Managing Uncertainty in Construction

A survey by McGraw Hill* concluded that the principal cause of uncertainty for contractors was the unforeseen site or construction issues. The seven issues cited in the report were, in order:

  1. Unforeseen site or construction issues
  2. Design omissions
  3. Accelerated schedule
  4. Owner driven changes
  5. Design errors
  6. Contractor caused delays
  7. Construction coordination issues

In this list 1, 2, 5, and 7, in particular, could all be aided by technology, and quite possibly all of the issues noted. The report, which also looked at the perspective of the site owners and architects, made quite a number of recommendations, one of which was that firms should adopt the best technologies for their area of the industry.

On the topic of design omissions and errors contractors surveyed put the main emphasis on the lack of coordination among disciplines in contract documents, the list included:

  • Lack of coordination among disciplines in contract documents
  • Gaps or discrepancies in contract documents
  • Constructibility issues of proposed design solutions
  • Errors in calculations, details, dimensions

The 64 page report, published in 2014, provides interesting insights to the issues in the industry. One of the key strategies for mitigating the causes of uncertainty was communication. As I went through the report which is considering the perspective of owners, architects and contractors, I was looking for the role and importance of technology which is noted as part of the solution for improvements.

What I see in construction industry software is a focus on BIM (Building Information Modeling) and markup, Workflow management, and Communication & Collaboration functions. It would be interesting to see an updated survey to see if progress in both software capabilities and the adoption and implementation of technologies have had a noticeable effect on the outcome. However, there are a number of areas where AI is starting to playing a role, so maybe the main impact is yet to come.

* Managing Uncertainty and Expectations in Building Design and Construction by McGraw Hill Construction, 2014