Change Leader: We Can’t Build Tomorrow’s Infrastructure Using Yesterday’s Technology
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According to Sreenivasan, it’s a common engineering industry misconception that digital tools for construction are limited to 2D/3D design, BIM and GIS.
“A mindset shift needs to take place so engineers think about technology adoption across the entire construction lifecycle from capital planning, bidding and estimation, construction management, and asset maintenance—and not just design,” he adds. “We live in the 21st century, and to build America’s infrastructure, we need to do it differently and better this time around.”
Capital management often is overlooked in the profession, and he believes major project efficiencies can result from digitalization. According to Sreenivasan, digital capital management software should drive the following: 1) smarter investment planning, 2) faster project delivery and 3) better quality.
“Infrastructure owners have relied on grossly inefficient and antiquated systems and methods, and can’t support the complexity of today’s capital programs,” he notes.
An Inflection Point?
Sreenivasan is optimistic that a bipartisan infrastructure bill recently passed in the U.S. Senate will become law and finally provide the funding that’s been needed for decades.
“A trillion dollars is still seriously short of what is required to fix this country’s infrastructure, but it’s a very encouraging first step,” he says. “We are hopeful that the legislative house will do what’s right for Americans and pass this into law, so we can begin the process of building a sustainable future.”
He notes that America needs more than $5 trillion in investments to modernize its aging infrastructure, but feels the bipartisan bill is a solid first step. He highlights that the bill will put $110 billion into roads and bridges, $66 billion into passenger and freight rail, $65 billion into broadband, $55 billion into water systems, and $39 billion into public transit.
Sreenivasan also explains that internet broadband connectivity is of major importance in developing modern infrastructure, as 1 in 5 Americans in rural areas lack access to broadband internet.
“Internet is the new electricity,” he states. “Internet access is fundamental to tens of millions of Americans who need this to participate in our economy, attend school and stay connected in the 21st century.”
The Next Step
If and when funding is approved for U.S. infrastructure, Sreenivasan believes proper execution of those investments will be key.
“Investment managers, public-works directors and construction managers will have to employ the only tools capable of managing the complexity of today and tomorrow’s capital programs for America to build back better,” he notes. “Engineers should look to adopt enterprise-level modern cloud software to make smarter decisions on which projects to fund; build more-accurate estimates using historical data; leverage AI/ML to analyze public feedback; and use cloud-based workflows to hasten regulatory compliance, tighten project controls and reduce rework.”
According to McKinsey, a management consulting company, the average capital construction project is 20 months behind schedule and 80 percent over budget.
“This is not merely an issue for government leaders or capital management professionals,” adds Sreenivasan. “Taxpayers must understand where their money goes and how it affects their everyday lives—like their commutes or the safety of the buildings they occupy.
“America’s infrastructure owners and engineers must digitize capital management to help America build smarter, build faster and build stronger,” he says.