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Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets

How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry

With Robert E. Wright and Timothy C. Jacobson

Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets

How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry

With Robert E. Wright and Timothy C. Jacobson
Across the nation, construction projects large and small—from hospitals to schools to simple home improvements—are spiraling out of control. Delays and cost overruns have come to seem “normal,” even as they drain our wallets and send our blood pressure skyrocketing. In Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets, prominent construction attorney Barry B. LePatner builds a powerful case for change in America’s sole remaining “mom and pop” industry—an industry that consumes $1.23 trillion and wastes at least $120 billion each year.

With three decades of experience representing clients that include eminent architects and engineers, as well as corporations, institutions, and developers, LePatner has firsthand knowledge of the bad management, ineffective supervision, and insufficient investment in technology that plagues the risk-averse construction industry. In an engaging and direct style, he here pinpoints the issues that underlie the industry’s woes while providing practical tips for anyone in the business of building, including advice on the precise language owners should use during contract negotiations.

Armed with Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets, everyone involved in the purchase or renovation of a building or any structure—from homeowners seeking to remodel to civic developers embarking on large-scale projects—has the information they need to change this antiquated industry, one project at a time.
“LePatner describes what is wrong with the current system and suggests ways that architects can help—by retaking their rightful place as master builders.”—Fred A. Bernstein, Architect Magazine
“Every now and then, a major construction project is completed on time and on budget. Everyone is amazed. . . . Barry LePatner thinks this exception should become the rule. . . . A swift kick to the construction industry.”—James R. Hagerty, Wall Street Journal  

240 pages | 7 line drawings | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2007

Architecture: Architecture--Criticism

Economics and Business: Business--Business Economics and Management Studies, Business--Industry and Labor

Political Science: Public Policy


“Construction, a $1 trillion industry, is a bedrock of the mighty U.S. economy. But as Barry LePatner shows, it operates with an efficiency more characteristic of the old Soviet Union. Broken BuildingsBusted Budgets proves that waste, overspending, and economic irrationality pervade the industry, burdening consumers, taxpayers, and shareholders with enormous costs. As important, it lays out a blueprint for reform.”

Daniel Gross, “Moneybox” columnist for

“Everyone in construction, from owners to contractors, from architects to construction workers, should read this book. Those who do will surely join Mr. LePatner in his crusade to fix an industry so vitally important to the way we live.”

A. Eugene Kohn, Chairman, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

“As a leading construction industry attorney, Barry LePatner knows the industry as well as anyone—warts and all. Here he sends a strong warning to owners, agencies, and institutions charged with constructing or renovating the built environment to get their act together and radically rethink their business practices. He not only zeroes in on the industry’s shortcomings but also offers up cures.”

Stephen A. Kliment, FAIA

“Not since The Business Roundtable raised the red flag over 25 years ago on the ineffective use of construction dollars and its impact on the global economy has a treatise provided in-depth reasoning on the culprits. Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets provides deep insight as to why the construction industry has not corrected faults to mitigate such excessive construction cost overruns and has even begin to accept these everyday occurrences as the norm. Barry LePatner describes how the U.S. government and even our nation’s most respected corporations fall prey to the inefficient practices of all parties involved in a major construction project—contractors, designers, workers, unions and suppliers.  From his insights it is clear that we need to instigate a critical examination on improving this critical sector of our economy.”

Mark A. Smith, Ernst & Young LLP

“Sadly, the lack of significant advances and adoption of construction technology improvements has greatly contributed to the broken building environment in which we now operate. It is imperative for architectural and engineering schools to educate their students to work collaboratively with contractors and other project stakeholders to ensure more assured budget and schedule success. Barry LePatner’s insightful words are right on target.”

Leonard Koven, P.E. Partner, AKF Engineers LLP

“Out-of-control construction costs have a real potential to damage the economy. They have certainly led to a disruptive relationship between design professionals who draft construction documents, the contractors who build from them and the clients who usually end up paying for the resulting cost overrun. Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets identifies the sources of and proposes solutions for mitigating construction cost overruns.”

Ramon Gilsanz, P.E. Partner, Gilsanz, Murray, Steficek LLP

“I found it definitely a worthwhile and stimulating read. A must for anyone interested in the economics of construction.” –Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

Tyler Cowen | Marginal Revolution

“Every now and then, a major construction project is completed on time and on budget. Everyone is amazed. . . Barry LePatner thinks this exception should become the rule. . . . A  swift kick to the construction industry.”

James R. Hagerty | Wall Street Journal

"LePatner does policymakers a great service by directing our attention inside the balck box of the construction industry. As he shows, the housing crisis and other problems in the construction industry stem not just from a lack of public investment . . . but the very structure of the industry."

Charles Euchner | CommonWealth

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Overbudget and Overdue

The Economic Context of Construction

False Starts and Frustrated Beginnings: A History of the Industry

Asymmetric Information: The Big Barrier to Change

Minor Blemishes: Unions, Workers, and Government

Fixing the Construction Industry: Consolidation, Intermediaries, and Innovation

Practical Advice to Owners for Getting Started Now


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