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Plotting path to success before building begins

Global impact of ASU professor's construction planning expertise helps earn him prestigious honor


Professor G. Edward Gibson Jr. Photographer: Nicholas Narducci/ASU

Professor G. Edward Gibson Jr. Photo by Nicholas Narducci/ASU

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June 03, 2016

For his far-reaching contributions to the construction industry, a prominent national organization of professional engineers is giving one of its most prestigious awards to Arizona State University professor G. Edward Gibson Jr.

Gibson is director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and he holds the university’s Sunstate Chair in Construction Management and Engineering.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) will present him its 2016 Peurifoy Construction Research Award in September during its annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.

The award honors those who have made significant advancements in construction engineering and management through research and development of new technology, principles or practices.

Gibson is being recognized specifically for accomplishments in “the study, implementation and application of methods and practices to improve front-end planning of capital projects across all industry sectors.”

ASCE’s award announcement notes Gibson’s stature in the field as “the leading academic expert on front-end planning of major capital facilities” throughout the world.

Methods adopted by major engineering and construction companies

Front-end planning is the ubiquitous process that creates strong early links between the business or mission need and a building project’s strategy, scope, cost and schedule, and maintains these links throughout the duration of the project.

A critical part of front-end planning is risk assessment and reduction, as well as cost analysis and project scheduling.

Gibson has been leading research focused on producing more effective front-end planning for the past 25 years — work that has led him to be in demand as a consultant for a plethora of major industrial, commercial and infrastructure projects.

His research teams over the years have studied about 1,300 projects, representing more than $100 billion in investments. He has worked with more than 300 organizations to develop methods, practices and decision-support tools that have been adopted by many major organizations — both large and small engineering and construction companies, and owners of major capital projects, including a number of Fortune 500 companies

Gibson’s work has drawn support from many of the federal government agencies that fund research considered important to national interests, as well as from major private industry organizations, including the Construction Industry Institute.

He has taken the results of his efforts from the lab to the classroom, teaching university courses on the subject for the past 20 years and by leading more than 130 continuing education short courses in front-end planning for construction professionals. He has also given more than 125 presentations on the subject at conferences and other industry gatherings around the globe.

Broad variety of building projects

Beyond the impact of research and education, Gibson has consulted on planning for a variety of capital projects with more than 50 organizations throughout the world, in Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Africa and Australia. He estimates he has had a role in more than $150 billion worth of building projects.

Those have included everything from power-production facilities and major chemical, automotive and electronic manufacturing facilities, to health-care clinics, midrise office buildings, classroom buildings, gas compression facilities, pipelines, ports, airports, research and development facilities, expressways, courthouses and other municipal buildings.

In addition to private industry and public agencies, his work has served NASA, the Smithsonian Institution, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Energy.

His “profound contributions” have “advanced the art, science and technology of the [construction] industry” worldwide, wrote professor Samuel Ariaratnam, the chair of ASU’s construction engineering program, in his letter nominating Gibson for the Peurifoy Award.

Gibson is “uniquely and superbly qualified for this award,” Ariaratnam said. “No one in academia has done more to increase the awareness of the best practices in front-end construction planning for major capital projects in the United States and around the world.”

Following in mentor’s footsteps

Gibson said he is especially honored to receive an award named for Robert Peurifoy, who is considered an icon in the field of construction engineering and who started one of the first university-level construction management degree programs.

Gibson studied from two of Peurifoy’s seminal textbooks while an undergraduate student, and later used the books in courses he taught at the university level.

More significantly, one of his colleagues in the field who nominated him for the award was his mentor during the early part of his career in academia and was the first winner of the Peurifoy Award.

“That makes this a great honor for me and a special career highlight,” Gibson said.

He still has goals to achieve in his area of expertise. He notes in particular that he has had consulting roles in the planning of projects on six of the world’s seven continents.

“Now the challenge is to find an opportunity to work on a project in Antarctica,” he said with a smile.

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