How useful has ASTM International’s standard on construction productivity (ASTM E2691) been since it was adopted early last year? In a recent email interview, MCA Inc. President Perry Daneshgari, a member of the subcommittee that developed ASTM E2691, addressed this question and others relating to the topic.
The technique described in standard, called “practice for job productivity measurement (JPM),” measures work performed compared to construction put-in-place (CPC/BIM, April 2010, “New ASTM Construction Productivity Standard Released”). JPM allows users to determine the quality of the construction outcome by measuring observed completion of the project as accepted by the customer. E2691 was developed by ASTM Subcommittee E06.81 on Building Economics, part of the organization’s International Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings. The standard, which can apply to various types of construction projects, was designed to facilitate better measurement of construction productivity at the task, project, and industry levels.
In the interview with Construction Project Controls and BIM Report (CPC/BIM), here is what Daneshgari had to say about the standard:
CPC/BIM: Since E2691 was published about a year-and-a-half ago, to what extent has the standard been used or adopted within the construction industry? What statistics, if any, can you provide regarding the use of the standard or its inclusion in contracts and/or legislation?
A) The standard and a commercial version of it have been applied at prime and subcontractors across the [United States] to a sum of $2 billion of construction projects.
B) It has not been included in contract requirements yet, but a few large contracts are [expected] to include it in their requirements.
C) The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), ASTM, the Construction Industry Institute (CII), the University of Kentucky’s construction department, and MCA have had three workshops and reviews in planning for adoption of the standard across the industry.
D) No legislation [addressing the standard] has been passed, but conversations with various state and national level legislators are ongoing.
E) Three international sessions conducted by CII, NIST, and the Engineering Society of Detroit have collected input for the application.
CPC/BIM: Since E2691 was published, how has the level of productivity across the entire construction industry changed? How has overall profitability within the industry changed, if at all?
Daneshgari: The range of productivity and therefore profitability improvement has been as low as 13 percent and as high as 40 percent [for] the projects using the standard. If the standard is used across all of the trades, the productivity is at the higher end, leading to shortening the project completion time by better than 15 percent.
CPC/BIM: What have been some of the most common complaints about E2691 thus far, whether they concern measurements at the task, project, or industry levels or something else?
Daneshgari: [There have been] no major complaints about the application. The learning curve is relatively steep. The main learning in usage of the standard is inclusion of the non-installation activities as required productivity tracking tasks under each cost-code or subcontractors. This issue resolves itself after the initial training and review of the productivity trends.
CPC/BIM: What information, if any, can you provide regarding the cost- and/or labor burden incurred by construction teams that have been implementing the standard?
Daneshgari: There is no extra cost or labor burden. The data shows [a] one-to-17 rate of return in labor’s time investment in usage of the standard. For every hour used to plan the usage of the standard, there is a 17-hour improvement in productivity.
CPC/BIM: When may the standard be revised?
Daneshgari: The standard can be revised anytime. Currently, an invoicing appendix is being reviewed for passage this October, which will help the contractors use the reported standard’s percent completion for their billing. The appendix will help the construction industry comply with the newly proposed FASB revenue recognition requirements.
CPC/BIM: What is the status of any other ASTM standards that may impact construction project management? When may those standards be published?
Daneshgari: E1557 (Uniformat II) [addresses] standard classification of building elements. It is currently being reviewed for expansion to include multiple classifications to match the various construction categories. This expansion of the standard will establish E1557 as an input to the industry-accepted code of accounts.
CPC/BIM: Other comments?
Daneshgari: The sooner the industry adopts the standard, the more competitive the U.S. construction industry will become. Currently, the U.S. construction industry has dropped from 25 percent of the international market to 15 percent, and this is due to the increased cost and lower productivity of U.S. construction, leading to a higher cost of installation in the U.S. This fact can lead more of the international companies to build outside of the U.S. to get a more competitive pricing.