Constructability (Best Practice)

RT-003 Topic Summary
RT 003


This research, published in July 1986, was CII’s first effort to define and quantify the benefits of an effective constructability program. CII defines the new term “constructability” as the optimal use of construction knowledge and experience in planning, design, procurement, and field operations to achieve overall project objectives.

Constructability results in better projects: lower costs, better productivity, earlier project completions, and earlier start-ups. Paybacks for various examples from the research vary, but The Business Roundtable’s (BRT) B-1 study team estimated that the benefits of early construction involvement are at least 10 to 20 times the cost.

This research stresses that construction considerations should begin early, and be incorporated into every phase of a project; feasibility studies, conceptual planning, design, procurement, as well as construction. Only through the effective and timely integration of construction input into planning and design as well as field operations will the potential benefits of constructability be achieved.

It also defines what constructability is not. Constructability is not just:

  • Determining more efficient methods of construction after mobilization of field forces
  • Allowing construction personnel to review engineering documents periodically during the design phase
  • Assigning construction personnel to the engineering office during design
  • A modularization or preassembly program

Projects that emphasize constructability have four common characteristics.

  1. Owner and contractor (design and construction) managers are committed to the cost effectiveness of the whole project. They recognize the high cost influence of early project decisions.
  2. These managers use constructability as a major tool in meeting project objectives concerning cost and schedule.
  3. These managers bring construction aboard early. This means finding the right kind of construction personnel: experienced people with a full understanding of how a project is planned and built, not just people who may be available because they are between jobs.
  4. Designers are receptive to improving constructability. They think constructability, request construction input freely, and evaluate that input objectively.

Research Team 3 was created to be a primer on the subject of constructability. Research Team 34 has superseded much of the research; however, the guidelines for implementing a constructability program and constructability improvement during conceptual planning present solid fundamental information.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Constructability Concepts - Conceptual Planning Phase

The research identified that the following six basic constructability concepts are applicable to the conceptual planning phase of any project: (RS3-1, p. 4)

  1. Constructability programs are made an integral part of project execution plans.
  2. Project planning actively involves construction knowledge and experience.
  3. Early planning actively involves construction knowledge and experience.
  4. Overall project schedules are construction-driven.
  5. Basic design approached consider major construction methods.
  6. Site layouts promote efficient construction as well as efficient operation and maintenance.
Reference: (RS3-1)

2 : Constructability Concepts – Design and Procurement Phases

The research also identified that the following seven basic constructability concepts are applicable to the design and procurement phases of any project: (RS3-1, p. 5)

  1. Design and procurement schedules are construction-driven.
  2. Designs are configures to enable efficient construction.
  3. Design elements are standardized.
  4. Construction efficiency is considered in specification development.
  5. Module/preassembly designs are prepared to facilitate fabrication, transport, and installation.
  6. Designs promote construction accessibility of personnel, material, and equipment.
  7. Designs facilitate construction under adverse weather conditions.
Reference: (RS3-1)

3 : Implementing a Constructability Program

Consensus is that most successful constructability programs have a clear commitment of senior management, and a single point of sponsorship/leadership for the program. Typical constructability programs include:

  • A company program that includes corporate policy, self-assessment, and training among other attributes. (RS3-2, p. 3)
  • A project level program that customized the constructability effort to align with the needs of the project.

Although there is no need for a full-time constructability person or organization, there are three key roles within a constructability program:

  1. Executive Sponsor – the constructability champion to clearly communicate program commitment
  2. Constructability Manager – the constructability knowledge expert for the organization
  3. Database Custodian – maintains the “lessons learned” constructability database
Reference: (RS3-2)

4 : Constructability Improvement in Project Planning

Constructability involves thinking about how to build a project even before it is designed. Maximum benefits occur when people with construction knowledge and experience become involved at the very beginning of a project. Three constructability issues that have the greatest impact during the conceptual planning phase of a project are the project plan, the site plan, and major construction methods.

In addition, industry tends to separate the functions of design and construction in capital projects. Design tends to place emphasis on minimizing its costs. Construction focuses on minimizing field costs. Fine-tuning the individual parts, however, does not yield the most successful project. Constructability integrates these parts and is one of the most powerful tools owners can use on capital projects. (SD-4, p. ii)

Reference: (SD-4)

5 : Contractual Approach for Constructability

Selecting the contractual approach is a critical decision in constructability improvement. Implementing constructability is easiest on turnkey type projects; it is much more difficult on projects where design and construction are accomplished by distinct and separate contracts. Options to achieving constructability improvements to various contractual approaches, including the use of a construction manager in traditional design/bid/build project delivery systems, are outlined in the research. (SD-4, p. 57)
Reference: (SD-4)

6 : Constructability Barriers – “The Review Fallacy”

The biggest obstacle to good constructability practice is the “review” syndrome. This occurs when construction personnel are excluded from the planning process and are invited only to “review” completed or partially completed products from design. This prevents construction knowledge and expertise input to the early planning, when cost sensitivity is at a maximum and construction should be making its most important contribution. When constructability is approached solely on a “review” basis, it inevitably becomes inefficient and ineffective. The most effective approach engages the entire constructability team with active roles in the planning and design development process. (RS3-2, p. 16)

Reference: (RS3-2)

7 : Implementation Tool #1

RS3-2, Guidelines for Implementing a Constructability Program

For those companies that do not have established constructability programs, these guidelines offer several examples of suggested corporate constructability policy and procedures, project constructability organizational charts, lessoned learned, and constructability related savings templates. (Note: RS3-2 has been superseded by RS34-2 and should be used for informational purposes only.)
Reference: (RS3-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved schedule, Improved quality (reduced errors & omissions)

Research Publications

Constructability Concepts File - SP3-3

Publication Date: 08/1987 Type: Special Publication Pages: 99 Status: Archived Tool

Guidelines for Implementing a Constructability Program - RS3-2

Publication Date: 07/1987 Type: Research Summary Pages: 30 Status: Archived Supporting Product

Constructability Improvement Using Prefabrication, Preassembly, and Modularization - SD-25

Publication Date: 02/1987 Type: Source Document Pages: 338 Status: Archived Reference

Constructability: A Primer - RS3-1

Publication Date: 07/1986 Type: Research Summary Pages: 16 Status: Supporting Product

Constructability Improvement During Engineering and Procurement - SD-5

Publication Date: 05/1986 Type: Source Document Pages: 42 Status: Archived Reference

Constructability Improvement During Conceptual Planning, Version 1.1 - SD-4

Publication Date: 03/1986 Type: Source Document Pages: 194 Status: Reference