Parts-enabled Approaches for Software Developers, Project Engineers, and Construction Workers

Project Team

2015-2016 CIFE Seed Project

Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

Principal Investigator(s): Martin Fisher, Calvin Kam

Researcher(s): Nanyu Zhao, Jacqueline Lo, Rui Liu, Howard Brown

This is a continued study of 2014-2015 CIFE Seed Project: Managing Construction Parts - From Manufacturing to Construction


The Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry has a low productivity rate as compared to other industries. Primary causes include the lack of detail in understanding building products during the design phase and absence of a standardized leading indicator to evaluate industrialized construction productivity. By adopting the advanced practices found in manufacturing and aerospace industries, this Seed Proposal intends to develop a project-based Industrialized Construction Index (ICI) based on the "Parts" concept. Through clear identifying and quantifying parts, organizing and storing part-related information, we can quantify construction effort, evaluate the degree of industrialization, and identify opportunities to improve production techniques in an earlier stage of the project. 

Project Background

Research Motivation

The Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry has low productivity rate as compared to other industries. Research shows that US construction productivity per man-hour declined about 20% from 1964 to 2012, while manufacturing industry's productivity increased by 200% during the same period of time (Teicholz, 2013). After realizing this vast difference between AEC and manufacturing industries, effort has been made to study this discrepency. One of the primary causes found is the lack of detail in understanding building product during the design phase. Research showed that more than 50% of Requests for Information (RFI) in the construction phase are simple clarifications due to insufficient information (Tilley, 1997). Extra time and money are spent dealing with clarifications and missing information that can be avoided, leading to an impact on overall project productivity. This insufficient information and understanding also led to inadequate or inaccurate planning and scheduling. Improving the understanding of building product builds the foundation of finding the way to improve the productivity of AEC industry. 

This need to understand and improve the productivity of AEC industry motivated us to submit a Seed Proposal in 2013. Through previous research, we aimed to provide the AEC industry participants with a standardized concept/landuage of construction "Parts", that could help support lean management, and move towards a more efficient and collaborative construction industry. This research is based upon the parts concept and is applied to construction projects in order to create an ICI to support evaluation of construction efforts in AEC projects. In addition, it serves to provide sufficient information to all stakeholders at all times during the design and construction processes by managing part-related information. 

Industry Example

Parts count case studies have been conducted during previous Seed Proposals. A seven-floor hotel with 420 guest rooms, an office renovation project, and a hospital project with prefabricated bathroom pods have been studied. These case studies/industrial project examples demonstrated that a big discrepancy exists between the number of identified components in BIM and actual parts on a construction site ( E.g. in hotel case, 11,000 components in BIM vs. 3.2-4.6 million parts). This discrepancy indicates an incomplete design and might cause unnecessary RFIs during construction. 

Research Objectives

  • Manage part-related information and further develop Parts Ontology
  • Extract part-related key performance indicators (KPI) from multiple construction projects
  • Develop and test the Industrialized Construction Index (ICI) based from parts and part-related KPIs 
  • Provide ICI specifications, including manuals for software developers to identify parts and part-related KPIs, guidelines for project engineers to evaluate construction productivity based on parts and part-related information, and suggestions for construction workers to conduct their part-related daily work

Research Methods

  • Engage Stanford class CEE 212B and work with industrial members to collect industrialized construction case studies
  • Extract key performance indicator (KPI) from case studies
  • Study part-related information in different project and associated project phases
  • Create a basis for project ICI
  • Test the effectiveness of ICI
  • Create manuals/specifications for various stakeholders


Parts-related Metrics Summary

Existing Metrics

Additional Metrics

Potential Benefits

Shop Drawings & Submittal # of Parts in the project
  • Match on-site activity
  • Base of part-based project analysis/manage
WBS, CPM, 4D Simulation etc. Scheduled # of Parts per day
  • Indicate complexiy of work
  • Support balancing labor, resources, logistics
% Completion based via $/hr % Completion via # of Parts
  • Relate to work being done
  • Indicates overall and individual productivity
Punch list, Satisfaction Ratings etc. # and % of approved Parts per day
  • Show individual trade/labor quality records
  • Match to as-built model
Work-hours and $ per incident # of Parts per incident
  • Show productivity as well as safety records


Part-related Information 

Part-related Information Potential Structure

Survey results on Information Relevancies


Parts Data Structure

Fundamental Assumptions

  • Two status of design information: Specified and Inferred
  • 1:1 reltionship between the virtual and physical world
  • The process of adding information to convert conceptual design to physical entities can be logically modelled and automated

Preliminary Proposed Part Data Model

Case Study on Preliminary Part Data Model

Two different Construction Part of the same building:

  • Pre-assembled steel girder
  • Cast-in-place concrete

Overview of the Two Construction Parts

Purchased Material List

Fabrication Specifications for Steel

Fabrication Specifications for Concrete

Specified concrete mixing ratios

Manufactured Parts

Assembly Methodology for Steel (not applicable to concrete part)

Installation Procedures


  • Parts-related metrics can be used to facilitate and provide additional dimension of information on top of existing metrics
  • New data structure should be built for "Construction Parts" in order to facilitate part-related information searching and computation of related Key Performance Indicators

Future Work

  • Continue validating and refining the part data structure as proposed especially by testing the structure for electrical components, HVAC, mechanical etc.
  • Test the effectiveness of the proposed part-related performance indicators

Industry Case Studies

Spring 2015 CEE 212B

Topics: (1) Prefabrication and Construction

           (2) Modular Construction

           (3) Public Approval Efficiency (Construction Permitting)

           (4) Project Risk

For more information and a summary of the aforesaid topics, please see the executive summary below: Stanford Spring 2015 CEE 212B Executive Summary

Original Research Proposal

2015-2016 CIFE Seed Proposal

Parts-enabled Approaches for Software Developers, Project Engineers, and Construction Workers

CIFE Seed Proposal 2015 Presentation

Project Report

Construction Parts in Building Construction Projects: Definition and Case Study (WP142)

Last modified Thu, 10 Aug, 2017 at 12:25