Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
If I had a dollar for every time I have heard ‘I’m too busy’ in my 30 years in the AEC Industry, I would be a very rich woman. Very rich!
According to AIA Best Practices “Quality Control: Managing the Top 5 Risks”
“No matter how desirable a program of in-house loss prevention might be, such a program will not function if it imposes unrealistic burdens or unobtainable goals. It must, therefore, be implemented with little or no increase in general overhead expenses.”
This original article was published by Schinnerer & Co. in 1973. Since that time, the five areas within architecture practice that most frequently give rise to claims have remained the same.
Seriously? 45 YEARS and we still haven’t found a way to knock these items off the list. Why? Because we are too busy! Sorry, sounds like an excuse (and a poor one) to me.
In my humble opinion, we have to make the time. We can’t afford not to. In the long run we make it up tenfold in the often challenging construction phase of the project.
In my experience, most design contracts are front loaded. Most of the fees are received by the design team by the end of construction documents. The construction phase portion of the fee (typically 20% to 25%) is spread over the length of the construction period. This can be a long time to break up a very small portion of the fee. Most design firms can’t financially survive unless they have projects in design at the same time they have projects in construction. There is just not enough money coming in during construction to pay the bills.
Anyone in this business who has been around for a while will know this. Yet, we continue to operate in way that expose us to this risk. Why? I will go out on a limb with this one and say it is because it is easier to do what we have always done rather than find new methods. Change is hard, it takes work and nobody has time to learn to do it a different way. At least that is the excuse I hear.
If you haven’t read a blog from me before, you should know I have worked for a general contractor, an MEP engineering firm and now for an architecture firm. The short story is that I have seen these issues from multiple viewpoints.
Some of my personal observations on these items of risk:
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Eighteen months ago, a random conversation on a Tuesday afternoon between Cherise Lakeside and myself went like this:
Me: "Seemingly few are committed to speak their mind or try to fix the broken system that is construction. You do a damn fine job of breaking that mold and trying to help this industry."
Cherise: "Thank you. The key, I think, is speaking your mind in a productive and positive way with some solutions in hand. Everyone just wants to be negative and bitch about things. I try to only stir the pots that need stirring."
Me: "You are so right. A problem is everyone acts like their own island and the destination rescue is each their own issue and not working together on being rescued. I pretty much just 'Survivored' the construction industry."
Cherise: "Ha, ha! Exactly. We need to pull people out of their comfort zones and make them open their eyes. This is way too much of a "me" society as it is."
Me: "So, perhaps a member from each seat at the table who can feature their respective perception and potential solutions. We can register a domain like letsfixconstruction.com"
That's the truth. I have the actual conversation and those are exact quotes.
It struck me this past Friday, February 16th, that Let's Fix Construction was a year & a half old. If you had told me eighteen months ago what the last 550 days were going to be like, I would have laughed out loud.
As a way to look back on these first months of Let's Fix Construction, we're going to take the next week to share and revisit every article that we've posted along the way, starting at number one. We'll be sharing these posts on social media. Please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
We've gained dozens of contributors, thousands of readers and now listeners, thanks to the Let's Fix Construction podcast, and didn't want to lose sight at what we started with and shared in the last year and a half.
As always, if you would like to share your knowledge and contribute a forward-thinking concept to a construction-related issue, dispel a myth or just provide a solution for a better built environment, please contact us and let us know.
And without further ado, our very first post on the Let's Fix Construction blog, written by yours truly, 'The Fifth C of CSI: Collaboration'
Contributed by Marvin Kemp
Anyone who knows me well knows a couple of things about me: I love practicing architecture, I have a deep commitment to making our industry better and I feel that only through collaboration and inclusion can we make our industry better.
I live in a suburb of Baltimore, MD, but our office is downtown on Pratt Street in the Inner Harbor area. I drive through neighborhoods of poverty and blight on my commute to and from work most days. I have no experiences in my life to compare with what these neighbors go through every day. I watch and read the news daily and it seems that we are failing much of our inner city. And not just Baltimore, but most cities in the U.S. My parents live outside of Dallas and we talk about the same issues facing the folks who live in the impoverished areas of that city.
I see it on our job sites and I discuss with others in the industry: we cannot get enough people to come into construction as skilled or unskilled workers. I don't know what the reasons are, but there seem to be some barriers to entry.
I also see something else: a gender gap. Our office has 92 people and 38 are women. There clearly is no shortage of women interested in studying architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning. When I was studying architecture in the late 1980's, we still had professors who felt that women did not belong in our profession and actively attempted to fail them. We've come a long way, but more work is needed in design professions, especially ensuring both genders have leadership opportunities.
But, when was the last time you saw a woman working on a construction site? I occasionally run across a plumber or electrician who is female, but they are so few and far between, it seems incredible. That's not to mention the harassment, chauvinism and pay inequity that these women experience when they actually start working. I see the graffiti on our job sites, so I can only imagine what women see, hear and feel if they step on those sites.
