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The Modern Construction Supply Chain: Radical Prefabrication and Additive Manufacturing

Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 12:30pm - 1:30pm EDT

  • Location:15 MetroTech Center, 6th Floor, C2SMART Conf Rm

William J. O’Brien, PhD, PE
Professor and Phil M. Ferguson Centennial Teaching Fellow
Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

Projects have for years followed a traditional path of design, procurement, and construction. This has led to lack of innovation in materials and methods and, ultimately, stagnating productivity growth. In turn, projects have become more expensive, limiting investment and imposing significant societal costs in terms of development and initiatives for sustainability and resilience. Fortunately, this situation is poised for a rapid turnaround. The convergence of new materials, methods, and supporting information technologies promise radical changes in the design and delivery of projects. In particular, extreme prefabrication and use of standardized base components with selective use of additive manufacturing or 3D printing technologies will speed design and construction while allowing more sustainable use (and reuse) of materials. This talk will review the challenges in current methods from the perspective of the construction supply chain. Opportunities to streamline the supply chain with more standardization and prefabrication will be reviewed, together with the opportunities for additive manufacturing to add customization and tolerance correction. We conclude with a call for integrated research agenda to enable the next generation of facility construction.

Dr. William J. O’Brien focuses his professional efforts on improving collaboration and coordination among firms in the design and construction industry. Dr. O’Brien is an expert on construction supply chain management and electronic collaboration, where he conducts research, teaches and consults on both systems design and implementation issues. Recently, his research on Advanced Work Packaging was featured in a cover story by Engineering News-Record, designated a Best Practice by the Construction Industry Institute, and has been adopted as a corporate execution standard by major owner operators such as ExxonMobil. He was the lead editor on the widely referenced Construction Supply Chain Management Handbook (CRC Press). His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Construction Industry Institute, Fiatech, the Transportation Research Board, and the Texas Department of Transportation. He is the author or co-author of over 100 journal articles, book chapters, and technical reports. Dr. O’Brien is currently a Professor and the Phil M. Ferguson Centennial Teaching Fellow in the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. From 1999-2004 he was a faculty member at the University of Florida (Gainesville). As a teacher, Dr. O’Brien has actively sought to deploy technology in innovative ways. While at Florida, he co-taught a “Collaborative Design Processes” class with faculty from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At Texas, he has sought to introduce leading mobile computing and visualization software to the classroom. These efforts were recognized by a 2008 University of Texas Innovative Instructional Technology Program (IITAP) Gold Award. His research has been recognized by the Fiatech consortium, where he was the recipient of 2007 and 2011 CETI Awards in the Technology and Knowledge-Enabled Workforce category, and the 2015 STAR Award. In 2012, Dr. O’Brien received the Outstanding Researcher Award from the Construction Industry Institute. In 2018, Dr. O’Brien received the CII/Fiatech CETI award for Outstanding Researcher – Career that recognized his numerous contributions to industry and academia. Dr. O’Brien is Emeritus Editor for the journal Advanced Engineering Informatics and a Specialty Editor for the ASCE Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering. He currently serves as Associate Chair for Architectural Engineering in the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering. He led the Construction Engineering and Project Management program as Area Coordinator from 2011-2017 and was Transition Manager (Interim Director) of the Fiatech Industry Consortium from 2016-2017. Prior to returning to academia, Dr. O’Brien led product development and planning efforts at Collaborative Structures, a Boston based Internet start-up focused on serving the construction industry. Dr. O’Brien was the first employee of Collaborative Structures in 1996 and was Vice President for Marketing and Product Development when he left the firm in 1998. Dr. O’Brien holds a Ph.D. and a M.S. degree in Civil Engineering and a M.S. degree in Engineering-Economic Systems from Stanford University. He also holds a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering (Academic Honors) from Columbia University. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Texas.