Contributed by Justin Havre
The blockchain is a type of decentralized public ledger that makes it easier to organize, verify, and protect information. While it's mainly been associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, the technology has much more potential than that. It's been theoretically applied to almost every sector of the economy and is slowly transitioning from the possible to the practical.
Blockchain may be able to tighten up construction deadlines, prevent fraud, and cut out the middlemen all while encouraging new ideas and partnerships.
What the Blockchain Does
The blockchain is a revolutionary way to input information and secure it from anyone who shouldn't have access to it. Not only can it keep financial transactions safe from prying eyes, but it can also streamline construction projects with multiple moving parts. Between investors, developers, and construction workers, it's easy for information to slip through the cracks. But the blockchain isn't like any other project management tool anyone's ever used before.
Using Smart Contracts
A smart contract is a series of if/then statements that are set up according to the rules of each project. The blockchain is dominated by the logistics of the programmer, so it can be adapted to small and large projects alike. Construction companies can use these smart contracts to essentially control every aspect of the project. So, if a painter needs to wait for an inspector to first check the drywall before painting, there will be an unhackable log where they can plainly see whether or not an inspector has held up their end of the bargain.
The blockchain makes it easier than ever for construction crews to keep up with new technology on the scene. For example, Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools may have helped to improve precision during construction, but it's also led to a lot of confusion on the actual job site. When changes can be made faster than ever, workers need a single source to receive updates in real-time. The blockchain can update everyone that the developers want a new color of paint in the bathroom or slightly different dimensions in the master bathroom.
Finding the Right People
There is a lot of segregation in construction, which leads to the isolation of ideas and talent. This separation is (in part) due to the fact that it's difficult to both find and coordinate with the right partners. Much like with picking the right real estate agent to work with, if there isn't an easy way to assess a company's reputation, it can lead to undue competition. The blockchain can both facilitate coordination and inspire partnerships between companies with different specialties. This type of cross-pollination of skills can lead to some truly innovative results in the industry.
Contributed by Al Eini
The Basics: Maintain Aesthetics, Ensure Safety
Life safety and egress are critical considerations in every building so it comes as no surprise that panic devices play a significant role in the design and installation of entrance systems. Panic devices come in several styles for various door types. With all-glass entrances growing in popularity, however, tubular panic devices are being specified more frequently, particularly in high-end applications. These elegant systems offer maximum transparency and a contemporary look.
Although panic hardware is nothing new, tubular panics and glass doors present unique challenges. For example, all of the mechanics of a standard panic need to be concealed in a sleeker, more attractive design while meeting safety standards. Issues with glass templates and sizing, and hardware compatibility can arise.
For successful tubular panic handle and glass door installations, key hardware and overall entrance design considerations must be taken into account, as well as specification criteria that will ensure door openings comply with life safety codes. Overcoming the challenges associated with tubular panics will lead to safe and secure all-glass entrances that meet the design intent.
First, Know the Code
Both the International Building Code (IBC) and NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code require panic devices to be listed in accordance with UL 305 – Standard for Panic Hardware. The Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) also has its own standard for panic hardware: ANSI/BHMA A156.3 – Exit Devices.
IBC and NFPA 101 panic device requirements apply to most jurisdictions. According to the IBC, panic devices are required on doors when Assembly Occupancies have a load of 50 or more people; Educational Occupancies have a load of 50 or more people; and when High Hazard Occupancies have any occupant load.
NFPA 101 requires panic devices on doors where Assembly Occupancies have a load of 100 or more people; Educational Occupancies have a load of 100 or more people; Day Care Occupancies have a load of 100 or more people; and where High Hazard Occupancies have a load of 5 or more people.
Other key code requirements include:
Be aware that there are often exceptions, and every jurisdiction adopts specific code requirements for panic hardware. That’s why it’s very important to consult the Authority Having Jurisdiction early on in the project. Failing to do so can lead to compliance issues, which translates to costly and time-consuming reworks.
Contributed by Dean Moilanen
The finishing trades most often come into play at the end of the construction project. In many cases, the end result is decorative, ornamental, and breathes life into the vision of the finished project. The installation of ceramic tile and natural stone is a finishing trade which must deliver on an aesthetically pleasing expectation AND be a resilient, long lasting, wearing surface. Unfortunately, all too often, critical installation methods and standards are not followed, with the end result culminating in failure.
Ironically, this uptick in installation failure comes at a time when the combined forces of the tile and stone industry are proactively reaching out to offer training and certification for contractors and installers. The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) are just some of the organizations offering comprehensive education and training.
The downturn in the construction industry, which occurred during the last recession, saw a vast outflow of qualified installers from the industry. The challenge still remains to locate and train individuals to address the demands of a rebounding trade. This challenge has played a role in some of the nagging failure issues that continue to occur. These failures are based more on a lack of installer knowledge and competence, then deliberate shoddy practices.
Simply put, yes, you “really have to do that”, follow the ANSI or ASTM standard that is, if you want to steer clear of problems and failures. Listed below are just two of the concerns which need to be addressed in today’s ceramic tile and stone industry.
If there is one overwhelming area of concern when it comes to the success or failure of a tile or stone installation, it would be the adequate bonding of the tile or stone to the substrate. ANSI A108.5-2.2.2 outlines the process of achieving the coverage needed to bond tile or stone to the wall or floor substrate. Summarized, the adhesive used to bond the tile or stone must be applied uniformly and evenly to the substrate; no “rainbow arches of adhesive”, no “five spotting” or daubs of adhesive placed in irregular fashion on the substrate, serving as “targets” for bonding of tile.
