ICT Developments In The Construction Industry

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31st May 2017 Information Technology Reference this

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The use of ICT has over the years in different ways influenced and to a certain degree also changed roles and processes within the building project. A better understanding and overview of how ICT affect on the complex mechanisms in construction industry within the early stages of the planning process can be seen as central to achieve project success in this chapter. This chapter will touch on the general ICT development and application in construction industry whether in Malaysia or foreign countries such as United Kingdom, Australia, etc. but more focus on QS, architectural and engineering firms. Current software developments in construction industry which separate into three main types: design software, QS software and management software will be briefly described and discussed in this chapter too.

Besides, this chapter will present a framework for exploring the positive or negative impacts of ICT developments in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (hereinafter referred to as “AEC”) sector of construction industry. Few survey analyses will be provided to briefly explain the impacts of ICT developments in practice. The strategies related to ICT implementation such as self-motivation, training, etc. will be discussed in the following section. After that, the final section presents a summary to this chapter of this research.

2.2 ICT Developments in Construction Industry

The developments of ICT such as internet, email, e-tendering, software etc. in the AEC sector have evolved over several years. Emerging ICT introduces opportunities for improving communication to enhance effectiveness of many construction processes at each project phase as well as creating new business opportunities (Peansupap and Walker, 2005). The average annual growth rate of ICT investment in the construction industry is increasing every year and constitutes now a significant part of the total project cost.

According to Woksepp and Olofsson (2007), some studies indicate that the ICT utilization ratio is still relatively low in the construction industry. In Malaysia, Public Works Department director which is Datuk Seri Prof Judin Abdul Karim hastened the construction companies to adopt ICT to enhance their capability during the two-day Infrastructure & Construction Asia’s Building Information Modelling & Sustainable Architecture 2009 conference in August 2009. He said that the awareness of using ICT was there but the cost of investment prohibited companies from adopting the technology and upgrading the system especially for the small companies. He also emphasized on the importance to have an integrated software system as a lot of professionals such as architects and engineers within the same companies were using different kinds of software. Standardisation is important in obtaining effective workflow for the project development and implementation (The Star, 20 August 2009).

In parallel with the developments in academia and the software industry, organisations in the AEC industry have adopted new technologies in support of their business and the implementation of ICT is becoming significantly important now. Most industrially developed countries such as United Kingdom believe the need for implementing and using new technologies for gaining competitive advantage but are reluctant to invest in these technologies. The financial return appears to form the basis for IT investment related decisions. Besides, the results of previous research on measuring the ICT use and trends in Turkey (Sarshar and Isikdag, 2004) suggested that the Turkish AEC industry has been facing difficulties related to inefficient communication and loss of information due to fragmentation in the industry. However, developments of ICT in construction industry are still lacking.

2.2.1 QS Firms

According to Smith (2004), the QS profession in Australia has experienced significant change over the past decade in terms of the scope of services provided both within and outside of the construction industry. These changes have occurred primarily in response to changing industry or client demands, ICT developments and increased levels of competition for services. As information flows increasingly become electronic QS computing facilities, software and databases will need to develop in a compatible manner. Compatibility with and the utilization of ICT developments is just the beginning and it is inevitable that documentation and date will be increasingly automated to the point where measurement and other technical processes will require minimal human intervention. It advancement provides the QS profession with enormous opportunity to strengthen its position in the industry. Thus, quantity surveyors are well placed to become the major information handlers on construction projects as the majority of information flow revolves around quantities and cost. Actually, no profession can legitimately lay claim to being best suited to take control of information management. It is likely that current opportunities will be taken up by others if the profession adopts a “wait and see” approach.

