Dr. Laura Florez, an academic at the UK’s Northumbria University in Newcastle’s Department of Architecture and the Built Environment, has built a mathematical model for allocating masonry labor that her research confirms can help contractors and construction companies save their projects time and money.

The model uses the skills and personalities of individual mason laborers proposed for, or working on, a construction project site, coupled with existing site conditions and the overall progress of the work. The software was tested in the field and its results published in the scholarly Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering Journal. Dr. Florez hopes to expand the model to other trades and project types, soon.

“As anyone in the construction industry knows, the configuration of [crews] constantly changes and the site manager is responsible for scheduling and allocating [labor] to balance between the complexity of the job and the need for quality and high production rates,” Dr. Florez said.

“My model takes into consideration characteristics of [laborers] and site conditions in order to determine the right [crew] to build the right wall in order to increase productivity. With this computer program, site managers are not only able to identify working patterns for each of the [laborers] but also optimal [crew] formation, completion times, and labor costs.”

Dr. Florez tested her program against an actual 14-story residential building comprised of 1- to 4-bedroom apartments, a basement, and an underground parking garage. The building’s façade was brick, as were its interior columns and walls. She ran her model against actual data obtained during construction and determined that using her model for just one week of the project would have saved nearly 7% of the cost of construction and reduced the schedule duration had the project team changed the configuration and allocation of the masonry crew as suggested by the software.

The research paper underpinning Dr. Florez’s work is titled “Crew Allocation System for the Masonry Industry,” and the citation is Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering (Volume 32, Issue 10, Oct 2017, pp 874-889).

Analysis from AEC Labs:

“Construction companies and contractors collect large amounts of detailed information and there are multiple ways to use quantitative and qualitative valuable data to increase productivity, form effective [labor crews], and better manage and plan future projects,” Dr. Florez writes.

This couldn’t be more prescient. The construction industry – in the UK, and here in North America as well – is undergoing some dramatic changes. Internet of Things-enable devices, blockchain, site safety products, and many more new technologies will allow designers, developers, and builders to access unprecedented amounts of data that they never had before.

Of course, what they do with that data is the next question. If software and mathematical models like Dr. Florez’s are coupled with, say, machine learning and AI-enabled technologies, there is really no limit to what could be accomplished in terms of boosting the industry’s productivity and efficiency. Again, the construction industry has seen a 20 percent dip in overall efficiency since the 1980s while the broader economy’s has doubled. It’s only a matter of time before technology solutions shrink that gap dramatically.