This paper discusses what knowledge specialty contractors may contribute to the early design of architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) products. In current practice, specialty contractors are seldom involved in the early design effort, but evidence suggests that their early involvement is increasing. Lean construction theory advocates this involvement. The paper reports on research that focused on the processes for designing and building semiconductor facilities. The research consisted of conducting a series of one-to-one interviews with experienced practitioners, ranging from labor managers to lead designers and owner representatives. Specifically, we unveil the contributions of specialty contractor knowledge to early design in terms of process efficiencies and improvements in product quality. We group such value in distinct categories and provide examples that stem from current practice or which present potential opportunities for improvement. We discuss reasons why specialty contractor knowledge often is ignored in practice. Examples from changes in the AEC environment nevertheless suggest that organizations are creating conditions to increase interaction between designers and specialty contractors. Such interactions may help AEC organizations to retain and share the knowledge of individuals as well as develop new knowledge
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