Construction Lifecycle Management – A Necessary Business Strategy

Historically, Product Lifecycle Management vendors have supported AEC solutions while Enterprise Resource Planning vendors have been focusing on the EPC side of the AEC/EPC ecosystem.

It is time to adopt a holistic approach to Construction Lifecycle and both, PLM and ERP vendors, must provide new technologies and solutions to promote efficient collaboration between Construction disciplines and streamline Business Practices that result in increased profitability and significant savings for their customers.

Construction Lifecycle Management promotes new ways of thinking and doing business, aiming to achieve Lean by delivering innovative Construction Process Integration framework to manage holistically all the phases of the Lifecycle of a Capital Asset: design, build, operate and retirement.

Construction Lifecycle Management – a necessary business strategy

by Ionel GRECESCU, P.Eng., London 2014.

Manufacturing and Construction are unique fields on their own but share a great deal of things together. Both are, obviously, concerned with creation. By de facto terminology convention, Manufacturing is concerned with creation of Products and Construction with creation of Capital Assets. There is also a clear symbiotic relationship between the two, and one immediate conclusion is that Capital Assets have a multitude of various Products in their composition.

Both fields have been profoundly transformed by the paradigm shift that took place in the middle of the second half of the 20th century and caused by the revolutionary introduction of computer assisted parametric modeling which has profoundly changed our view of the world by enabling the transition from Euclidean geometric solids and making way, in the 21st century, to a new epochal style called Parametricism.

“What is so different about Parametricism in comparison to modernism and in comparison to all prior approaches to architecture?” It is the truly radical transformation of the spatial and formal repertoire brought about through computational processes.

Source: “The Impact of Parametricism on Architecture and Society”
Angel Tenorio interviews Patrik Schumacher1 in London, March 2014.

The parametric design paradigm has pervaded all aspects of Society and has proved to be a transformational force, invisible, yet permanently perceived to the point of being ubiquitous, totally lost in the details of the immediate surroundings, similar to perceiving the tree in the forest from afar.

We pursue the parametric design paradigm all the way, penetrating into all corners of the discipline. Systematic, adaptive variation, continuous differentiation (rather than mere variety), and dynamic, parametric figuration concerns all design tasks from urbanism to the level of tectonic detail, interior furnishings and the world of products.

Source: “Parametricism as Style – Parametricist Manifesto”, Patrik Schumacher
Presented and discussed at the Dark Side Club2, 11th Architecture Biennale, Venice 2008.

What is Product Lifecycle Management?

Manufacturing has been profoundly transformed by the extensive utilization of 3D parametric digital mock-up to drive all the disciplines throughout all the phases of Product Lifecycle and by adopting and applying consistently Lean thinking and concepts that focus on eliminating waste and delivering higher quality products on time and on budget.

A strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of product definition information across the extended enterprise from concept to end of life – integrating people, processes, and information.

Source: CIMdata

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has revolutionized Manufacturing and pushed the envelope in traditional industries such as automotive and aerospace which have significantly benefited from the use of Information Technologies that enabled digital mock-up driven disciplines and by pushing it to downstream processes throughout the Product Lifecycle.

Digital Engineering is the integrated virtual development of product by means of Information Technology; Digital Manufacturing is the use of Information Technology to virtually simulate all the production processes of the product including tooling. While Digital Engineering & Manufacturing can provide benefits when used as a stand-alone initiative, it’s mostly effective when it is incorporated into a broad enterprise PLM initiative.

Extending PLM processes and best practices, including Digital Engineering & Manufacturing, to involve various external stakeholders such as suppliers and partners is particularly compelling and result in substantially reduced costs, more innovation and much higher benefits.

What is digital mock-up?

Digital mock-up is one of the oldest computer assisted modeling methodologies that appeared with the first Computer Assisted Design (CAD) systems. Today, sophisticated CAD modeling systems are capable to add, on top of the parametric model, intelligent features such as Knowledgeware, simulation details such as kinematics, functional and logical views, electrical wire harness, simulation of manufacturing processes and various other features that are enriching the multi-physics simulation possibilities and maximizes the user experience.

The virtual design and simulation in three dimensions of a product and all components of its logical structure. Digital mock-up eliminates the need for expensive physical mock-up. Manufacturers can develop virtually a digital mock-up of a product in full detail, simulating all its functions and anticipating the interaction among its various components. Since the digital mock-up contains all the data associated with the product, it is richer than the physical mock-up because all simulation and calculations can be performed on it.

The goal is to achieve a level of accuracy of the digital mock-up that is as close as possible to the physical mock-up in order to validate all the possible scenarios of the product in a virtual development environment.

What is Building Information Modeling?

Building information modeling is a proprietary technology and an innovative approach for designing and engineering of facilities in Construction using the digital mock-up paradigm.

