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Emerging technologies’ impact on construction audits

Published in Association of College and University Auditors' (ACUA) Winter 2021 issue of College and University Auditor Journal.

The construction industry has historically been a slow adopter of technology, and rightfully so. The builders of our roads, homes, offices, and campuses need to be thoughtful when evaluating new technology that may impact safety and quality in exchange for speed and cost reduction. Consequently, the introduction of robotics, video monitoring, and automated quality controls has trailed behind other industries, such as manufacturing and distribution. Similarly, as the availability of digital information has increased, the implementation of automated construction audit techniques has lagged. However, high speed wireless communication, handheld devices, and a need for labor force alternatives continues to drive construction technology innovation and adoption. Construction auditors must remain knowledgeable with the latest industry tools and understand how to evaluate new construction technologies’ impact on construction risk management.

Technology and Construction Project Data Automation

The most established technological advancements, such as GPS-enabled cranes and heavy/highway equipment with onboard performance metrics, enable operators to cut, grade, and measure moved earth with a high degree of precision. The equipment can be monitored remotely, which allows companies to track their exact location, operating hours, consumables, and environmental conditions. The existence of this data also provides information for construction audits. Rather than analyzing paper copies of supporting documentation, construction auditors may now utilize available digital technology to download equipment metrics and capture quantities moved, hours operated, and other pertinent equipment usage data quickly.

A large campus transformation project may include new buildings, new roads, and new underground infrastructure. This would require moving large amounts of dirt and parking contractor equipment at the jobsite, resulting in monthly bills for dirt hauling, aggregate purchases, and heavy equipment rental. To determine whether the quantities billed are representative of actual activity, an engineer could measure the dimensions of the dirt (i.e., how high and wide the dirt sits) to calculate the quantities moved.

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Anthony Ollmann
Partner, CPA, CCA
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