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Monitoring and Controlling a Construction Project in the Classroom

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Your Best in 5 Minutes: Demonstrations of Hands-On and Virtual In-Class Teaching Aids

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Brad Wambeke P.E. United States Military Academy

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Colonel Brad Wambeke is the Civil Engineering Division Director at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY. He received his B.S. from South Dakota State University; M.S. from the University of Minnesota; and Ph.D. from North Carolina State University. He is a member of ASEE and is a registered Professional Engineer in Missouri. His primary research interests include construction engineering, lean construction, and engineering education.

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Todd Mainwaring United States Military Academy

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Major Todd Mainwaring is a junior rotating faculty member. Todd is a 2007 graduate of the United States Military Academy. He has earned two Masters of Science from Stanford University: one in Civil Engineering (Sustainable Design and Construction) and another in Management Science. His areas of interest include energy efficient building design, industrialized construction and life cycle assessment.

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The planning phase of construction is relatively easy to implement in a classroom setting. Exercises that demonstrate and assess estimating and scheduling techniques are fairly common. Students can conduct material take-offs, labor productivity estimates, build network diagrams and Gantt charts, while using plans and specifications from real-world projects. The execution phase, however, is far more difficult to simulate. The classroom is constrained by time and space which prohibits students from actually executing, monitoring, and controlling their plan. CE450: Construction Management, taught in XXX, uses Project Imperium to provide students with a simulated construction experience in which they can plan, execute, monitor, and control a project. In Project Imperium, instead of using real plans and real materials, students employ K’NEX rods and connectors to build a structure, such as a two-story club house or a bridge. Material, labor and equipment prices and rates are provided to teams of four students who are responsible for placing a competitive bid (price and duration) for the project. With this information, teams develop a baseline from which they apply earned value analysis to monitor their performance. Teams are then expected to build the clubhouse or bridge within six “months” of construction—each month is 10 minutes long. During this time, students are monitoring progress using metrics which begin to shape decisions in future months. With the assistance of an Excel model, students can visually see trends in costs and schedule which help them make decisions to correct their trajectory. The model is composed of management “levers” the students can pull. The project manager can crash the project by authorizing overtime or adding additional workers. On the other hand, they can also cut costs by selecting cheaper labor and poor-quality material. Of course, there are inherent risks in these cost-cutting measures: too many “cheap” choices can lead to litigation from the owner. It is the repercussions of these decisions which Imperium and the model provides. Immediately, a student can see the outcome of a construction management choice. Cost-cutting decisions result in an increase in the “litigation potential” indicator on the student’s dashboard. Crashing choices results in a drop in projected profit, but also a potential to decrease total project duration. This visualization of cause and effect improves decision making skills.

Future construction managers should be able to monitor progress, assess data, and make an informed decision to control the outcome of a project. Many gain this skill from actual work experience; perhaps, it is possible to gain it in the classroom. Creating this management experience in the classroom ensures our students can immediately add value to the projects they’ll manage after they graduate.

Wambeke, B., & Mainwaring, T. (2019, June), Monitoring and Controlling a Construction Project in the Classroom Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33120

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