In Malaysia, QS practice plays an important role in any construction development projects. The environments for QS practice have changed along with the country’s rapid economic development. Future development prospects and changes will have implications on the development of the profession. On the other hand, there have been concerns in the past few years on the role and future of the QS profession. The QS Think Tank Report of RICS has noted that many clients are critical of traditional QS services and are demanding a different and more comprehensive range of services (Page, Pearson and Pryke, 2004). Although there is a general lack of published data on the development and current scenario of the QS practice in Malaysia, anecdotal evidence suggests that the scenario in Malaysia parallels the findings by RICS. Hence, a reliable understanding of the present situation as well as the future perceptions of the QS practice is required in order to aspire to future challenges and needs (Abdullah and Haron, 2006).

2.2.2 Architectural and Engineering Firms

In accordance with the survey of Rivard (2000), ICT are an integral part of the day to day business within the most of the AEC industry nowadays. Almost every single employee in architectural and engineering firms do works on a desktop computer. Many business processes such as bookkeeping, invoicing and specification writing are now almost completely computerised and the tendency is toward a greater computerisation of the remaining processes. The firms have adopted the internet and are using emails and the World-Wide Web on a daily basis.

However, even though ICT has been adopted by most firms because it provides quick and efficient means of exchanging information digitally, the majority of AEC professionals still exchange design information by means of paper drawings and specifications ad they used to do prior to the advent of computers. The AEC industry was a little slower in adopting ICT than other service industries that are more information intensive such as the communications industry and business services., but this is understandable since the AEC industry tends to be risk avert and prefers to adopt a technology that has been proven.

2.3 Current Software Developments in Construction Industry

Software development is a highly dynamic field that heavily relies on the experience of experts when it comes to learning, applying, evaluating, disseminating and improving its methods, tools and techniques (Acuna and Sanshez-Segura, eds, 2006). The use of IT to transform and upgrade the construction industry is an objective requirement for the development of construction industry. At present, software quality and practical application level lags far behind developed countries. Thus, there is some great practical significance like summing up the status quo, looking for gaps, to explore a path of development, to promote in-depth practical application for improving the project standards, and achieve industry information, industrial advancement. There are three main types of software developments which are design software, QS software and management software in construction industry to enhance effectiveness of many construction processes at each project phase as well as creating new business opportunities.

2.3.1 Design Software

The use of CAD-technique in building design has increased rapidly during the last ten years and it is the standard technique for producing building documentation nowadays. International Organization for Standardization (hereinafter referred to as “ISO”) has defined a draft international standard, ISO/DIS 13567 recently, in order to increase interoperability between different CAD applications for building design (Bo-Christer, Kurt and Arto, 1997). CAD has several related technologies, two of which are geographic information systems and rendering packages. A geographic information system is an integrated software application devised to capture, store, edit, analyse and display geographic information and is typically used in land use planning, infrastructure management, environmental engineering, natural resources planning and management. A rendering package is a software application used to create, edit and render a realistic 3-D image of an architectural or engineered effort and typically includes lighting effects, camera setup and the application of materials on surfaces (Rivard, 2000). With the advent of ISO 9000, the quality management and quality assurance standard, more and more firms are adopting quality assurance in their processes to ensure that their firms can time and time again deliver the product or services that satisfy given requirements for quality.

2.3.2 QS Software

Throughout history there have been numerous medians used to quantify construction materials. From the ruler, scale, and measuring tape to the planimeter and the digitizer, QS tools have changed with the technology of the time. There is no exception presently with the invention of fast-paced computer generated design applications and fast-track more efficient construction practices. In the market today, there are a plethora of computer-based QS software programs such as On-screen Take-off by on Center Software Inc, Computer-Aided Design (hereinafter referred to as “CAD”) Based Measurement Software (hereinafter referred to as “CBMS”), etc.

On-screen Take-off

On-screen Take-off software has been around since 1995. It is a valuable tool in the cost estimating process. McElreath (2010) implementing this software whenever digital copies of drawings are available in the market. He also mentioned that the speed and accuracy of this software has increased nearly 50 percent because of the functions and features of this product. One of the basic advantages of On-screen Take-off is the ability to zoom in and out of the drawings. This takes the place of a magnifying glass needed for full size drawings and save the estimator’s eyes. It also has an integrated magnification tool that can zoom in certain sections of the drawings without zooming in on the whole document. This is especially helpful when reading key notes, but it still allows the user to see the whole floor plan. However, one of the biggest advantages to using this product is that the software allows the user to verify and defend quantity takeoffs quickly and easily when performing an estimate.

