In 2009 the Northwest Wall & Ceiling Bureau published its Impacts to Labor Productivity in Steel Framing and the Installation and Finishing of Gypsum Wallboard study, which was co-sponsored by the Northwest Wall and Ceiling Contractors Association, the Northern California Drywall Contractors Association, the Western Wall & Ceiling Contractors Association, and the Associated Wall and Ceiling Contractors of Oregon and Southwest Washington. The study was an empirical examination of 226 framing, gypsum board installation, and the finishing of gypsum board projects, performed by association and bureau members from Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia.

The research tested thirty-eight variables derived by an “Expert Panel” made up of industry executives and Board Members of the NWCB. Thirty-five of the variables were considered “impact variables” and were scored on a zero (no impact) to four (severe impact) range, and three variables which related solely to project scheduling were simply scored yes (one) or no (zero). The results of the study proved statistically that the impact variables were negatively correlated with labor productivity and that nearly all of the impact variables were statistically significant at or above the 99% level. What this means in short is, the more severe the variable was felt on the project, the greater the impact to labor productivity, and that our confidence level of that relationship is extremely high.

Although the original study proved statistically that the presence of specific variables or impacts to planned productivity are highly correlated to a reduction in labor productivities, a means by which the contractor could then utilize the Study to determine the potential extent of those inefficiencies and their related costs was not provided. In 2017 the NWCB introduced an addendum to the Study, the Impacts to Labor Productivity User Guide which provided the contractor with very specific mathematical equations to estimate the potential impact and resulting costs to supplement the documentation establishing the certainty and extent of impacts to productivity suffered upon the contractor.

The research material used in the production of the original Labor Productivity Study is now over fifteen years old. The NWCB, their members and contributors to the original Study have partnered with the Signatory Wall and Ceiling Contractors Alliance, SWACCA, to form a collaborative effort to update the original Northwest Wall & Ceiling Bureau 2009 publication. The goal is to produce a nationally recognized document addressing the concerns that we all face with common factors that impact job completion, no matter where the location or the type of Wall and Ceiling work. To the extent possible, all current members of SWACCA are being asked to assist in this effort by completing the provided on-line survey forms, for as many projects as possible. As with the original Study, we are asking that participants provide data on project that they consider good projects, average projects and bad projects. As mentioned above, the original study surveyed 226 projects, all of which were projects on the west coast. But to make this an authoritative, nationally recognized document on Labor Productivity in the Wall and Ceiling Industry, a survey of construction projects from across the country and in numbers that exceed those from the original Study, are essential.

Dr. Gerald H. Williams, whose Portland Oregon firm, Construction Research, Inc., co-authored the original Study, will compile the results of hundreds of jobs performed by SWACCA contractor members. The survey and data collection will continue until September 30th and, provided there is good participation, we hope to provide results to the SWACCA members by later this fall. Dr. Williams notes that this update to the original Study, which sampled 226 projects, provides the key “entitlement” elements for negotiating changes and that these elements are factors common to all trades.

Industry subcontractors in the Northwest already see the value of the original Study. By working together with SWACCA members from across the country, the regionally recognized Impacts to Labor Productivity study will become a nationally recognized document to assist all of our Signatory Wall and Ceiling Contractors towards recovery of costs for factors outside of their control.