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Delusion Is An Opportunity

Delusion is an Opportunity

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 147).

During a light hearted discussion about the current state of the building design and construction industry I was challenged to list all the delusions I see today in the industry press and in actual practice. 

My conclusion? There is a “bubble” in delusions! 

Here is my list:

Large projects can complete on time and budget:

So funny, I am having trouble concentrating. I guess without this delusion many large projects would not even start.

Design and build passes risk and accountability away from the owner: 

No! The owner always owns the risk. This is one of the reasons many large projects complete late, the owner instigates a “ hunger games environment” and abdicates control and responsibility but is still accountable when the D&B team are long gone. 

Building designers and constructors are accountable for their work:

Nope. After the defects period contractually they are off the hook. BTW, no latent defects clauses in North America. Most leave the project without looking back, like it is a crime scene, which frankly, sometimes it is. 

Guaranteed Maximum Price:

The leakiest bucket in the world with low quality outcomes in my experience, I have not seen this unicorn work in real life.

BIM will reduce costs plus speed up design and construction process:

Not yet, in fact, so far, quite the opposite. This will not happen until software costs reduce by 80% and everyone from the owner to the facilities maintenance technician can use BIM with minimal training. 

R&D is valued in the property industry:

Someone please e-mail me and tell me how much, McAlpines, Multiplex, PCL, Ellis Don, Skanska et al spend on R&D each year. 

Construction firms make money:

Nope. This is one of the real problems. Most large contractors work on 1% or less margins. This prevents R&D and hiring large pools of talent. IMHO it is 50% their own fault and 50% down to the “hunger games” environment they work in. 

Architects and Engineers earn high salaries: 

Nope. Again this is one of the big problems. After a 4 year numerate degree most make less money than other professionals. Sure, the super stars make bank, but an architectural or engineering degree can be a poor ROI. If it was not for the limited monopolies obtained by professional licensing, anyone seeking hard ROI and with the brains should not to do Architecture or Engineering degrees. Go where the money is. 

Building design and construction attracts the brightest people: 

Empirical evidence says no. I can confirm that in my daughters 2018 engineering graduation cohort, without exception, the last place they want to be is in building design and construction. 

To take the positive side of this, I advised my daughters friends to be strategic in their career choices. If the best and brightest are going to Wall Street, aeronautics and IT, then why not go and compete in a pool where these people are not competing with them? In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king!

Current delusions are an opportunity, IMHO:

My experience within the industry has been amazing. I have had a great time and enjoyed professional success. However this has been more luck than judgement and I am no longer young! As I get older I think that maybe, delusions are a good thing, as belief in the improbable leads to change.

The building design and construction industry is ripe for disruption, it is the largest, oldest “child” industry that really has not fundamentally changed in 60 years. One bright, energetic innovator like Elon Musk, could really make a difference. This is the real opportunity IMHO. 

My advice to anyone thinking about what to study? I say study engineering or architecture. The building design and construction industry is ripe for change. Come in and change it! 

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

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