CBMS

The usage of CBMS would basically perform directs measurement of quantities from the object models produced by the designers for building elements to support tendering and contract administrative activities. Quantity surveyor can use CBMS to obtain certain quantities or calculations. For example, components such as windows, doors and sanitary fittings are easily designed or taken from the library of the software and it also can be counted easily using scheduling (Ong, Lim and Aziz, 2005). Thus, quantity surveyors are able to produce work description details and quantities for such items easily. Based on the preliminary experiment which conducted by Ong, Lim and Aziz (2005), the CAD software is able to generate the quantities easily for certain elements in a building while problems are encountered in taking-off quantities for other elements. Hence, there is a need for cooperation between the designers and quantity surveyors to ensure that there is a seamless flow of information from the designers to the quantity surveyors especially with respect to the information contains in CAD drawings.

2.3.3 Project Management Software

According to Walker (ed, 2007), construction project management is defined as “the planning, coordination and control of a project from conception to completion including commissioning on behalf of a client requiring the identification of the client’s objectives in terms of utility, function, quality, time and cost, and the establishment of relationships between resources, integrating, monitoring and controlling the contributors to the project and their output, and evaluating and selecting alternatives in pursuit of the client’s satisfaction with the project outcome”. The industry needs to be concerned with identifying and studying the process of managing construction projects and with structuring its organisations and implementing techniques and procedures that make the project management process more effective.

Project management software consists of five main functional modules which are progress program management capabilities, resource management, cost management capabilities, report generation and output functions, and auxiliary functions which mainly refer to the interface with other software, secondary development, data confidentiality and the like. This concept stems from the analysis of similar products abroad such as Primavera Software, Microsoft Project, etc.

Primavera Software

Primavera offers best-in-class solutions focused on the mission critical Project Portfolio Management requirements of key vertical industries including engineering and construction, IT and services and the like. Primavera P6 Professional Project Management which is one of the products gives today’s project managers and schedulers the one thing they value most: control. It is the recognised standard for high-performance project management software and designed to handle large-scale, highly sophisticated and multifaceted projects. It can be used to organise projects up to 100,000 activities and provides unlimited resources and an unlimited number of target plans. On the other hand, Primavera P6 Professional Project Management can balance resource capacity, plan, schedule, and control complex projects, allocate best resources and track progress, monitor and visualise project performance versus, conduct what-if-analysis and analyse alternative project plans (Oracle, 2010).

Microsoft Project 2010

Project 2010 offers easier and more intuitive experiences to help the client simply be more productive and realise amazing results from meeting crucial deadlines to selecting the right resources and empowering your teams (Microsoft Project 2010). Microsoft Project 2010 builds on the Microsoft Office project 2007 foundation with flexible work management solutions and the right collaboration tools for occasional and professional project managers and includes a pathway to more advanced project and portfolio management capabilities as business needs evolve. Through a dramatically enhanced user experience, it also drives team productivity with integration across familiar Microsoft technologies including Microsoft SharePoint Server and Microsoft Exchange Server. This integration allows a powerful business collaboration platform, proven project and portfolio management to result in a familiar, connected environment for customers to manage the simplest or the most complex projects (Phoenix, 2009).

2.4 Impacts of ICT Developments on Construction Industry

The advent of ICT development has been both beneficial and detrimental. According to the respondents of the survey (Rivard, 2000), ICT developments have raised productivity in most business processes and particularly in general administration, design and project management. The main benefits achieved by the use of ICT is an increase in the speed of work, a better financial control, better communications, simpler and faster access to common data as well as a decrease in the number of mistakes in documentation. However, the benefits of ICT developments come at a cost since the complexity of work, the administrative needs, the proportion of new operations and the costs of doing business have all increased. Figure 1 attempt to show the changes caused by the introduction of ICT in construction industry.