Building Information Model (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A building information model is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.

Source: The National BIM Project Committee

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been shaping the Construction landscape in the last decade and is in the process of becoming a de facto standard in the Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC) industry.

One interesting feature, to be noticed, is the creative use of additional disciplinary dimensions that are used in the AEC/EPC ecosystem:

4D modeling is used to virtually simulating the sequence planning of the build phase and for ideal space utilization on a Construction site.5D modeling adds to the 4D dimensions of the model, the costing estimation of the build phase on a Construction site.6D modeling adds to the 5D dimensions, Facility Management capabilities for the operate phase of the Construction lifecycle to enable model driven Operations & Maintenance.

Those multi-dimensional processes are driven by the digital mock-up information in the Building Information Model which manages the associativity properties of all its incorporated items in such a way that any change in design reflects automatically into the higher dimensions.

What are Industry Foundation Classes?

Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) is a platform neutral open file format specification that has been registered as an International Standard (ISO 16739:2013). This standard emerged in the Construction field, out of necessity, as a data interchange medium to foster collaboration between various stakeholders (such as: partners, subcontractors, suppliers, fabricators, etc.) that participate on large Construction capital projects and who are creating project deliverables in specific data formats using various heterogeneous engineering software tools.

The IFC’s data model has been developed as a vendor neutral and open specification for Building Information Models by the buildingSMART® – an international organization which aims to improve the exchange of information between software applications used in the AEC industry.

Two file formats, based on the IFC specification, have emerged and have been widely supported by various AEC software vendors:

IFC-SPF which is a Part 21 STEP3 file based ASCII text format (as defined by ISO 10303-21 specification), in which each line typically consists of a single object record, and having the file extension “.ifc“. This is the most widely used IFC format, having the advantage of compact size yet readable text.

IFC-XML is a Part 28 STEP file based eXtensible Mark-up Language XML format (as defined by ISO 10303-28 specification), having the file extension “.ifcXML“. This format is suitable for interoperability using XML tools and data integration between various heterogeneous systems.

AEC/EPC is a unique ecosystem

Construction has evolved in a unique fashion and over time it gave birth to a unique ecosystem with its own terminology and concepts.

Architecture, Engineering & Construction represents a critical Construction domain which main’s goal is the design of Capital Assets.

Engineering, Procurement & Construction represents also a critical Construction domain which main’s goal is the build of Capital Assets.

Together, those two Construction domains form a unique dichotomy, and to complete the ecosystem, two more key players must be added:

Owners contract AEC stakeholders to design Capital Assets, and EPC stakeholders to build it.

Operators are contracted by Owners to operate Capital Assets on their behalf.

Immediately we conclude that the purpose of the AEC/EPC ecosystem is to design, build & operate Capital Assets.

What keeps the AEC/EPC ecosystem whole is the Contract and the specific relationships between the Owners on one side of the Contract, and the various ecosystem stakeholders on the other. Those contractual relationships are not any different from those between the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and its multi-tiered Suppliers in the automotive and aerospace industries.

What is Construction Lifecycle Management?

Construction has been influenced by the PLM business strategy that contributed to achieve Lean in Manufacturing. Both fields have a close relationship and it is sufficient to observe the Construction Lifecycle to conclude, for instance, that the Design & Engineering phases are sharing the same Processes, Methods & Tools used in virtual product development in Manufacturing. Construction Lifecycle Management (CLM) might have an almost identical definition to that of Product Lifecycle Management:

A strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of construction definition information across the extended enterprise from concept to end of life – integrating people, processes, and information.

Construction Lifecycle Management is a very broad business strategy that bridges the gap between Design, Engineering, Construction, Procurement and back-office business enterprise systems such as Financials and Human Resources. Its strategy aims to cover missing support areas and to overcome the lack of integration and collaboration between different business tasks by facilitating the sharing of Construction information across all company functions, customers and suppliers.


By analyzing the Construction Lifecycle timeline above, which shows the build phase of a Capital Asset, one immediate conclusion that jumps out is the proliferation of disciplinary silos that are used by various stakeholders during Tendering, Construction & Commission which corresponds to the build phase:

  • Contract Management
  • Tender Management
  • Project Management
  • Change Management
  • Bill of Quantities Management (Quantity Surveying)
  • Document Management
  • Material Management
  • Estimating
  • Subcontracting
  • Purchasing
  • Scheduling
  • Forecasting
  • Controlling (Document Control, Cost Control, Project Control)
  • Commission Management (handover)

This multi-disciplinary build phase and its related processes are entirely driven by the digital mock-up information in the Building Information Model. Any change in the build phase should be routed bi-directionally automatically into the design and its associated Building Information Model master.

