Construction projects in the education realm continue to stay in the news as of late. A new study shows how specific project agreements can lead to an increase in the overall cost of construction, which makes a stronger case for solid technology to be in place early on.

A new study released by the NUSIPR (National University System Institute for Policy Research), www.nusinstitute.org, La Jolla, Calif., shows construction projects in the state of California built under contracts that contain provisions known as PLAs (project labor agreements) can cost 13-15% more than projects that do not contain such provisions. PLAs are agreements between those constructing projects and construction trade unions and address such issues as hiring preferences, wages, benefits, and how labor disputes are to be resolved.

Such an announcement becomes particularly relevant considering the fact California voters have approved $64 billion in school construction bonds during the last decade. According to NUSIPR, presently at least 24 school districts (K-12) in California have adopted PLA provisions. The research institute finds that between 1996 and 2008 these districts built 65 schools using PLAs with a cumulative cost of $1.7 billion, which given the higher costs of PLAs, means such agreements cost taxpayers and students more than $200 million.

Such news sheds light on the fact construction costs continue to escalate and are impacting by many varying factors. Therefore it is imperative construction teams do all they can to keep costs down and minimize miscommunication and errors, which can lead to costs rising out of control.

Technology remains a powerful tool in the educational field and construction project teams across the country continue to embrace such systems. In particular, a spike in the use of project management software on these projects is occurring, with a few significant announcements as of late.

This week, for example, the University of Washington announced it will begin using technology from Skire, www.skire.com, Menlo Park, Calif., to provide realtime information for capital project and program management. The platform from Skire will provide a single, Web-based resource for automating the collection of project proposals, managing estimates and funding, scheduling, project cost control, document management, and dashboard reporting.

Projects from the University of Washington’s Capital Projects Office (CPO) range in size from a few thousand dollars to more than $100 million. This, coupled with the fact CPO typically manages approximately 250 projects at any given time, further emphasizes the need for technology to help keep project costs at a minimum.

According to Sara Markham Voogt, information services project manager, University of Washington Capital Projects Office, the sophisticated business intelligence and reporting transparency are important features to deliver to its clients, while simultaneously providing automated detailed cost, scheduling, and document management capabilities to project managers.

Earlier in the month Fordham University announced it plans to use technology from e-Builder, www.e-builder.net, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., that will help it streamline and automate project management processes, improve transparency and accountability to maximize available project delivery time, and streamline and automate processes.

The team at Fordham University, which is a private institution with a campus size of 93 acres, often faces a short window of time in which it can carry out renovations while classes are on break. The university believes the process automation module within the e-Builder system will help its project managers ensure processes are consistently followed while simplifying the steps for individual users.

Education remains a vibrant spot in construction when it comes to adopting project control technology. Given all the stringent requirements on reporting and tracking, and given the fact that costs can escalate at the drop of a hat, it’s no wonder why project teams in this segment remain tech-savvy across the board.