Three ways to improve the AEC industry

The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry can make advances and improve safety by ensuring the right people are on the project and making sure there is trust among the workers and the right tools are in place.

By Erin Miller, Southland February 21, 2018

When the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is compared to others, it is clear we are behind on major advancements and safety protocols. Over 70% of projects within the AEC industry are over budget or delivered behind schedule, or both. There are over 800 deaths each year on construction projects. Each industry, except farming and construction, has improved efficiencies in the past 60 years.

How do we fix these issues that continuously occur on projects across the country? There are three common core concepts that have led to the success of integrated project delivery (IPD) projects and have begun to reverse those astounding industry statistics.

1. Have the right people on your project. This includes all designers, contractors, and even the owner. Taking advantage of the collective wisdom of each trade and role on the project adds value to the final product. Each team member needs to have a willingness to change and improve processes. All too often, phrases like “we’ve always done it that way” are used as excuses to remain stagnant. Bring on best practices and lessons learned, but make sure they fit the project and align with goals.

Finally, the mindset towards collaboration and cooperation efforts needs to be set for each member early on. When asked, everyone should know the goals of the project and each task involved. Communication is huge for making any project a success. If possible, have employees co-located in the same space – this allows team members to see each other as humans, rather than a name behind an e-mail or a voice on a conference call.

2. Having trust across the board. This is more than contract language to fall back on. I define trust as believing that all partners will look out for each other’s best interest and working together to achieve an overarching goal. For one project, the structural engineer and steel fabricator started talking early on about how the chillers were going to be rigged into the penthouse of the building. They came up with a workflow to leave out a couple framing members during erection to allow the chillers to be rigged early in a very safe and simple way. The steel erector had to adjust their normal workflow to allow Southland to lift the equipment, but ultimately the project benefited. Because all the team members worked together and trusted each other, the project saved time, money, and reduced the risk of injury.

3. Offer education on proper tools and processes. Providing educational resources on the tools and processes of IPD and lean projects are crucial for all team members. Oftentimes, when schedules and budgets get tight, team members begin to fall back on old habits. Doing so leads to selfish mindsets and a lack of trust, which essentially breaks the first two concepts that lead to successful projects. It’s important to continuously utilize the processes and tools set in place to ensure that decisions are being documented and fully vetted.

Trust between individuals makes the process work. I believe having the right people, instilling trust among those people, and offering education on proper tools and processes, provides the end user with the best possible environment for healing and research, regardless of constraints. Whether it be site context, safety, natural resources, capital availability, etc. integrated project delivery optimizes the whole process and makes possible what once seemed impossible.

Erin Miller is a design engineer for Southland’s Mid-Atlantic Division. She is responsible for generating innovative solutions for building HVAC systems. This article originally appeared on Southland’s blog, In the Big Room. Southland is a CFE Media content partner. 

Original content can be found at