM is not just about 3-D (although that is part of it). BIM allows
engineers more easily to predict the performance of projects before they are
built; respond to design changes faster; optimize designs with analysis,
simulation, and visualization; and deliver higher quality construction
documentation. Furthermore, it enables extended teams to extract valuable data
from the model to facilitate earlier decision making and more economic project
delivery To understand how BIM applies to civil engineering, and to road and
highway design projects specifically, it is helpful to first take a look at the
legacy 2-D drafting-centric design process. This process, which can best be
described as “siloed,” starts with preliminary design, moves to detailed design,
and then on to construction documentation.