Document Detail

Title: RS8-3 - CAD/CAE in the Construction Industry
Publication Date: 9/1/1989
Product Type: Research Summary
Status: Archived Tool
Pages: 32
This publication has been archived, but is available for download for informational purposes only.

Evalutates the use of computer aided design and engineering by CII member companies. Shares lessons learned and looks at future trends.
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Computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided engineering (CAE) are important tools for today’s construction industry. They are affecting the way our business is being done.

The construction industry has accepted the use of computers in a variety of ways. Management is concerned that the use of computers is less than cost effective. Largely because of this concern, the Design Task Force sponsored a study to evaluate the usage of CAD and CAE in the member companies of CII.

The study led the Design Task Force to believe that:

  • CAD/CAE technology will overwhelmingly be the most important contributor to improvement among CII companies in project quality and efficiency in the foreseeable future.
  • The industry is on the verge of an order-of-magnitude improvement in efficiency and benefits resulting from the utilization of computerization.


The primary objective of the task force study was to collect information and to share lessons learned about the computerization efforts of CII member companies.

This report will assist the industry in the task of computerization and point out some key elements of success. Opinions regarding computerization trends for the next five years have been identified and are contained in this report.

Even though CII companies have experienced average home office hour reduction, of 26 percent through computerization, CAD/CAE (from the viewpoint of cost by most respondents) has been break-even at best in engineering and home office efforts over the past five years.

Vendors of hardware and software have made this effort more difficult for management by inflating the projected efficiencies of the systems and downplaying the difficulties necessary to use them.

Participants in a September 1988 workshop concluded that benefits are measurable in terms of better designs with improved productivity and schedules. Strong evidence shows that once menus, databases and libraries are created, costs as well as hours can be reduced.

Downstream benefits have been identified and are believed to offer the greatest potential for future realization, but have not yet been broadly realized or quantified by CII member companies.

Obstacles to rapid progress in this process consist of the following:

  • Management’s lack of understanding of the technology and its potential.
  • The difficulty of companies to train and integrate people into a computerized environment.
  • A lack of standards among vendors, engineer-contractors and owners.
  • The lack of system software and hardware compatibility from system to system.
  • The time required for people to adapt to a whole new way of processing information.


The participants in this study predict the future to include the networking of computers in the offices of the engineer, the owner and the construction field office. One source of information will exist, and it will reside in the computer and be accessible by project participants on the basis of need. Different vendors’ hardware and software systems will communicate with each other. Object-oriented, database-driven CAD/CAE systems are expected to be in general use. Expert systems, artificial intelligence concepts and dynamic plant walk-through programs are expected to be common tools. Simulation of the conceptual design of projects will be among the engineer-constructor's capabilities.

A computer will be as common as today’s hand-held calculator and become the link between a variety of communications and reproduction.

Industries will develop unique databases. Companies will draw information from their own company databases and industry databases to create project databases for construction and other business requirements of owners.

Schedules will be shorter, budgets will be more accurately refined and project quality will improve.

Hardware and software already exist to do the things visualized as the future. A few companies already are performing tasks that are predicted for the future. Management's ability to drive this technology to a cost-effective conclusion on projects and the creation of an educated work force to use it are the obstacles to its realization.

Computerization technology and implementation are moving at a pace that is making today’s tools and methodology obsolete at an alarming rate. CAD/CAE usage in the next five years is viewed as an exciting and promising time for the construction industry.