I think we need to start a dialogue on these issues and I know some already are having conversations."
We also need to remove as many barriers to entry into construction as we can. Part of that effort is taking place in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with a program started by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI called "Let's Build Construction Camp For Girls." This is a program for high school age girls in the Greater Lehigh Valley to attend a free camp to learn about the building trades. Check out GLV CSI's web-site for information on the camp, which includes their 2018 session from July 9th to the 13th.
Its inaugural year was in 2017 and was a huge success. There are other CSI chapters considering starting a similar program to help break down some of those barriers to entry into the construction industry. What else can we do?
(Editor's Note: You can read the introductory blog post on the 'Let's Build Construction Camp For Girls' from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI's President, Jon Lattin, on the Let's Fix Construction site here, as well as a follow-up on the Camp here.)
Contributed by Randy Nishimura
Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’re probably aware of the growing interest in and use of mass timber as a construction system in increasingly significant (larger and taller) buildings. I wrote previously following a tour last year of a CLT plant in Riddle, OR, architects are quickly latching onto mass timber because of its sustainable attributes. Mass timber structural products can outperform steel and concrete, whether the metric used is embodied energy or the amount of air and water pollution produced during their extraction and processing. Additionally, wood products sequester carbon and are derived from renewable resources.
Despite the greater awareness and appeal of mass timber as a viable alternative to steel and concrete for primary structural systems in larger buildings, its use remains a challenge because current building codes have been slow to recognize its inherent fire-resistive properties, resilience, and ability to be assembled by means capable of resisting seismic forces comparable to steel or concrete alternatives.
A recent CSI-Willamette Valley Chapter meeting was a real treat, as Eric McDonnell, a structural engineer and associate with KPFF, built a solid case in favor of mass timber construction systems. As someone who’s been at the forefront of the development of emerging industry standards for CLT use, Eric was eminently qualified to deliver a technically comprehensive, yet concise, primer on the topic to our audience.
Eric originally joined the KPFF San Francisco office in 2005, but left in 2010 to respond to a strong need in New Zealand for structural engineers capable of completing damage assessments and helping with the rebuilding process following the Canterbury Region earthquakes. He rejoined KPFF after two years of work in Christchurch, relocating to the firm’s Portland office.
Eric’s experience in Christchurch proved invaluable, as the damage wrought by the massive earthquakes served as a real-world laboratory for him and other structural engineers. Eric could see firsthand how the buildings there—designed and constructed in a similar fashion to those here in the U.S.—had performed. The vast majority of buildings engineered to meet modern codes did achieve their life safety performance objective; however, the central business district was cordoned off for two years and more than 1,000 buildings ultimately were demolished because the cost to repair them was too great. In that aftermath, public entities, engineers, and the general public began to ask whether it was reasonable to expect better outcomes in the wake of a seismic event. The notion of low-damage or resilient design took off in earnest.
Contributed by Jake Ortego
Within the last few months, I have heard each of these statements:
I’m sure that each of these statements is rooted in a truth relative to a certain point in the AEC process. But buried in many of the comments is an increasing feeling that the quality of the design documents themselves are on a downward slope despite the notion that technologies such as BIM should be improving the designs.
Many will admit that the idea of BIM is fantastic. Albeit, a true single building model is a dream that may be unrealistic. These concepts are then quickly countered with criticism that the technology creates nearly as many problems as it fixes. Even the most outspoken BIM supporter would agree that it is not a perfect system. So, should we abandon it for the “old school 2D” model?
Put that thought aside for a minute and set the way-back machine to the 1860s. Back then, chemists figured out a way to duplicate a drawing using ferro-gallate. Construction reprographics was born…with a blue tinge. And with that, an entire profession was eliminated. The once critical job held by tracers and copiers was now a thing of the past.
What does this have to do with BIM?
While drawing reprographics seems like simple technology to us now, imagine how revolutionary it was when it was invented. There were many who undoubtedly thought it created more problems than it solved. Somewhere I recall reading that the design professionals of the time criticized early blueprints for being “…inadequate and free translations of the author’s original lines.” It took 20 to 30 years for the cost of the blueprint to drop low enough to make hand copies and tracing uneconomical. And it wasn’t until the 1940s that someone figured out how to drop the blue and go to the white sheets we see today.
Now, we can’t imagine not having instant reprographics of the drawings. This clunky new technology changed AEC forever. Then there was CAD. This technology got its start in the 1950s and you better believe that it was not an instant hit. CAD was criticized for inhibiting the brainstorming process and viewed as much slower than traditional sketching. But at the same time, it spawned libraries of standard steel shapes, doors, patterns, and that “person” that is put in the drawing for height comparison.
Let's Fix Construction is nominated for Best Construction Blog from Construction Marketing Ideas AGAIN.
Please VOTE here.
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.
Get blog post notifications here