...to be reduced from a year and a half to one year, Heger says. Crews met the revised schedule for the four-story, 393,897-gross-sq-ft Class-A office building, delivering it 356 days from the issuance of the building permit to the certificate of occupancy.

In addition to mandating that the major systems and structures be designed using building information modeling, Turner worked with its subcontractors to create work breakdown structures, which were used during buyout. Heger says the breakdown structures provided ample transparency to promote coordination efforts, while also allowing subs to retain confidential accounting and business practices.

Schedules were broken into short intervals to help the team stay on top of issues and keep tighter control on processes, such as the movement of materials. Heger says the team took an “assembly-line approach” to the job, focusing on the most predictable aspects of the job and tightly scheduling them.

“Construction is a highly variable business, but sometimes we focus too much on the variability and not what’s a constant,” he says. “Weather, soil and the people are variables, but a lot of other aspects don’t change. Those constants are what you want to focus your maximum effort on and make as effective as possible.”

On the Redmond project, crews erected 2,310 pieces of steel in 91 hours over a 10-day period, and 95,000 sq ft of elevated deck was completed in 11 days. Average productivity was $48,000 per man-month; it had been estimated at $28,000. “That’s what’s most impressive to our VPs,” says Heger.

The process also reduced costs. The electrical contractor came in 15% under the original budget, with no additional costs for schedule acceleration. No claims resulted, and contingency wasn’t used.

Robert Chapman, a NIST economist, says that although Job Productivity Measurement has proven particularly effective for subcontractors, it can be a helpful tracking tool for general contractors as well.

“It’s a generic process control mechanism that is particularly helpful in allowing a construction firm at the project level to look at how they are performing against what their predictions were when they bid the job,” he says. “Because it’s generic, the GC can use this standard on a job and have all the subcontractors adopt it. That way, you’re tracking the subs and the overall project better.”

Simply put, Job Productivity Measurement compares the percent of allocated hours used vs. the project’s percent of completion. If a 400-hour job is 50% complete but more than 200 hours have been used, the project is behind schedule. Every kind of work—including prefabrication, pre-assembly and commissioning—must be counted. It’s not just turning wrenches.

Chapman predicts that this is the first of several productivity standards to be adopted in the coming years. Although the published Job Productivity Measurement standard is brief, he expects appendices to be added over time to illustrate the technique in greater detail.

The new standard strikes at looming concerns over lagging construction productivity. In July, the National Research Council released its “Advancing the Competitiveness and Efficiency of the U.S. Construction Industry” report, which called for widespread adoption of lean techniques, integrated teaming, and virtual design and construction to help improve productivity. The study also noted the need for improved metrics for benchmarking performance.

Last fall, members of the Construction Users Roundtable discussed plans to partner with NIST on productivity initiates. Bob Volkman, senior consultant with CURT, says company-level and industrywide productivity benchmarking are critical concerns for owners.

“We see productivity measured at the project level, but what’s non-existent is seeing how we are doing as owners against the industry,” he adds. “That’s the missing piece.”

Some groups are attacking the issue, including the Construction Industry Institute with its “Benchmarking and Metrics Database” initiative.

Chapman says that Job Productivity Measurement in its current form is most effective at the task and project levels but has the potential to rise to an industrywide level over time, if sufficient data is collected and shared.

“Right now, I see JPM as an effective early warning system on projects,” he adds. “There is the potential for more, but for now it’s a step in the right direction.”