Learn to Manage Risk, Uncertainty – Construction Expert Advises

April 19, 2018
ASCE offers a construction engineering certificate program.

Doug Gransberg, Ph.D., P.E., FRICS, M.ASCE, has the ideal background for helping construction-oriented civil engineers elevate their careers to the next level.

He knows academia – having taught construction engineering at Iowa State University, where he held an endowed research chair position for five years. He knows the industry – as the president of Gransberg and Associates Inc., a construction management and project delivery consulting firm.

Clearly, he’s qualified to serve as the lead instructor for ASCE’s construction engineering certificate program, a series of six-week, guided online courses that provide engineers with the skills to take a leadership role in construction project management.

With a new course on pricing and bidding set to begin April 23, Gransberg talked with ASCE News about the certificate program and where he sees the construction industry heading.



ASCE News: What would you say is the most important skill to develop right now for the construction engineering industry?

Gransberg: The ability to deal with uncertainty and risk in the projects they manage.

With the exceptions of graduates from construction engineering and construction management B.S. degree programs, most civil engineers are provided with very little formal project management education. Nevertheless, they will all be expected to produce cost estimates and project schedules, and deal with contracts throughout their careers.

The industry right now is delivering projects at a faster pace than we did 30 years ago, and that results in much higher levels of project cost and schedule uncertainty.
Alternative contracting methods have been introduced over the last 20 years to help construction engineers manage uncertainty through increasing levels of collaboration and integration among the project stakeholders including the constructor, the designer, and the project owner. Understanding how these contractual tools can be best applied to optimize specific project delivery objectives is key to managing uncertainty during project delivery.

The ASCE Construction Engineering Certificate provides the fundamentals of project contract management, giving its holders a competitive edge over their peers having only a conventional civil engineering degree.

ASCE News: In any profession, there will always be a knowledge gap between what someone knows as a newly minted college graduate and what they are expected to know 10 years into their career. How do we address that?

Gransberg: The statistics on civil engineering career progressions show that well over 50 percent advance to become project managers. The certificate program is designed to fill the gap left in the classic CE design degree by providing formal training in project management tools and the necessary soft professional skills required to manage successfully.

The program consists of a core set of estimating, scheduling, project controls, and contract administration courses in two industry sector options: building and heavy civil. These are combined with elective courses in subjects like negotiation, quality management, and proposal preparation to provide the participant the ability to tailor the content of the certificate to their personal needs. The two options were included because the building construction sector has a focus on lump sum construction contracts which are fundamentally different than the unit price contracts favored in the heavy civil infrastructure sector.

ASCE News: I think we all know the 2017 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card gave America’s infrastructure a grade of a D-plus. What is the construction engineering industry’s role in helping to improve that grade?

Gransberg: The construction engineering industry will build the required new infrastructure. Today’s construction engineer must be able to build faster than before and with a great deal more scrutiny than before due to the explosion of information technology. Developing the means to maximize the use of available capital for rapid infrastructure renewal has been and will remain the challenge for the construction engineer.

ASCE News: So, if I’m a young engineer looking to push my career to the next level, how can this certificate program help me get there?

Gransberg: The construction engineering certificate program ensures that the young engineer has been educated in the skill set necessary to be a successful project manager. Participants earn continuing education units (6 CEUs) to fulfill continuing education requirements for renewing P.E. licensure. Lastly, since the program is structured in a manner that permits participants to complete the requirements at times and places convenient to themselves, it affords a level of flexibility that transcends traditional classroom-based instruction. The only synchronous elements of the program are the live webinars, which typically occur in late afternoon three times in each six-week course. However, the instructors are all available by email and telephone to interact with participants as required.

ASCE News: What kind of engineer is this certificate program aimed at? Is there a minimum requirement for experience going in?

Gransberg: The program is aimed at any civil engineers who find themselves in need of formal instruction on project management skills. It is also open to non-engineers working in the construction industry. There is no prior experience or prior education requirement, and the courses were developed to stand alone so that participants can take them in any order that is convenient without worrying about prerequisites.

Learn more about the construction engineering certificate program.

1 Comment
  • There is no question regarding the importance of dealing with uncertainty and risk in construction. Late deliveries, equipment breakdowns, weather, more than one contractor in the same space- these are just a few jobsite realities. Another very important skill is the ability to develop and work with superintendents, foremen, and craftsmen on an equal basis. In addition it does not hurt if one is naturally risk-adverse with a natural or acquired attention to detail.

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