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Emergent Subcontracting Models in the US Construction Industry


Prime contracting models for engineering and construction projects are described extensively in the literature, but models between prime contractors and subcontractors are less well known. This study examined the established and evolving subcontracting models in the US construction industry to not only document their utilization but also investigate their advantages and disadvantages when employed. There search followed a two-phase/two-step approach. During Phase 1, the authors completed a regionally based study to identify subcontracting practices in the Pacific Northwest. As part of Phase 2, the study was expanded across the United States to gain a greater understanding of each of the identified subcontracting models, including advantages, disadvantages, and variations. Both phases were organized into two steps:(1) an online survey instrument was sent to professionals with either general or specialty contracting firms, and (2) follow-up semi-structured interviews were conducted with selected survey respondents to better evaluate each subcontracting model. The authors found that five sub-contracting models address the most common scenarios and the characteristics of each are familiar to the nationwide participant sample. There are subtle variations to the main five models that are being employed to varying degrees across the country. The impetus for these variations appears to be founded on the need to find better contractual arrangements and that subcontracting practices are dynamic by nature. Although most of the participants were from western and central divisions of the US Census Bureau geographical classification, participants from all geographic areas participated in the study. Increasing knowledge on how project delivery systems may affect disputes and claims or conflicts and legal issues of procurement systems, this article uniquely contributes to defining a taxonomy of subcontracting models while giving insights into the current and emerging trends in subcontracting practices, including how subcontractors are integrated into a projectteam.DOI:10.1061/(ASCE)LA.1943-4170.0000568.© 2022 American Society of Civil Engineers

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John Schaufelberger: Recipient of the 2021 ASC Lifetime Achievement Award

2021 ASC Lifetime Achievement Award

The lifetime achievement award is given each year to recognize the work of someone who has advanced construction education through “knowledge, inspiration, guidance and/or the promotion of excellence in curricula, teaching, research, and service.” The ASC praised Schaufelberger as an accomplished scholar, servant leader, and student-focused educator.  He received his award on April 5, during the group’s annual conference.

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New Textbook: Construction Cost Estimating

Book Description 
Construction Cost Estimating equips a new generation of students and early-career professionals with the skills they need to bid successfully on projects. From developing bid strategies to submitting a completed bid, this innovative textbook introduces the fundamentals of construction estimating through a real-life case study that unfolds across its 24 chapters. Exercises at the end of each chapter offer hands-on practice with core concepts such as quantity take-offs, pricing, and estimating for subcontractor work. Online resources provide instant access to examples of authentic construction documents, including complete, detailed direct work estimates, subcontractor work estimates, general conditions estimates, markups, and summary schedules.

Through its unique mix of real-world examples and classroom-tested insights, Construction Cost Estimating ensures that readers are familiar with the entire estimating process even before setting foot on the jobsite.

*Description taken from

ACT2: Time–Cost Tradeoffs from Alternative Contracting Methods

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ACT2: Time–Cost Tradeoffs from Alternative Contracting Methods

Incentive/disincentive (I/D) and cost-plus-time (A+B) are two of the most widely used alternative contracting methods (ACMs) for accelerating the construction of highway infrastructure improvement projects. However, little is known about the effects of trade-offs in terms of project schedule and cost performance. This study addresses this problem by creating and testing a stochastic decision support model called accelerated alternative contracting cost-time trade-off (ACT2). This model was developed by a second-order polynomial regression analysis and validated by the predicted error sum of square statistic and paired comparison tests. The results of a descriptive trend analysis based on a rich set of high-confidence project data show that I/D is effective at reducing project duration but results in higher cost compared to pure A+B and conventional methods. This cost-time trade-off effect was confirmed by the ACT2model, which determines the level of cost-time trade-off for different ACMs. This study will help state transportation agencies promote more effective application of ACMs by providing data-driven performance benchmarking results when evaluating competing acceleration strategies and techniques.

Technical Paper: Structural Equation Modeling …

Structural Equation Modeling for the Determinants of International Infrastructure Investment: Evidence from Chinese Contractors

International infrastructure investment can effectively accelerate infrastructure development in developing countries and thus support their social and economic progress. However, little is known of the factors that may determine the flow of international infrastructure investment to those countries. This study aims to bridge that knowledge gap, first by identifying the determinants of international infrastructure investment, and then by developing a structural equation model to reveal their underlying interrelationships. The structural equation model is applied to country-level data regarding international infrastructure investment with Chinese contractors in 141 countries worldwide over the 9-year period from 2009 to 2017. The results show that three determinants, namely infrastructure quality, labor supply, and investment interdependency, have a positive relationship with a country’s international infrastructure investment inflow. However, another determinant, institutional environment, has a significantly negative impact, which suggests that when making foreign infrastructure investment, Chinese contractors enter countries with a comparatively poor institutional environment with substantial political risks. The results also highlight how much a robust infrastructure development plan can help developing countries avoid the poor-infrastructure trap, a situation in which poor infrastructure quality discourages international infrastructure investment. These research findings may assist international infrastructure investment firms to make informed decisions with regard to financing and managing projects and help policymakers who focus on attracting foreign investment in infrastructure.

“Structural..” was based on a collaboration with Professor Chris Lee and Yunhong Wang, a Ph.D. student from Tsinghua Univ who visited UW last year via the VISIT program.

Students can receive 6 credits towards DBIA Certification.

We’re excited to share that CM 560 is now approved to teach designated Design-Build Professional® (DBIA®)certification core classes. The DBIA classes incorporated in 560 are:

  • Principles of Design-Build Project Delivery & Procurement
  • Post Award: Executing the Design-Build Project

Students who complete CM 560 may qualify to receive credit applied towards DBIA’s “core course” completion should they choose to pursue the Associate DBIA™ certification.

Students can receive 6 credits towards DBIA certification.


Safety is a marathon, not a sprint!

Using Four-Wheel Carts in The Roofing Trade

This animation is based on the real-life story of a roofing apprentice who left the industry after getting injured while overcoming a poorly-setup ramp with a material cart.  Three scientific, evidence-based solutions are provided to inform supervisors how a similar incident can be prevented through ergonomic workplace layout and task pre-planning.  The moral of the Tortoise and the Hare is embedded in the animation to encourage supervisors to become thoughtful leaders, creating a safer and caring environment for others.