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 Eric Weisbrot
Construction as an industry has noticeably lagged in moving operations toward a more digital realm compared to other business verticals. A report published by McKinsey in 2017 highlighted this truth, citing a near stagnant rate of productivity growth among construction businesses. Comparing that to the 1,500 percent growth of industries like manufacturing and agriculture, it is clear construction is ripe for disruption. But those who have earned a living from the construction business, including licensed and bonded contractors and project managers, have been slow to adopt new technology over the years.
Now, however, the industry is in dire need of change. Many statistics show a labor shortage in construction, high occurrences of waste and inefficiencies on job sites, as well as skyrocketing budgets and capital spending for substantial projects. In order to combat these growing concerns and bring technology into the fold, the construction environment is starting to grasp the power of the following revolutionary changes fueled by technological tools and resources. Here are seven ways technology is influencing construction today.
Countless technology firms are focusing their energy on developing autonomous construction machinery, some led by former tech company engineers and designers. Self-operating machines, including bulldozers, excavators, and cranes, are already operating on sites around the world. Their mainstream entrance into the market is imminent in the next several years. Machines that do not require a human touch can be used to tackle repetitive, simple tasks that take skilled workers significant time and effort to complete. The inclusion of robotics in construction has the potential to reduce waste and inefficiencies across the board.
Drones and 3D Printing
In addition to self-operating machinery, the technology behind drones and 3D printing is also making its debut in the construction field. Drones have been used to help monitor job site progress, as well as lend a hand in the inspection process for projects both small and large. 3D printing offers a new way of designing projects and creating some structures that would otherwise require ample time and effort by individual construction professionals. These technologies have other far-reaching implications in construction as they become more developed and more widely used.
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 Elias Saltz
As a consulting specifier, my clients come for my expertise. To bolster my knowledge, I frequently find myself in conversations with product reps, talking about the nitty-gritty technical aspects of their products. These conversations delve into a far deeper level of detail than I would previously get when I was a ‘normal’ design architect and project manager. Over the course of those conversations, I am occasionally surprised that things I thought I knew a lot about were based on misconceptions. In fact, even things that I considered “common knowledge” have been shown to be wrong, or at least over-simplifications. Armed with accurate information, I can pass correct technical advice on to my clients, hopefully dispelling those misconceptions one person at a time, one project at a time.
Misconceptions can be found across the spectrum, in every product category and in every MasterFormat number. I thought it would be fun and enlightening to ask my go-to reps in a wide variety of product categories to tell me the biggest and most common misconceptions they hear as they work with designers and architects, and present their responses here. In each post, I’ll relate my discussion with reps in one category or one MasterFormat header.
The reps I chose to approach for this post, Kurt Wenzel from YKK AP and John Stelter from EFCO Corporation, are both active and involved CSI members that I’ve come to know well over my career. I consider them my trusted advisors when it comes to questions about their companies’ lines of fenestration products. I’m not promoting their products over their competitors’ - it’s far more about the individual reps than the companies that they work for.
08 43 13 - Aluminum-Framed Storefronts
Introduction to Storefronts:
Webster defines storefront as “The front side of store or store building facing a street.” The use of storefront products dates all the way back to the 1930’s, and the systems of today have changed very little from the original design. The design intent of the storefront sash and glass originally was to allow for shopkeepers to display their wares to pedestrians who would pass by their stores. They aimed to entice them to stop and look with the hopes of attracting them inside.
Aluminum-framed storefronts are basically extrusions of aluminum that are fabricated and assembled to allow for glass (or other infills) to be installed into the system, providing a see-through weather barrier between the inside and outside of the building. The extrusions are normally 1-3/4 to 2 inches wide by 4 to 4½ inches deep; systems 6 inches deep are available from some manufacturers. Systems intended for use on buildings’ exteriors usually are fabricated with a thermal break lined up with the center of glass. The thermal break reduces heat energy loss through the system, preserving energy and minimizing condensation. That thermal break is omitted when the storefront is located on the interior, such as in a vestibule.