Minimum coverage required (the amount of bonding agent affixed to the underside of the tile) can range from 80% in “dry” areas to 95% in wet areas. Wet area bonding has heightened concern, as any voids in the setting bed can serve to trap moisture and result in microbial growth (mold). The lack of adequate bond between the substrate and tile or stone finished surfaces is the culprit in all too many failures.
Wet area waterproofing concerns continue to plague tile and stone installations as well. Of growing concern is the need for tile and stone shower detail to withstand vapor migration, as steam/vapor (resulting from shower usage) migrates to behind the tiled shower wall. The moisture damages the interior wall details and oftentimes finds a food source that contributes to mold.
ASTM E96 Procedure E is a performance standard for waterproof membrane systems, which when called out in specifications ensures a “steam room” level of performance on the shower walls of these wet areas. Typically, the products meeting this standard are applied to the outer face of a suitable wall substrate in shower details, with the tile then bonded to the membrane. When assessing the viability of product to be used with regard to this ASTM standard, be sure to source independent third party testing for validating a product’s performance claims.
There is now language and documentation available to architects and specification writers which calls for qualified labor, and is available from the National Tile Contractors Association. Implementation of this language would aid industry efforts to improve installation quality.
^^ A very typical stock image for "construction" ^^
Contributed by Darren Lester
For as long as I’ve been involved in and around the construction industry, there’s been an underlying consensus that we need to clean up the public's perception of the industry.
Disasters like Grenfell Tower and scandals like the Carillion collapse tend to bring this into sharp focus and we see a renewed energy to show people the positive stuff in construction.
The legitimate worry is that all of the negativity, combined with the image of the stereotypical construction worker, complete with hard hat and hi-vis jacket, will limit our ability to attract younger, smarter, tech-savvy professionals and the must-needed next generation workforce.
So the logical conclusion is to try to push the good stuff even harder.
But perhaps this is the wrong approach.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the public image of the construction industry exists for a reason — it’s mostly accurate.
To portray anything else would be misleading.
Our industry has huge issues, from top to bottom.
We’re embarrassingly inefficient. Rarely deliver as promised. We overspend. We’re huge polluters. We're wasteful with resources. We put people’s physical health and lives at risk on a daily basis. We have a terrible record of mental ill health amongst workers. We’re rife with corruption and 'old boys' clubs. We treat women unfairly. We lack any sort of competent leadership. And we’re pretty much the worst of laggards in adopting digital technology.
I could go on.
If we continue to try to put a positive spin on things, or suppress these issues in order to exemplify the glimmers of hope there are within the industry (and don't get me wrong, they do exist), then we’ll end up with another generation of workers who simply knuckle down and accept that this is as good as it gets.
Ironically, shining a light on these shortcomings, by making them painfully transparent to the whole world and by holding our hands up to say “sorry, things aren’t great”, perhaps we can give ourselves the best chance of driving change.
Because all of the sh*t that’s wrong with our industry is actually what could attract the smartest, most ambitious young professionals and entrepreneurs (and the capital to back them), who see an opportunity to really disrupt and rebuild a huge industry.
Yes, we should continue to educate young professionals about the industry, and show them that there are more options to a career in construction than working on a cold, wet building site. But all industries have their stereotypes - that in itself isn't holding us back from change.
But perhaps we should also share with them our biggest failings, and present them as rewarding opportunities for those willing to challenge the status quo.
Not an easy thing to do, but maybe we'd end up with real change, rather than a slightly improved public image.
Contributed by Marvin Kemp
Long time friends and readers know that mentoring the next generation of professionals is very important to me. In recent presentations I've given on mentoring, I've drawn a strong distinction between the mentor and the coach. In short, the coach helps you do your current job better and the mentor helps prepare you for your next job.
While out for a run the other day, I listened to NPR's "Marketplace" podcast (the specific episode can be found here). In one piece for this episode, several people involved in corporate coaching were interviewed: both coaches and the professionals utilizing their services. It is a growing trend for busy professionals, usually upper management or sole proprietors, to spend some time each week with a coach to help them organize themselves, tackle important issues in the appropriate order and generally do their jobs better.
For the past few years, I have co-led one of our four architecture studios in our firm. That means working with the project managers and anywhere from 10 to 14 architectural staff to ensure projects are staffed, deadlines are met, and our employees have what they need to be successful. As our firm goes through a leadership transition, we are asking junior leaders to step into new roles within the office. A group of us were promoted to principal and are working on strategic initiatives and need others to step in to day to day management roles. In that vein, a group of our associates, senior associates and principals met recently to review an initiative that will be presented to the senior principals. The idea was that a small group of associates had created this initiative and they were looking for buy in from the principals before presenting it to the senior principals. While listening to the podcast yesterday, I realized that what the associates really needed was coaching in what and how to present that information to the senior principals.
For a number of years, our firm has had a formal mentoring program. We pair volunteer mentees and volunteer mentors for a year of goal-setting, reflection and growth. It has been highly successful and we enjoy broad involvement through most portions of the firm. I'm wondering now if there is benefit to a formal coaching program. Historically, coaching has only existed between project manager or project architect and the younger staff or through our QA/QC processes. As we ask junior leaders to take on larger leadership roles, perhaps there should be some coaching, even if it is just one hour per week or less, but a formal time when junior and more senior leaders can meet to discuss expectations, goals and priorities to make the transition these junior leaders are going through smoother and more meaningful.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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