Shaping the Future of Construction

February 25, 2019

The construction industry is at a tipping point and there is a strong demand for improvement due to aging infrastructure, urbanization, sustainability demands, and the challenge of affordability ,” noted Dr Ibrahim Odeh, Founding Director of Global Leaders in Construction Management at the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at Columbia University, while presenting his research at the Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai.

Dr. Odeh’s lecture analysed the construction sector from three angles-- the environment of the construction industry, trends shaping the industry, and an industry transformation framework.  He argued that while there have been advancements in the construction industry over the years, including the adoption of new techniques and methodologies that have improved cost and time efficiency, the industry has faced several growth challenges such as high industry fragmentation, low profitability and capitalization, over-preference for lowest price bid, and insufficient and incremental funding that may have caused a decline in productivity. The challenges faced by the industry are exacerbated by the lack of monitoring and evaluation of implemented projects and data, that could have enabled companies to detect deviations make necessary improvements for future projects.

Citing cases from his visits to construction companies across the globe, Dr. Odeh highlighted trends that are affecting the industry such as climate change, sustainability and resilience, society and workforce, and politics and regulation. For example, the increasing population in India has altered the trend of doing business in this industry.  Mumbai city is three times denser than New York and its rapid population growth has led to an increased demand for affordable and healthy housing.

Dr Odeh concluded by sharing an outline of the industry transformation framework, an outcome of a collaborative effort that involved the World Economic Forum, a group of academic institutes, and various companies and firms that had worked together to arrive at  a set of best practices for individual companies, the construction sector as a whole, and the government.  Two matter of serious concern that emerged in the surveys conducted for the framework pointed to the need to adopt new technologies and innovative strategies and secondly, to investments in human resources, especially reskilling workers for the digital age.  According to Dr. Odeh, the role of academia is vital in shaping the future of construction and bringing new skill-sets and inventions to this industry at large.