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U.S. Construction Labor Productivity Trends, 1970–1998

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Abstract

Construction productivity trends carry immense consequences for the economy as a whole. However, there is little scholarly consensus concerning even the direction of such trends. The main objectives of this paper are to (1) present an approach to studying long-term productivity trends in the U.S. construction industry; and (2) provide a preliminary indication of such trends over the past 25-30 years. Subsequent, extended statistical studies are suggested that may be based on the approach of the selected work presented here. Labor cost and output productivity trends are tracked for tasks that represent different trades and differing levels of technological intensity within the building construction sector. Specific tasks dealt with a range from a zero technology impact task, such as hand trenching, to compaction with a sheepsfoot roller. Means's cost manuals were used to trace the benchmark values for these tasks. These values reflect productivity trends. Unit labor costs in constant dollars and daily output factors were compared over decades for each task. Direct work rate data from 72 projects in Austin, Tex., over the last 25 years were also examined. Increasing the direct work rate usually increases construction productivity. The combined data indicate that productivity has increased in the 1980s and 1990s. Depressed real wages and technological advances appear to be the two biggest reasons for this increase. The data also indicate that management practices were not a leading contributor to construction productivity changes over time. Subsequent studies are required to add weight to these observations and can be based on the approach presented here.
... Table 1 aims to summarize the main work categories used in WS literature. Thomas (1991) Direct Work Indirect Work Lee et al. (1999) Value-added Non-value added but necessary Non-value added and unnecessary Allmon et al. (2000) Productive According to the terminologies identified in the WS literature, the term DW has been used in all the different classifications for WS application without exception. Some authors (Allmon et al., 2000) included activities in the DW category such as holding material, measurement, and inspections, traditionally considered IW (Ohno, 1988). ...
... Thomas (1991) Direct Work Indirect Work Lee et al. (1999) Value-added Non-value added but necessary Non-value added and unnecessary Allmon et al. (2000) Productive According to the terminologies identified in the WS literature, the term DW has been used in all the different classifications for WS application without exception. Some authors (Allmon et al., 2000) included activities in the DW category such as holding material, measurement, and inspections, traditionally considered IW (Ohno, 1988). The IW category represents the category that has been broken down into most subcategories. ...
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... The integration of these two techniques would solve the laboriousness of acquiring georeferenced TLS data and overcoming the reduced accuracy of SLAM. It would add even more productivity and quality as the new technologies have done during past years for construction [29,30] This study aims to introduce a novel strategy for the registration of non-overlapping TLS data with the support of SLAM LS data in order to collect geometrically coherent building interior data. This enables more effective data collection in large and complex buildings because it is possible to prioritize spaces according to their need for point cloud accuracy. ...
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