Figure 1: Changes caused by the introduction of ICT (Rivard, 2000)

Furthermore, to explore the impacts of ICT developments on the architectural design process, Moum (2006) developed a framework to support the exploration and analysis of the multiple and complex amounts of information collected from both theory and practice. Based on the four selected design process aspects: generation of design solution, communication, evaluation of design solution, and decision making within the design process, and the three hierarchical levels: macro, meso and micro, an ICT impact matrix is conducted as a “tool” to summarizing and giving overview the key points explored by Moum (2006). Table 1 summarize some of the explored and discussed ICT related benefits and challenges within generation of the four selected design process aspects.

The ICT systems used within the design process, support drafting and modelling rather than special design attributes and analytical capabilities, and have not changed the task of drafting or modelling. ICT also would develop from being a tool to becoming a design partner with having a design agent to make a designer aware of inconsistency regarding building legislation such as the minimum height of a staircase handrail (Kalay, 2004). Other than that, network technologies such as email and the internet have contributed to the most radical changes within the average working day for the building process participants as they support information exchange independent of geographical and organisational borders in communication stage within design process. ICT also offer a most powerful support of evaluation. Unrecognised problems can be identified, uncertainty reduced and errors avoided already at an early stage of the building project. It is easier to make a decision if every uncertainty is eliminated within the architectural design process (Moum, 2006). Obviously, ICT developments have these far definitely brought benefits.

Table 1: The ICT impact matrix summarizing the key points of the literature review (Moum, 2006)

In the same time, CIRIA (1996) reviewed the procedures used by seven major construction organisations for their internal assessment of potential investments in IT in a study of United Kingdom construction organisations. These organizations included building and civil engineering contractors, civil engineering consultants and one large joint venture construction project. CIRIA concluded that, in the construction industry, formal cost-benefit analysis is not widely used to assess possible investments in IT. Even the simplest form of analysis of costs and benefits of smaller items can cost more staff time than the item itself and advancement of IT within organisations appears to be almost cyclical, alternatively evolutionary and revolutionary with periods of consolidation and evolution following radical assessments of IT strategy. This is a classic IT problem. For instance when Project Management software is introduced the software and hardware is a small part of the total cost-benefit equation. Staff training often costs more than the system, but the benefits of the training generally outweigh the costs (cited by Andresen, Baldwin, Betts, Carter, Hamilton, Stokes, and Thorpe, 2000).

As a result of this industry-based debate of this issue, a framework of construction of construction IT benefits was colligated by academic perspectives reflecting perspectives reflecting the literature review conducted (Andresen et al. 2000). Table 2 shows a summary of the typical, process-based benefits that arise from IT investments that was colligated. Three categories: typical efficiency benefits, typical effectiveness benefits and typical performance benefits.

Table 2: Typical IT benefits (Andresen et al. 2000)

2.5 Strategies Related to ICT Implementation

There are three aspects which are self-motivation, training and environment for workplace support to understand how to encourage and manage the process of actual implementation of ICT diffusion within construction organisations.

2.5.1 Self-motivation

ICT use remains dependent upon the individual’s decisions whether to accept or reject the application. This is in turn affected by the degree of motivation. One motivation behind an individual’s ICT application use is their characteristics such as self-confidence, enjoyment of learning and their previous foundation ICT skills. Peansupap and Walker (2005) indicated that users with high self-confidence levels are more likely to use and adopt ICT applications than users with low self-confidence. Igbaria, Iivari and Maragahh (1995) found that previous experience has a direct influence on the use and adoption of ICT. Individuals are able to use their existing ICT skills to perform the task. They found that computer experience is likely to improve a person’s perceptions and belief of the usefulness of the ICT by enhancing their beliefs in their ability to master the challenges and to reduce any fears (cited by Peansupap and Walker, 2005).

