The power of design: infrastructure savings of $720 billion

Bridge Construction

Infrastructure in the United States is in disrepair. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded the country’s infrastructure as D+ and estimated $3.6 trillion needed to be invested by 2020.

How can a marketing mindset help governments address this problem?

Better design is one possibility.  For example, currently bridges are often custom designed and hand-built on site. That process requires months or years of time and lots of money.

Switching the design process to use more standardized designs and components saves time and money. Bridge components can be mass produced in controlled environments, instead of manufactured on-site. This lowers design costs, increases quality, allows for continuous improvement, and reduces on-site construction time.

Using prefab modules, construction time can be cut from months or years down to a few weeks, mainly because crews don’t have to wait for custom, on-site concrete work to harden before moving to the next phase of construction. Costs can decline by 20 percent due to reduced design work, re-use of tools and processes, and buying in bulk.

A Marketplace story explains that Pennsylvania is using this new approach to bridge design and construction. State officials say that they’ll build 558 bridges in 3.5 years, instead of 8-12 years, by using prefabrication.

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state taking this approach. Missouri recently fixed or replaced 800 bridges in 3.5 years using prefabrication.

If better design techniques can shrink 10 year schedules to five and save 20 percent of costs, then we could make the 2020 deadline from the American Society of Civil Engineers and save $720 billion in the process.

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