With storefront systems, the entire extrusion is structural, there are no non-structural pressure caps or decorative covers like there are in curtain wall systems. Multiple configurations are available, and all are conceptually equivalent, other than the plane of the glass. Configurations include structural glazed, front, center, and rear glazed systems.
CSI’s Specifier Practice Group recently held a webinar session discussing how storefronts, windows, curtain walls and window walls are made and how they’re distinguished from one another in performance and in their use. The video of that webinar is available here.
Contributed by Tom J. Moverman, Esq
A long time ago modular construction had a limited understanding that brought it down to parked trailers and temporary metal buildings that did not retain heat. Fast forward to now, increased efficiency in the modular business has shifted the focus from stick building methods to new building processes.
What Is Modular Building Or Construction?
Put simply, modular construction or building is the method of having all the components of a structure pre-built in a secure and dry factory and finally assembled at the respective site. Most people who have seen this type of building have witnessed it in the construction of a home. An increase in modular construction saw nearly three percent of all commercial construction done using modular methods. Using modular construction is growing in popularity in the construction industry and with very good reasons.
One of those reasons for this popularity is that modular construction saves time and money. For example, construction slows down in the colder parts of the country, but using modular building methods means this is not normally the case. Construction is done inside a climate-controlled factory where workers do not have to battle the elements and construction companies don't have to be concerned about losing time and money due to inclement weather. It's estimated that a structure built through modular methods can be constructed 25 to 50 percent quicker than standard construction methods. This further adds to its popularity with companies looking to save money on building costs.
Questions That Come With This Type Of Construction
One of the most pertinent questions that come up when talk about modular construction happens, is how this type of construction will affect American workers' jobs. The most viable answer to this question is that foreign companies can try to create modular building segments to be used in America but they are not going to have the best insight into building exactly for American needs. This lessens the potential threat of job loss that this construction is perceived to bring.
Furthermore, shipping costs associated with getting big modular segments to the United States can prohibit foreign companies from building for American projects. As already stated above, foreign manufacturers might use materials and methods that do not meet American building costs. It is likely that foreign modular construction companies are going to be reluctant to change their methods in order to meet American specifications. What all this means is that there is a less chance American jobs will be taken out of the country and into foreign hands.
A Degree Of Accuracy Is Required
Another element of modular construction that needs to be taken into consideration is how precise the site preparation needs to be in order to for a structure to be built correctly. With regular building projects, imperfections in the foundation can be corrected by making adjustments on site. However, when it comes to modular buildings, the foundation has to be accurately level to within one-half of an inch otherwise the entire structure will need to be rebuilt. Many American construction companies have adjusted to this unique facet of modular construction, however the thought that one wrong move could ruin the whole project can certainly elicit a lot of frustration sometimes.
Will All Buildings End Up Looking Similar?
Modular structures used to look alike a lot, regardless of their structure. Thankfully, technological advances have helped modular construction companies find ways to offer a lot of variety to their clients. Some of those advances now allow architects to design modular structures with curves and other various shapes that were not possible before. A desire for modular construction companies to acquire more of the commercial market is the reason behind this new innovation. Modular manufacturers turned to commercial construction after the residential housing market fell. Many manufacturers have found success in this market.
However, despite the changes and successes, modular construction still faces some limitations based on the look and functionality of a structure. That still does not mean modular construction is not something to consider for your projects. It is also worth noting that modular does not have to be done for the entire structure; heating, cooling or plumbing systems can be built in advance and shipped after completion. Whichever way modular construction is used, it is worth considering for its time and money saving purposes.
Tom Moverman established the Lipsig Brooklyn Law Firm with Harry Lipsig and his partners in 1989; The firm’s focus is in products liability, personal injury, construction accidents, car accidents and medical malpractice.
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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