Research Report: Reducing Waste and Increasing Efficiency on Construction Projects

There is a tremendous amount of waste generated by construction projects, with as much as 30 percent of building materials being wasted, according to one estimate. This places construction, one of the biggest industries in the world in terms of money spent, behind other industries—namely manufacturing—that have optimized production and assembly to make gains in efficiency and reduce waste, thereby increasing sustainability.

Techniques and processes in one industry can help another. Mass production and assembly lines can be used in construction by making walls, ceilings, floors, staircases—even whole room—in safe, indoor settings, with greater precision and less waste than can be done outdoors. With the specialization and repetition of tasks, brought to us with the industrial age and Henry Ford’s mass production of automobiles, comes reduced cost, greater uniformity and happier customers with higher profit margins.

We spoke with industry experts at U.S. CAD—Solution Consultant Nick Krey, Technology Consultant and Autodesk Construction Business Lead Aaron Wagner and National Director, Building Design & Engineering Nathan Lamont—to see why there is so much waste and how to reduce it and make project teams more efficient. All three are passionate about this topic and offered significant input on the challenges in this area of the construction industry, and suggestions on how to improve.

U.S. CAD, based in California, started in 1999 as an architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) technology and consulting leader that specializes in Autodesk and Bluebeam solutions.

The U.S. CAD experts agreed that waste in materials goes beyond the physical properties to include people, time and money. What we gathered from U.S. CAD is that reducing waste starts with making teams and projects more efficient, which also leads to time and cost savings. This involves teamwork, including owners; adopting technology, such as software and taking on new design and manufacturing strategies such as Lean construction, design for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA), and integrated project delivery (IPD); in addition to embracing the use
of prefabrication and modular construction.

The key thing is to bring these processes and people into the project earlier.

The U.S. CAD experts have backgrounds in architecture, construction management, building information modeling (BIM) and environmental design.

In this report, we will examine the current state of construction, the growing trend of sustainability, the role of people and collaboration, advantages of software tools, Lean construction, indoor, mass production techniques, and examples of people who are adopting new methods and strategies.