2.5.2 Training

Training is a primary organisational ICT diffusion factor because it helps users understand how to use and adopt ICT applications effectively. Likewise, Peansupap and Walker (2005) noted that many construction case studies found that lack of training is a key barrier to adopting and using ICT applications. So it is important to assess users’ training requirements to reduce the knowledge gap between what they already know and what they need to know to best perform their job through undertaking a personalised user needs analysis.

Due to the threat of free-market and globalise competition has been view with serious concern by the various professional bodies, they believe their members will be able to better perceive the profession’s activity in a wider context and addressing this threat through Continuing Professional Development (hereinafter referred as “CPD”) programme. CPD is important for people and organisations need to continually learn and re-learn to sustain in this rapid changing business environment. ‘Houle (1980) defines CPD as the ways in which professionals try, through their own knowledge and ability and build a sense of collective responsibility to society. Madden and Mitchell (1993) identifies CPS as the maintenance and enhancement of the knowledge, expertise and competence of professionals throughout their careers according to a plan formulated with regard to the needs of professional, the employer, the profession and society.’ (Adnan, Hashim, Janipha Hassan, and Ismail, 2009, p. 21)

CPD is a requirement for members of most professional associations and the construction industry is no exception. Rather than relying solely on their employees, practitioners need to also take responsibility for their own professional development. ICT is a classic area for CPD due to regularity and speed of change and such personal development can significantly enhance an individual’s value to a firm (Smith, 2004).

2.5.3 A Supportive Environment Workplace

It can be argued that workplace environment characteristics such as commitment, open discussion, personal anxiety, and frustration also affect ICT implementation. The ICT diffusion process can be seen as a process of change within an organisation, so we need commitment from both users’ and their organisation. Individual commitment focuses on end-users who devote themselves to using ICT whereas organisational commitment focuses on top manager who support end-user to use ICT. Basic requirements of ICT adoption is the need to directly or indirectly persuade users to commit to support and allocate adequate resources for ICT technology investment (Peansupap and Walker, 2005).

Open discussion helps to improve work productivity via the reporting of system difficulties. In addition, Senge et al. (1999) open discussion helps managers better understand problems or difficulties experienced by those operating ICT applications so that strategies can be devised to address deficiencies. Frustration or anxiety might develop from a negative user’s response when using computers. Igbaria and Parasuraman (1989) found that computer anxiety has a negative impact on users’ attitude toward microcomputers, especially when it is difficult to use ICT systems o r they can only be partially used (cited by Peansupap and Walker, 2005). Therefore, adequate ICT systems might be chosen for the companies to prevent users feel frustrated when faced the problems of insufficient or restricted their use of ICT systems.

2.6 Summary

This chapter provides the general ICT developments information which focuses on QS firms and architectural & engineering firms. Datuk Seri Prof Judin emphasized that the importance of ICT investment in construction industry and noted that standardisation is essential in obtaining workflow of the project development and implementation effectively. The development of design software, QS software and project management software can facilitate the exchange and management of information and has lot potentials for the information process component of the construction industry. This research found that CAD software is widely utilized in the current construction industry through all these surveys. These recent ICT developments undoubtedly have a profound impact whether is positive or negative on how organisations operate on a daily basis.

Normally, benefits will be discovered much more than problems or barriers of ICT developments in AEC sector. The ICT developments in construction industry will improve the productivity and quality of output with the lesser time such as the increased speed in architectural design process. But, this research shows that the organisation and functions of each construction company will influence the impacts from ICT software developments. Lack of understanding of how to implement ICT into a construction organisation will be a significant problem too. Therefore, many construction organisations have found that the ICT investment has failed to meet their expectations. Continuing industry change and ICT developments will present the profession with many challenges, threats and opportunities. Hence, strategies of self-motivation, training provides and workplace environment may lead to efficient ICT implementation in a construction organisation.

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