Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Big Data Comes to AEC Project Management

Look for engineering and construction firms to embrace the power of big data.  Rarely does the AEC industry examine why certain project teams and work crews are more productive than others.  What are the key variables that separate superior performance from the rather ho-hum?

The Schumpeter Column in the July 19th edition of the Economist (Little things that mean a lot: Businesses should aim for lots of small wins from "big data", that add up to something big) has a paragraph the AEC project management gurus should consider:

"The approach can even be used to tell businesses how better to organize their employees.  QuantumBlack, a data-analysis firm, says a client, an engineering multinational, measured how the output of its teams of workers varied as a result of dozens of differences in their composition.  It found a small step-change in productivity when the teams had more than seven members, whereas efficiency fell steadily with each additional time-zone in which team members were based.  How well the members already knew each other turned out to be especially important, yet the managers doing the scheduling had thought of this.  Most individual improvements were in the range of 0.5% to 1%, says Simon Williams of QuantumBlack, but together they added up to a 22% rise in teams' overall productivity."

The Water-Energy Nexus Hell - Higher Costs and Declining Revenue

Water and energy share a common concern.  Both industries rank as our most capital intensive.  Revenue growth matters to both industries - - both are in their comfort zone when revenue growth in electricity and water mirrors GDP growth.  But times are charging for both industries.  How would you like to manage in an era where your costs are going up 2% annually while your revenue is flat - - or actually declines?

Consider the following from the Wall Street Journal yesterday by Rebecca Smith, Electric Utilities Get No Jolt:

"Sluggish electricity demand reflects broad changes in the overall economy, the effects of government regulation and technological changes that have made it easier for Americans to trim their power consumption. But the confluence of these trends presents utilities with an almost unprecedented challenge: how to cope with rising cost when sales of their main product have stopped growing."

We are probably entering an era of disruptive forces - rate increases feedback loop.  Yes, you were a good economically inclined citizen and customer and you did the energy/water conservation projects.  And yes, you cut your energy/water consumption by 15% annually.  But a bunch of your neighbors did the exact thing that you did.  Revenue at the local water utility dropped by 10% and they cannot cover their fixed costs. You may never see the full savings and benefits of your conservation projects - - your rate will be going up by 10% next year.

A Great View of the Middle East 50-Years Out

"Gaming Israel and Palestine is republished with permission of Stratfor."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Value of Brownfield Remediation

NBER working paper.  From the paper:

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Program awards grants to redevelop contaminated lands known as brownfields. This paper estimates cleanup benefits based on a nationally representative sample of brownfields using a variety of quasi-experimental techniques. To our knowledge, this is the first paper that combines non-public EPA administrative records with high-resolution, high-frequency housing data to estimate the effects of brownfield cleanup across the entire federal Brownfields Program. We find increases in property values accompanying cleanup, ranging from 4.9% to 11.1%; for a welfare interpretation that does not rely on the intertemporal stability of the hedonic price function, a double-difference matching estimator finds even larger effects of up to 32.2%. Our various specifications lead to the common conclusion that Brownfields Program cleanups yield a positive, statistically significant, but highly-localized effect on housing prices."

FlexNet™ Advanced Metering Infrastructure System (AMI)

FlexNet™ Advanced Metering Infrastructure System (AMI)

MWH - - AutoForm

Mobile technology is one of the things you should be thinking about - - platforms that allow users to collect data in the field and automatically upload.

Be thinking in terms of custom-built apps - - the millennials in your organization are perfect to leverage in an app filled technology-driven world focused on enhancing project delivery systems.

AutoForm is one example.  From the iTunes store:
AutoForm™ is used by field techs, engineers, scientists, and anyone who needs to capture data offline in the field and quickly share it with others then sync with the cloud for collaboration, analysis and reporting. Form data can include number, text, and dropdown fields as well as GPS locations, photos with markups, and signatures.

Declining Infrastructure Moment of the Day - UCLA