The build phase in the Construction Lifecycle presents significant challenges because of its multi-disciplinary nature and the proliferation of associated data silos that have exploded into Construction in the last decades. Construction related data is locked inside those silos and stifles efficient collaboration during project delivery.

Construction must improve its Processes, Methods & Tools by taking a Lean approach to improve collaboration and execution during design, build and operate phases of the Lifecycle.

“The ability to exchange data among project team members is critical to collaboration, as is the ability to analyze data to improve a firm’s performance”.

“Better tools are needed that allow more intensive data sharing within and beyond individual firms, especially with owners and fabricators.”

Source: McGraw Hill Construction, Lean Construction: Leveraging Collaboration and Advanced Practices to Increase Project Efficiency SmartMarket Report4

Construction Process Integration is the goal of the broad Construction Lifecycle Management business strategy.

Construction Process Integration delivers Lean

Construction Process Integration (CPI) is a framework consisting of horizontal end-to-end enterprise wide business processes focusing on Construction Lifecycle delivered through an ecosystem of seamlessly integrated enterprise applications that bridge the gap (business process & data flow) between Design, Engineering, Construction, Procurement and back-office business enterprise systems.

Construction Process Integration framework’s mission is to promote innovation and efficient collaboration between Construction disciplines, processes and streamline Business Practices that result in increased profitability and significant savings.

The vision is that of a fully Construction Process Integration applicative environment that helps break organizational and information multi-disciplinary silos, enabling streamlined Construction Lifecycle processes that not only include Design & Engineering processes but also Construction, Operations & Maintenance through Retirement.

Final word

This author believes that Construction is ripe to receive a Bill of Material to manage the build phase of the Construction Lifecycle, in the same fashion, Engineering and Manufacturing received one.

Imagine for a moment how much could be achieved if a Construction Bill of Material would be managed from its own repository, and by allowing all the various disciplines and processes to access it during the critical build phase of the Construction Lifecycle.

Such a repository would be similar in function to a Manufacturing Execution System currently used in Manufacturing to manage the build phase of the Product Lifecycle.

Why not name this repository, Construction Execution Management? Such a system would manage all the interactions between the various stakeholders during the build phase of the Construction Lifecycle and because of its nature it would provide automatically “out of the box” all the collaboration requirements of a Globally Integrated Enterprise5 to design anywhere, build anywhere and operate anywhere”.

And who will provide Construction with its own Bill of Material? Frankly, it doesn’t matter, under market pressure, it will be either, an ERP or a PLM vendor, or probably more likely, it will be everybody, as it happened in Manufacturing.

Such a vision would finally allow Construction to achieve the long sought ideal of Lean that has benefited so much Manufacturing.

In the end, in layman terms, Construction Lifecycle Management is nothing more than PLM for Construction.


1 Patrik Schumacher, Dr.-Phil., Dipl.-Ing., Architect, RIBA, ARB; Partner at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA); Co-director of AA Design Research Lab (AADRL).

Patrik Schumacher is recognized as the leading theorist on the rise of parametric design in architecture, and the main oracle, predicting it will dominate the next phase of advances by the avant-garde. He famously declared in one manifesto: “There is a global convergence in recent avant-garde architecture that justifies its designation as a new style: parametricism.” Building on techniques developed for digital animation and for computational design in architecture, he said parametricism “succeeds Modernism as the next long wave of systematic innovation.”

2 The Dark Side Club is a critical salon initiated and organized by Robert White to coincide with the Architecture Biennale. Three successive events were conceived as a critical salon to debate some of the themes Aaron Betsky had set for that year’s Biennale. Three curators have been invited to each put forward a proposition for debate: Patrik Schumacher, Greg Lynn, and Gregor Eichinger. Each invited young architects and thinkers to debate the direction architecture is taking.

The first session – curated and introduced by Patrik Schumacher was titled: Parametricism as New Style.

3 STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product manufacturing information) is a family of ISO international standards (ISO 10303) that describe how to represent and exchange digital product information.

STEP was born in 1983, as the merger of previous efforts such as IGES, VDAFS, SET, CAD*I, and PDDI. After years of work, the first parts of STEP were completed and published for the first time in 1994. It included the EXPRESS information modeling language and the first Application Protocol, AP203, used for exchanging B-Rep (Boundary Representation) CAD geometry.

Additional parts followed to address new technologies, like Part 21 ASCII exchange (ISO 10303-21) and Part 28 XML exchange (ISO 10303-28).

4 2013 Copyright © SmartMarket Report. Lean Construction: Leveraging Collaboration and Advanced Practices to Increase Project Efficiency SmartMarket Report. McGraw Hill Construction is a division of McGraw Hill Financial.

5 “The Globally Integrated Enterprise”, article published in the May/June 2006 issue of “Foreign Affairs” revue magazine, by Samuel J. Palmisano, former CEO of International Business Machines Corporation.

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