Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
While hosting a Let’s Fix Construction workshop at the AIA Conference in New York City this past Friday, a theme struck me during a discussion after a team was presenting their real-world solutions to the question that was posed to them. By nature, this theme seems opposite of the AEC industry in general.
One of the many reasons why Cherise Lakeside and myself have been travelling and presenting over the last year is to help eliminate the phrase “we’ve always done it this way” in construction. The industry remains stuck in many ways and tends to not implement changes easily, nor quickly.
So, I find it nothing short of ironic that the theme that struck, the term “FAST” seems so prevalent, including one long term usage, one definition that is on the cusp and one that I’m declaring.
While not an official project delivery method on its own, the term fast-track construction seems so common in the industry nowadays, that one almost assumes the term refers to the overall pace of the construction schedule.
However, according to the CSI Project Delivery Practice Guide, ‘Fast-track (construction) is the process of overlapping activities to permit portions of construction to start prior to completion of the overall design. The project schedule may require that portions of the design and construction occur concurrently.’
It’s my belief that the presumed definition and the true definition of fast-track construction are now blurred. Overall project construction schedules and durations have been shortened for years now, even while lead times are longer than ever for certain material procurement and the workforce isn’t supporting these timelines.
Before a shovel can be put in the ground and create the new blurred definition of fast-track construction, demands are being put on designers more and more in 2018 by Owners to create what I’m going to call “Fast-track design”.
The first six (of eight) stages of the life cycle of a facility traditionally moves from project conception to project delivery to design (schematic design and design development) to construction documents to procurement to construction. While these phases could take anywhere from a few years to upwards of twenty years in the past, a new norm has compressed this timeline upwards of eighty percent in some cases. While discussing public school design with a specifier recently, they recollected how a new high school design used to be allotted eighteen to twenty-four months for design in the past and what has become all too common is the same design is now being drawn and bid in as little as six to nine months.
Contributed by Emily Conner
American’s spend more than 90% of their lives indoors. The majority of those daytime hours are set inside the office walls. Despite the rise of e-commerce and remote workers, most businesses still operate out of traditional, energy-hogging buildings.
Collectively, our country’s building stock accounts for almost half of our annual total energy usage, 3/4s of our electricity consumption, and pumps out more than 39% of CO2 emissions produced in the U.S. The World Economic Forum also reports that the Engineering & Construction (E&C) industry is the nation’s single largest consumer of raw materials like steel. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) predicts that, conservatively, by 2025 energy use in the business sector will cost more than $430 billion – about the same as our annual Medicare spend.
Businesses have a major opportunity to reduce their environmental impact. Where do they begin? Easy. A better-built environment starts with a more sustainable building sector. We’ve collected some climate-friendly ways to make a positive contribution.
But first, some quick business.
Potential CO2 and Energy Savings
The lifespan of an average building is 50-100 years. During that time, they produce tons of CO2 emissions every day. With new construction breaking records every year, we have the ability to make huge gains regarding energy efficiency.
As ESSI points out, “If half of new commercial buildings were built to use 50% less energy, it would save over 6 million metric tons of CO2 annually for the life of the buildings—the equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road every year.”
So, there it is. Problem solved, right? New builds for everyone and our climate is saved? We think taking a more realistic course is a better plan of action.
Building Better with Sustainable Solutions
Let’s face it, not every business can afford to erect an entirely new LEED-certified green building and still have money to operate out of it. But there are ways businesses and construction companies both large and small can help transform the built environment.
Though this list is by no means comprehensive, here are seven moves that can inch us toward a better-built building stock.
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 Joe Schiavone
(Editor's note: While addressed to glaziers, this article is ideal for any building product representative or manufacturer)
Substitution Requests are prevalent in construction projects of all scales. They offer several benefits to glazing contractors, such as helping them win a job; however, there is a right way and a wrong way to submit them.
A firm understanding of the procedures involved in Substitution Requests can increase the likelihood of the product being accepted, and of repeat business as a result of building a favorable reputation. With architects facing increasingly tight schedules, the submitter should be aware that the odds of success often depend on how clear and concise the Substitution Request is.
Substitution Requests are simply proposed changes in products, equipment, and/or methods of construction from those that are specified by the architect. Nearly every project—regardless of project delivery method—encounters product substitutions so opportunities are abundant.
The most opportune time in the project lifecycle to submit a Substitution Request is during the bid phase when the general contractor is seeking out a glazing contractor. This creates a level playing field amongst bidders. It's possible to submit a Substitution Request during construction, but the process can be more complicated and should only be pursued when certain issues arise such as material unavailability, excessive lead times, or a change in code requirements.
There are several scenarios where substitutions are practical and feasible. CSI's Construction Contract Administration Practice Guide identifies key areas in which a Substitution Request should be reviewed. They include:
The substitution should add value and present clear advantages to the architect, and ultimately the owner, if it's to be approved. It must also be equal or superior to the specified product, and cannot adversely impact the project cost or schedule.
When submitting a Substitution Request, glazing contractors and product manufacturers should work directly with the bidding general contractor. Not doing so can be detrimental to the team dynamic and slow the project's progress. Although contacting the architect is possible, you risk immediate rejection. You also risk building a detrimental reputation for not following established protocol, which can cost you future work.
In some cases, a designer without formal Contract Document training writes the specifications. They may also be written in haste because of rushed schedules. This means that an experienced glazing contractor has more opportunities to spot potential conflicts that are overlooked, and suggest substitutions that will improve quality or reduce risk.
Contributed by Elias Saltz
There is some misunderstanding, both inside the profession and among the population at large, about what architecture is and what architects do. The misunderstanding begins with popular cultural depictions of architects, both fictional and real, as iconoclastic visionaries who wave their hands around, making beautiful buildings appear - buildings that will be immortalized in the glossy pages of magazines and hardcover coffee table books. This image of the architect is being reinforced by modern home improvement shows like "Fixer Upper" in which the designer and builder are the primary on-air personalities and it only takes one hour to buy, design and renovate an entire house. It's also being reinforced, unfortunately, in architecture schools, where professors are teaching aspiring architects to think of their designs as grand conceptual gestures and to equate architecture with culinary arts and fashion design, but not to anticipate what working as an architect will really be like.
Architects are taught in school that what they want to design matters, and little is discussed about client expectations, except that in the case of design studios, the clients are the professors. Architects learn to please other architects to ensure the best critique, grade and peer recognition. That peer recognition extends into professional life, where architects look to have their work published in journals juried by other architects.
This is obviously a wrong approach. Architecture is a professional service. Most architects come to understand this fact as they move up the ranks of practice. When you look in the offices of real architecture firms today, you don't see Joanna Gaines or Howard Roark (perish the thought!) or Bobby Flay. You see people who are working hard, using their knowledge and experience and skill to design projects on behalf of their clients. But habits of hand-wavy thinking remain, embedded through the architect-as-chef idea, where big ideas matter and where a silver cover is whipped off a plate, revealing the delectable and beautiful creation hidden within (or, similarly, posterboards on wheels that depict the "before" condition are pulled apart to reveal the hour-of-TV creation), and that is why architects sometimes think that their beliefs matter more than those of their clients.
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