ASU cements status as a top construction program at 2018 Construction Research Congress
Above: Mounir El Asmar (left) accepts the Best Paper award from Charles Berryman, construction management department chair at Louisiana State University. Photographer: Samantha Baldridge/Louisiana State University
Arizona State University left the 2018 American Society of Civil Engineers’ Construction Research Congress in New Orleans with an impressive award and some prep work as it prepares to host the Congress at ASU for the first time.
Assistant Professor Mounir El Asmar and G. Edward Gibson Jr., director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, were co-authors along with doctoral student Abdulrahman Yussef and ASU alum David Ramsey, who is currently an instructor at Florida International University, on the paper “Front End Engineering Design (FEED) for Large Industrial Projects: FEED Maturity and Its Impact on Project Cost and Schedule Performance.” Their paper was named Best Paper at the Congress out of 374 accepted articles.
In short, civil engineers and construction managers design, construct and maintain the elements of the physical and naturally built environment, which defines modern civilization. Buildings, bridges, roads, railroads, subway systems and airports represent just some of the projects civil engineers and builders are responsible for.
Front End Engineering Design refers to the amount of engineering that needs to be completed early in a project’s lifecycle before authorizing the funding of a large industrial construction project. A mature FEED means you are accounting for all the major engineering elements that can cause issues down the road for that project. The work was funded by the Construction Industry Institute under CII research team 331.
“We developed a tool to identify and measure 46 FEED maturity elements and 27 FEED accuracy factors,” says El Asmar. “We also compiled and used FEED maturity and accuracy scores to predict project performance.”
The team studied large industrial projects as part of their research: collecting project data for almost $14 billion worth of projects in 10 countries and testing the resulting tool on live projects.
“Most of the projects were on the scale of hundreds of millions of dollars,” says El Asmar. “Some were on the order of a billion dollars. Our method has shown a 24 percent difference in cost performance for those projects that had more accurate and mature FEEDs. That’s a massive cost difference that can be tapped into this early in the project development phase.”
The research was conducted by Gibson and El Asmar in conjunction with an industry research team. This recognition of their extensive work meant a lot to the members of the research team.
“This is teamwork at its best. We worked hard along with a team of 20 phenomenally committed industry experts,” says El Asmar. “We all met in person every six weeks, for two and a half years. So, when your team’s hard work is recognized at our major ASCE Conference, it means a lot, because you know you competed with the best and brightest in the world, but most importantly because you are making a significant impact on your professional community.”
Looking ahead to 2020
In addition to the Best Paper award, the researchers were excited to learn that ASU had been selected to host the next biannual Construction Research Congress in 2020.
The opportunity to host the CRC for the first time is something that has faculty in the Del E. Webb School of Construction excited. The Congress typically attracts about 400 international construction researchers and will occur in March 2020.
“We’re already one of the largest construction programs in terms of student body, faculty body, doctoral students, research productivity, etc.,” El Asmar says. “Hosting the CRC will allow us to showcase our programs, students and facilities to our peers worldwide. At the same time, it is a big responsibility for us, but we are ready for it because we have tremendous local industry support and an outstanding ASU team that has already started planning and will keep working hard to make sure our peers enjoy a memorable CRC conference at ASU.”