Lean Management in the Construction Field

Everywhere you look, there are new construction projects being started and built. Construction is one of the top industries in the world, and with that, the construction industry is one of the largest contributors of waste and pollution. According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (2004), “the U. S. building industry accounts for 39% of total energy use, 12% of total water consumption, 68% of total electricity consumption, and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions.

” (Nahmens & Ikuma 2012, p 155) To counteract large waste and pollution statistics, the construction industry is now slowly implementing a new construction concept of lean and green construction. Green construction and lean construction coincide with one another in terms of sustainability, and cost reduction. Through running projects with lean and green in mind, waste can be drastically reduced at both the project, and the management level of construction and have positive effects on both the economic and environmental dimensions.

Waste at a project level can come in many different forms from wasted materials to wasted time. Waste is so rampant on a construction project that most people have a hard time noticing construction project waste. A scrap of extra material that was cut down to size and can’t be used for another part of the project is an example of material waste at the project waste. Usually on large projects, there are multiple companies working on single project, each with a specific task that the company must accomplish.

Delays and space conflicts can take place between the different companies if the project isn’t planned out properly leading to wasted time and wasted money. Also, if the subcontracted companies only focus on their own specific tasks and don’t effectively communicate and work with other subcontractors, work conflict can occur. Often on a large construction project, it is nearly impossible to coordinate the different types of work occurring, which is way prestaging and planning are the two most important activities of a construction project. Along with project waste, waste can also occur at an operations level.

“Industry research suggests that approximately 30%-35% of construction costs are wasted and do not add value for clients” (Song & Liang 2011). Poor coordination between the construction office and workers out in the field, and lack of proper scheduling are examples of wastes that occur at an operations level. Ineffective planning at an operations level can cause both operations waste, and project waste later down the line. Operations staff needs to make sure that all the proper planning is complete and have all the materials procured on time to prevent unwanted delays.

Although the operations staff is in charge of ordering the materials for the job, the operations staff needs to make sure the order the materials on a need to use basis, meaning the workers need to have the materials at the jobsite when the materials are needed. If the materials are delivered before the materials are needed, the materials could possibly have to be moved and could potentially be damaged by other workers on the job. If the materials are damaged on the jobsite, the material need to be reordered resulting in a loss of profit for the company.

Green and lean construction implementation in the construction field means not only a greater profit for the company itself, but also can also have positive effects on the economic and environmental dimensions of the world. “The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (2008) describes green building as the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life cycle. ” (Nahmens & Ikuma 2012) A construction projects that is run with a green sense in mind uses less materials meaning a lower usage of raw materials and less impact on the environment.

Also, many materials used on construction projects are recyclable, meaning the material can be reprocessed and used again on a later project. Examples of recyclable materials are concrete, asphalt, wood, rebar and steel. It is difficult to determine the economic advantages of using green and lean construction. Where once thought that green was more geared towards an environmental advantage and lean was geared toward a more economic advantage, research now shows both practices work interpedently where both practices share similar characteristics of eliminating waste.

One of the key effects of using lean construction methods results in the reduction of upfront costs, operating costs, resource savings, and improvement in performance capability. When lean and green construction is properly implemented, a noticeably lower cost of buildings occurs and more “green and sustainable” structures are built. The biggest threat to the implementation of green and lean practices in the construction field is the refusal of existing companies to change.

The reasons companies refuse to change varies from company to company, but most are afraid of the costs of the change. Unbeknownst to most companies, there is a drastic misconception that being green costs more money. “The perception that additional cost affects the market competitiveness of the stakeholders must be prevented as a global barrier to green construction. ” (Lam, Patrick, Chan, H. W, Chau, C. K. , Poon, C. S. , Chun, K. P. 2009) As more and more companies are adopting polices, the existing companies that haven’t made the effort to reduce waste are feeling the pressure to change their policies.

Waste is rampant in the construction industry prompting more and more research and the use of technological advancements to produce leaner and construction projects. Over the last decade, society’s stigma has changed to where society is actively seeking ways to be greener. If the consumer wants to build an economically and environmentally friendly building, companies must be able to adapt to the consumer wants or lose valuable business. Waste is rampant in the construction industry prompting more and more research and the use of technological advancements to produce leaner and construction projects. References Lam, P.

T. , Chan, E. H. , Chau, C. K. , Poon, C. S. , & Chun, K. P. (2009). Integrating Green Specifications in Construction and Overcoming Barriers in Their Use. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education & Practice, Vol. 135(Issue 4), p142-152. Nahmens, I. , & Ikuma, L. H. (2012). Effects of Lean Construction on Sustainability of Modular Homebuilding. Journal of Architectural Engineering, Vol. 18(Issue 2), p155-163. Song, L. , & Daan, L. (2011). Lean construction implementation and its implication on sustainability: a contractor’s case study. Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, Vol. 38(Issue 3), p350-359.