There’s something wrong with the way construction is done these days. If the ancient Egyptians were using today’s methods and technology, the great pyramid of Cheops would still be under construction, rather than having risen in about 20 years as historians suggest.
Great and notable projects in this country, in years gone by when so much less technology was available, were completed in far less time than many more simple projects today.
In 1931, the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the world at that time, was completed after only 410 days.
In 1936, the completion and dedication of the Hoover Dam was considered to be the largest construction project in the world up to that time, after a construction period of 2,000 days (about 5 1/2 years).
The following year the Golden Gate Bridge was opened to traffic after 1,550 days of construction across one of the most treacherous bodies of water on the west coast.
And in 1943, after only 490 days of construction, the 6 million square foot Pentagon was opened for business.
So what has happened in six decades to slow construction to a snail’s pace? Some might claim that unions are largely to blame, but unions existed when these great projects were undertaken, and they did little if anything to dampen the process.
Others might claim the modern technology required to be placed in buildings — such as computer and Internet connections — add to the complexity of building and require greater attention.
Another possibility is that the approval and permitting process hinders speed.
But most of these issues are dealt with before actual construction begins and are not factored into actual construction time. (This is not to say that permitting is not a drag on construction. It most certainly can be, and the delays in securing permits from federal, state and local agencies seem to get longer all the time.)
What has raised this question of construction time related to the fairly recent history of large-scale building?
A recent inquiry produced the opinion that construction of the new George Rogers Clark High School began in the fall of 2010. Suppose for the moment that the construction start date was Oct. 1, 2010. The building is anticipated to be complete in time for the fall semester of 2013. For simplicity’s sake, say Aug. 1, 2013. If both these dates are even reasonably accurate, they would mean a construction period of 1,020 days, nearly 2 1/2 times the period required for both the Empire State Building and the Pentagon!
This is not an indictment of either the Clark County school board or of the contractor building the school.
It is simply an inquiry into what has happened within the construction industry that has created these lengthening periods required to get fairly modest projects completed.
Clark County’s new hospital was begun after start of construction on the high school, and has been completed more than a year ahead of the scheduled completion of the school. And hospitals have a lot more technology to be included than do schools.
Even construction projects as simple as single-family homes face lengthened building schedules despite the fact that methods currently exist to make the process much more efficient and timely.
And construction costs are not unrelated to the time it takes to complete a project. The quicker a contractor can close out a project, the more likely he is to make a profit on the work.
As for the Great Pyramid, completed in about 2,500 B.C., using today’s construction timetables, tourists to Egypt this year might still be standing around waiting for the capstone to be installed.