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.
Registration is now open for CONSTRUCT 2018, our MUST attend construction industry conference of the year.
The co-founders of Let's Fix Construction, Eric D. Lussier and Cherise Lakeside met at CONSTRUCT in Phoenix in 2012 and have returned in each successive year since. AT CONSTRUCT 2017 in Providence, RI, Eric and Cherise were invited to participate on the CONSTRUCT Education Advisory Council with a group of other industry professionals. This effort has continued for the 2018 Conference and much work has been done to put together a dynamic program for the conference this coming October 3-5, 2018 in Long Beach, CA.
In addition to the Education Advisory Council, CONSTRUCT 2018 will be keeping Eric and Cherise busy on all three days of the conference.
On Day 1, they are both involved in the fourth annual Young Professionals Program, Cherise will be moderating the Archispeak Interactive Luncheon titled 'Real Talk About Challenges, Opportunities & Innovations Surrounding AEC Teams' and later that day, the Let's Fix Construction interactive problem-solving workshop will return for a second consecutive year.
On day 2, Eric and Cherise will co-host a new program 'Facing Danger: Public Speaking for Non-Public Speakers' and the evening will conclude with the 2nd annual Let’s Fix Construction 'Partners & Pints' party, sponsored by ClarkDietrich.
Day 3 will feature a new addition to CONSTRUCT in 2018, as Cherise will moderate the 'Millennial Power Panel' session, with more details below.
While Cherise and Eric (Let’s Fix Construction) will be busy this year at CONSTRUCT in their continuing total world domination effort, there are a host of great educational sessions from many well respected members of the AEC Community in addition to project tours, networking events, parties, show floor education, product information and much more. Check out the official CONSTRUCT Press Release below and register soon and save up to $230 with Early Bird Pricing when you register by 06/13.
CONSTRUCT, the only national show dedicated to commercial building teams that spec and source materials, has announced a slight change in the show’s format for 2018. CONSTRUCT is introducing Thought Leader and Power Panel Sessions this year, replacing the Keynote Speaker and Game Changer Speaker. These four new sessions will feature key industry leaders speaking on trending topics that are affecting the AEC industry today. The Thought Leader speakers include Rosa T. Sheng, Brok Howard, and Paul Doherty. The Power Panel session will involve successful millennial professionals.
Rosa T. Sheng, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, is a Principal and Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion at SmithGroupJJR and AIA SF President 2018. She is also the Founding Chair for Equity by Design, which has launched a national movement for achieving equitable practice and design in architecture since 2018. Rosa’s session, titled ‘Why Equity Matters for everyone – A New Value Proposition for Design', will frame the discussion on how we can adopt a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Brok Howard, is a Technical Account Manager at dRofus Inc. where he leads the effort in implementation, training, and support for all North America. He has over 20 years of experience in the AEC industry, including teaching at Washington University in St. Louis and as a BIM Manager at HOK. Brok’s session titled 'Knowledge Transfer – An Ethical Responsibility for AEC Professionals', will focus on our responsibility and duty to prepare the next generation with the knowledge we share.
Paul Doherty, the President and CEO of the Digit Group, is an award-winning architect, specifier, and adviser to Fortune 500 organizations and government agencies. He is also one of the co-founders of the AEC Hackathon. His current work is focused on Smart City real estate developments for the USA and abroad. Paul’s session titled 'The Digital Transformation of Specifications' will discuss a new age of specifications driving digital transformations that could only have been dreamed about just a few years ago.
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 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.
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:
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