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Civil and Environmental Engineering

Research Opportunities

Construction SiteResearch opportunities within the Construction Management program allow students to pursue in depth study of real-world, tangible topics that range from asset management to underground infrastructure evaluation. 

Some recent research projects include:

Radical Reduction in Project Cycle Time

Radical reduction in project cycle time is achievable. This research conducted by Prof. Gokhale (RR 193-1, CII) demonstrates that significant reductions, in the range of 25% to 50%, have been achieved on projects in a variety of industries. There is no simple formula, however, or tool to ensure this level of achievement. The goal of this research was to identify the common elements in the successful projects and attempt to provide an approach that would, to a greater degree, ensure the success of projects in true need of radical reduction in cycle time.


The research found several common themes in projects achieving radical reduction. These have been divided into drivers and techniques. The drivers identified must be present or employing the techniques will be of lesser value. Of the drivers, the owner's commitment throughout the process is the key. This single driver is the most consistent and determining factor in successful cycle time reduction. Once the commitment exists, with a continuing need, high performing teams backed with detailed planning and armed with proven reduction techniques, can execute and deliver a project in significantly less time.

Apply Now Of the successful techniques, many are Construction Industry Institute (CII) Best Practices. Others include management and schedule reduction techniques. This research explains which techniques consistently have the greatest influence and, equally important, when they are best applied.

While not totally surprising, the research found some collateral benefits on the projects studied. Safety did not deteriorate with the emphasis on schedule reduction, but in most cases it improved. Quality did not suffer, but again, in most cases, it improved. Finally, and probably somewhat unexpectedly, cost did not increase but actually decreased on most projects.

As part of the research, several tools were developed to optimize the implementation of these techniques. The two resources, Project Manager's Playbook and Project Manager's Game Planner are available as implementation guides.

Trade-Off Between Project Cost and Schedule

In today's challenging business environment with many organizations facing significant financial pressure, a renewed emphasis on project cost rather than schedule has emerged. Even with this increasing cost emphasis, however, first-to-market strategies will bring schedules to the forefront. Ultimately, the owner is left to decide whether a specific project should be executed with the major emphasis on either cost or schedule. The focus of this research was to develop a method and provide tools to assist project teams in identifying and achieving the proper trade-off.

In the RT214 project, Prof. Gokhale and the project team identified six major drivers governing cost/schedule trade-off and 23 techniques that were consistently identified as bringing greatest value to project teams in achieving the desired trade-off results. Of significance, the research team found that using these techniques differ at each stage of project execution.

The team developed a Cost-Schedule Trade-off Tool (CSTT) that offers the following advantages:

  • Applies to projects that are either schedule or cost-driven.
  • Recommends techniques for success unique to each stage of the project.
  • Provides references to selected CII Best Practices for further guidance to the user.
  • Applies not only to trade-off projects, but virtually any project

The tool identifies and prioritizes recommended execution techniques, many of which are existing CII Best Practices. In addition, the tool demonstrates to the user the techniques that are applicable at each stage of a capital project, thus allowing for a more effective balance between the cost/schedule trade-offs that must be made for project success.

Optimizing Construction Input on Front-End Planning

Many projects do not include adequate construction input during Front End Planning (FEP) resulting in projects falling short of their goals. Historically the primary stakeholders in a project (i.e. owners, designers and constructors) are not aligned and tend to operate in their own domains. As a result the needed collaboration is not obtained and projects do not achieve the level of success that is possible.

Prof. Gokhale and the Research Team RT241 investigated the problem and determined ways in which the construction input can be optimized during the frond-end stage of projects.

RT241 developed a decision aid - Construction Input Assessment Tool (CIAT). CIAT enables project stakeholders a means of determining project items and activities that require construction input during front end planning. In addition, CIAT will assist stakeholders in evaluating if they have adequate construction resources and expertise on the team, or if they need to obtain this information from other sources.

RT241 team researched, studied and evaluated the need for construction input in the Front End Planning (FEP). The data collected on successful and unsuccessful projects proves a definite link between construction input during the FEP phase and improvements in project cost, schedule, quality, and safety. RT241 recommends the use of CIAT to measure and improve the utilization of construction input during FEP and ultimately enhance the probability of project success.

Repair, Rehabilitation and Renewal of Underground Infrastructure

Due to their low visibility, rehabilitation of underground pipelines is frequently neglected until a catastrophic failure occurs. Professor Gokhale's research focuses on the testing and assessment of minimally invasive technologies for pipeline condition assessment, repair, and rehabilitation.

Infrastructure Asset Management

Traditional rehabilitation methods for underground infrastructure often focus on initial construction cost, rather than consideration of life-cycle costs. Prof. Gokhale has also made significant contributions in the development of a framework for a multi-attribute model that addresses the various objectives in underground infrastructure management through a life-cycle cost approach. The model provides the basis for decision-making for asset managers in short-term and long-term infrastructure maintenance and rehabilitation planning within the budgetary constraints.