The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the United States’ largest federal investment in infrastructure since the Eisenhower administration. The law includes billions of dollars in new spending to upgrade roads, bridges, rail, public transportation, broadband, renewable energy, the electrical grid and water systems. It also takes steps to make infrastructure better equipped to withstand cyberattacks and the escalating threat of climate change.
However, some skeptics have cast doubt on the law’s implementation due to many ongoing obstacles in the construction and engineering industry. In particular, productivity loss has been a major concern during the pandemic. According to the Coalition for Smarter Infrastructure Investments, the industry sometimes faces cost overruns as high as 80%, and projects can take 20% longer to finish than scheduled. While some agencies and contractors have found ways to keep projects on track during the coronavirus pandemic, a report published last year by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association and the National Electrical Contractors Association found that construction teams experienced an 8.8% loss in labor productivity due to jobsite mitigation measures to prevent COVID-19 exposure. Labor shortages and the ongoing supply chain crisis have also put a strain on construction and engineering firms. CSII notes the infrastructure industry needs 430,000 workers this year and is expected to need 1 million more over the next two years as well as an additional 2.7 million by 2025 thanks to the new law.
Many industry observers believe the key to overcoming these issues while bringing the vision outlined in IIJA to fruition is a commitment to nascent technologies that automate workflows, produce 5D modeling and optimize the delivery of resources. For the construction technology sector, this presents an opportunity to build on a robust value statement. Before IIJA, the sector’s elevator pitch was rooted in helping end users optimize limited funds. Now, the pitch shifts to how transportation agencies can deliver on the promise of a once-in-a-generation law and optimize their share of a bigger pool of cash.
For construction technology companies, the big victory in IIJA is the law’s allocation of $20 million per year over the next five years to have the Transportation Department implement advanced digital construction management systems.
“This is a significant investment in digital transformation that may end up being an allowable expense where public agencies and organizations can submit the cost of their digital technology as a part of their infrastructure work,” said Tooey Courtemanche, CEO of Procore Technologies. “It could also work the other way, where digital construction management systems are mandated to digitize in order to receive funding. Regardless of what comes next, the expectation is that the public sector needs to evolve its use of technology in order to effectively manage their programs.”
The other big victory, according to Si Katara, co-founder and president of inspection technology company HeadLight, is that USDOT has a reporting requirement to update Congress on the progress of that implementation.
“Those two things I think will provide a bit of a sticking carrot to help agencies get over the friction point that change is hard,” Katara said. “Now, they’re also going to see that change is …….