Construction Management

December 16, 2008

It takes a lot of people to complete a building project. I work on the design side – producing the documents that the contractors build from. The responsibility for translating those paper drawings into reality falls on the shoulders of a construction manager. They must coordinate the arrival of materials and sequencing of construction. Minimizing the project duration while ensuring quality and safety is a daunting task.

Just as computers have provided new analysis tools for designers, new software is also helping construction managers improve the efficiency of the construction process. Recently, I had a chance to talk with someone on the forefront of project management software tools.

Houston Neal reviews the latest construction management software at His goal is to help organizations in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering & Construction) industry make the right technology decisions. I asked him some questions about construction scheduling – specifically about a new program, called Synchro, that promises to combine traditional scheduling tools with Google Sketchup.

Who is responsible for project scheduling on a large construction site?

Construction managers are primarily responsible for project scheduling on large construction projects. They work closely with the building owner, architect, general contractor and engineer to develop a detailed schedule, construction task sequence and project budget during the construction planning process.

What is the critical path? How does this improve project efficiency?

In construction scheduling, critical path represents the construction activities and sequence of activities required to complete a project. It is the minimum amount of time needed for construction, and is calculated by determining the duration of each individual activity. Project managers need to consider predecessor relationships and resource constraints in order to properly sequence construction activities and assess the duration of a project.

There are often thousands of activities going on simultaneously during a construction project. Critical path scheduling helps managers allocate resources and labor to each activity, optimizing the time spent on each activity and ultimately affecting the duration/efficiency of a project.

What does Synchro software do? What is the goal of the 4D Project Scheduling program?

Synchro is a 4D (3D + time) construction simulation program that combines 3D drawings with a construction schedule, then displays the progression of construction over time. This helps project managers and stakeholders visualize construction and gain a better understanding of the spatial and temporal aspects of the construction schedule.

How would adding a 3D representation (Sketchup) of the building improve project planning?

3D modeling allows designers and architects to visually test ideas before they’re implemented. It provides a realistic representation of a project and often provides key insight into potential delays and miscalculations.

What other new project management tools do you foresee coming to market in the next 10 years?

The technology behind rich Internet applications is becoming more accessible and affordable. As a result, smaller software vendors will implement these technologies into their own systems. We’re already seeing increased adoption of web-based project management systems among AEC companies. With broadband Internet becoming more available and reaching “utility-class” service levels, we expect this trend to continue.

Using the Software Advice website, construction firms can identify and compare construction project management software products that meet their unique requirements.

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