Advancing Innovation Through Research

The discovery of new practices and the development of new ideas to improve the engineering-construction industry characterize the Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) program research objectives. The CEM program actively engages in a diverse research agenda providing graduate and undergraduate students unique opportunities to participate in leading-edge research efforts. Funding from sources including the National Science Foundation, the Federal Highway Administration, the Department of Energy, the Construction Industry Institute and private industry provide faculty and graduate students with continuous opportunities to explore the latest issues and challenges in the industry. The need to deliver projects with reduced budgets and schedules while ensuring quality, safety, and societal benefits is challenging. The trends of globalization, sustainability and the increased complexity of modernization has created the demand for new approaches to project delivery.  

TThe US is experiencing a workforce shortage that is causing project delays, and even cancellations, according to latest AGC-Autodesk survey. These shortages are compelling engineering and construction firms to rethink how the attract and retain professionals and skilled workers. Nearly one-third of those polled are now spending more on training and professional development. Another 37% are engaged in career-building programs at the high school, collegiate, and technical school levels. The goal of this project is to expose middle school students (ages 10 – 14) to the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry and inspire their interest in the industry. We propose to create and pilot a hands-on activity to engage students in an age-appropriate Lego construction project. This activity would target building student interest through five educational objectives. These objectives include exposing students to a variety of roles in the industry, providing students with real time feedback and instruction, actively engaging them in critical thinking and problem solving, introducing them to types of problems they might solve in the industry, and exposing them to the societal impacts they could make in the industry. More details here

Matthew Hallowell is leading a project sponsored by the National Science Foundation that aims to predict safety performance on complex and dynamic projects using attributes of the physical environment and risk mitigation practices as predictor variables. The predictive analytics used in this study are similar to those used to forecast trends in climate and weather. This project directly addresses construction safety, a critical societal concern that affects approximately six percent of the US workforce. More detail can be found on Dr. Hallowell's website.

The concept of risk generally involves the identification of uncertain events that may occur and the likely consequences that may follow. Risk management includes identifying the various events or circumstances that may prevent or enable an organization to achieve its objectives and to devise ways to mitigate, avoid, transfer, or accept the consequences of uncertain events. A emerging trend is the use of enterprise risk management to identify and respond to treats to the strategic objectives of an organization, including climate change, natural disasters, economic volatility, and political instability. This research project, led by Keith Molenaar, Matthew Hallowell and Amy Javernick-Will investigates the strategic benefits of ERM and the best practices of implementation within large transportation agencies. This research supports the current federal-aid highway legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21stCentury (MAP-21), which highlighted the need for U.S. transportation agencies to understand and apply the principles of risk management throughout their organizations.

As shortages of skilled craft professionals have been a recurring trend in the last three decades, the Construction Industry overwhelmingly agrees that it has hampered growth. The situation has even worsened in the recent years, since the industry needs to attract, train and retain 185,000 new workers by 2016 to sustain its growth. This research project led by Paul Goodrum and funded by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) aims to examine the labor, productivity, safety, and project cost impacts of major shifts in the demographics of craft labor availability. To do this, the following objectives will be achieved.
  • Analyze the trends, including the current situation, of craft labor availability in the United States and Canadian construction industry and determine if a craft labor cliff is likely to exist
  • Identify how craft availability impacts a specific project’s safety, cost, schedule, and quality performance
  • Identify how to mitigate potential craft variability’s impact on a project’s safety, cost, schedule, and quality performance.

More details about other research efforts can be found on Dr. Goodrum's website.

A project led by Amy Javernick-Will focuses on organizations and is funded by the National Science Foundation. This project analyzes knowledge sharing networks in multinational engineering and construction organizations to determine boundaries that divide knowledge sharing and practices that enable inclusive, multi-lateral networks through boundary-spanning connections.

Another project led by Amy Javernick-Will, which is also funded by the National Science Foundation, focuses on communities impacted by natural disasters. The project determines and measures pre-disaster conditions and post-disaster strategies to determine which of these conditions and strategies, combined or in isolation, enable community recovery in resource-limited communities. Learn more on Dr. Javernick-Will's website.

Keith Molenaar is leading research funded by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, the Federal Highway Administration and the Colorado Department of Transportation to explore the relationship between risk allocation and project delivery selection. The projects are studying risk allocation in design-bid-build, design-build, construction manager general contractor and public-private partnership project delivery methods.

The following is a list of topics that are studied by Construction Engineering Management faculty. They are always seeking well-qualified graduate students to participate on research projects. Please feel free to contact individual faculty members to learn more about their research.

  • Alternative Project Delivery Methods
  • Risk Analysis and Management
  • Cost Estimating and Management
  • Safety in design
  • Safety social networks
  • Leading indicators of safety
  • Predictive analytics
  • Hazard recognition
  • Situational awareness
  • Safety on global projects
  • Live demonstrations of injuries
  • Risk perception and tolerance
  • Contingent liability modeling
  • Construction innovation
  • Enterprise risk management
  • Rural project management
  • Safety on sustainable buildings
  • Industry Productivity Measurement
  • Productivity Improvement and Assessment
  • Building Information Modelling
  • Constructability and Lessons Learned in Construction
  • Innovations in Construction
  • Workforce Shortages and Strategies in Construction
  • Construction Demographics
  • Knowledge Mobilization
  • Knowledge and Communication Networks (Social Networks)
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Social Sustainability of Infrastructure Projects
  • Resource-limited communities
  • International Development and Global Projects
  • Management and Governance of Multi-national Organizations
  • Diversity
  • Boundaries and Boundary-Spanning
  • Enterprise and Project Risk Management