Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Today the exhibit hall opens for the 45th edition of the World of Concrete in Las Vegas. If you've never been to WOC, let me try and put it into context for you, as I had the chance to host a Let’s Fix Construction workshop for Prosoco in 2018.
So, with an annual knowledge share of this magnitude, one would expect that the literal world of concrete would be cutting-edge that contains less flaws than in years past, and is an exact science, right? Well, sometimes it’s nice to assume, but you know what they say about that.
Anyone who has followed my social media posts or Let's Fix Construction posts from over the years knows that as a flooring contractor, our daily fights with concrete are aplenty. And they don't seem to be getting any better.
From the constant battles with concrete moisture to the surface planarity to unpredictable curling after placement, the fight goes on into the 12th round and I'd hate to say that concrete might just be winning by TKO.
But don't get me wrong, the future with concrete is looking up. Polishing technologies have flooring finishes on its heels and the longevity of concrete as a building material will never be second guessed. Floor preparation equipment is becoming more productive and more affordable. And its use as a building product is certainly not going anywhere anytime soon.
But it starts at the placement and that is where the industry may need the most help. Proper specifications need to be in place to set a better slab, but more importantly, the concrete contractor needs to read them and recognize that there are always better ways to build a mousetrap.
When Cherise Lakeside spoke at World of Concrete in 2016 to 50 concrete contractors, she asked a few pointed questions (and blogged about it). Their answers offer insight into their world of concrete:
The future of the World of Concrete show (book it! January 18-22, 2021) will always be bright as the mousetraps look beautiful and there are plenty to see, touch and feel. But the industry will continue to be challenged with the same 11th hour issues if the specifications aren't challenged, changed, and enforced and especially if the contractors refuse to admit that there are always better ways to do things.
Specs + Data = ?
Contributed by Jeffrey Potter
The AEC industry is finally recognizing their treasure chest of data. It’s like the explosion of analytics with baseball (aka sabermetrics), it took over 100 years for baseball to realize what data chest they had and how to implement it. The same event is happening within the AEC industry and you better hop on the train now because it’s moving fast. Everything from the design of the building to the construction of the building is using data now in some capacity, but what about the specs, how can data assist or improve the role of specifications? The answer is probably not what you think…
When I realized the treasure chest of spec data I was sitting on, I work with a software where everything is stored on a server, my mind literally had one of those light bulb moments. Initially, from our project history in the server, I was able to figure the most commonly used sections and do two things. First, I cut down our 100-page specifications checklist to 40-pages, and finally to what is now 10-pages, of all the common sections for selections. Second, I created a historical archive where we keep those sections that have only been used once or twice in the past 4 years to be stored. My mind was blown, the possibilities where endless. I got amazing reviews for the two items above, and had so many other ideas on how to extract specification data and analyze it, but was going in the wrong direction until…
A few months later, I had another light bulb moment. There is such a thing as good data and bad/useless data. I was moving into the bad/useless data realm. For one example I wanted to figure or set up a template project with the top X amount of sections. Because every good size project has the same basic sections, it would be easy to set up and save time, but this conflicted with the Revit Model and how we bring specifications into our software. Which essentially does the same thing as a template project, although much quicker and smarter. Then, what would I do on small projects or much larger projects? This wasn’t the solution I was looking for on my data set.
My next train of thought took me down some exciting new avenues on how we can leverage data with specifications: product use and production. Product use is extremely important and I simply define it as “a product specified on a project that was installed”, pretty simple. Why is this important? Because if I am specifying Product A on 85% of my projects, yet on 75% of those projects, the Contractor is substituting for Product B… Why am I specifying this product? Why is the Contractor substituting? Is it because Product A cost more, harder on labor? Is it a regional item where Contractors in a specific region want Product B? Is my firm specifying old technology? Is one office favoring Product A over Product B? As you can see many questions arise, but the big ones are …
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Roald Dahl said, "somewhere inside of all of us is the power to change the world." Since construction is our world, let's presume that somewhere inside all of us is the power to change construction.
Whether you just wrapped your first day or first month on the job, your first year or first decade, fifteenth or fiftieth year, you have something unique inside of you.
Perhaps it's your perspective. Or, it’s your perception. Your observations from the other side of the fence. Your adaptation from a different industry into ours.
No matter your background or your level of experience, your voice and knowledge is unique to you. Your knowledge is indeed power. And what good is your knowledge if it is not shared?
Well, once again, now is your chance to share that knowledge and voice by being a part of CONSTRUCT 2020, which will be held September 30 – October 2, 2020 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, TX, located in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and just minutes from DFW airport.
CONSTRUCT offers "a platform for exploring and refining innovative solutions to solve complex problems facing the AEC industry today. During the three-day educational program and two-day expo, industry leaders converge with a common goal of educating and inspiring for the betterment of the industry."
Participants at CONSTRUCT are not just looking for the same old tired box lunch sessions. CONSTRUCT is seeking solutions to real-world problems, in diverse areas such as:
In addition, unique delivery formats are desired. Instead of the standard lecture, consider utilizing a combination of learning formats, such as case studies, panel discussions with audience participation, small group discussions/peer-to-peer learning, and hands-on activities.
You have one month to gather your thoughts and turn what you’ve learned into a unique session that will build your reputation and improve the construction community. The call for education session proposals closes at 11:59 pm PT on January 8, 2020.
Be a part of CONSTRUCT 2020 and be a part of the solutions that the construction industry needs, learn how to submit your proposal and share your knowledge today!
Disclaimer: As the author of this piece, I should let it be known that I have had the honor to be on the CONSTRUCT Education Advisory Council since 2017. The Council assists CONSTRUCT show management in developing the Education Program by reviewing and grading the call for presentations submitted for consideration, providing input and suggestions for improving current and future educational activities, including recommending new and diverse educational presenters, topics, and formats.
Useless Search Bar Results
Contributed by Elias Saltz
Like it or not, the architectural product library is a thing of the past. No longer do firms set aside rooms dedicated to shelves covered with hefty binders. The parade of product reps schlepping suitcases filled with paper updates has mostly stopped. Architects' and specifiers' need for up-to-date information, on the other hand, has not abated. My job writing specifications requires me to research multiple products and systems every single day. Product data is now almost exclusively available electronically, and manufacturers are figuring out the best way to present and distribute that information. Many consolidate the information on thumb drives and hand them to architects and specifiers at meetings and product shows. But how useful is that when those thumb drives end up tossed in a box, gathering dust?
Also, it's recognized now that thumb drives are a major cyber security risk; any one of them can be a malware or espionage vector and the product manufacturer may not even know it (every single thumb drive is made in China, and who knows what's hidden in them?!). Also, the data on the drives is current as of the date the drive is made, but quickly gets obsolete. So thumb drives aren't the answer.
The only feasible on-demand information source we have, other than old-fashioned picking up the phone or meeting reps in person, is manufacturer websites. I visit dozens of sites for every project I write, and often I struggle to find the information I need. This might be because the sites are poorly designed, require registration, or simply don't have the information. The search bars return useless results. The guide specifications, when available, aren't editable. There are no details. There are no tools to find local reps.
Most sites actually contain very thorough information, but there's frequently a learning curve to finding it efficiently because they do counterintuitive things. Often, for example, clicking "I'm an Architect" displays only CEUs, not product information.
The time is ripe, I believe, for the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), a national association most famous for publishing formats adopted by the entire construction industry, to jump into solving this problem. WebFormat (or whatever it would be named) is an idea that has been floating around for a long time, but hasn't yet been implemented. Given the investment CSI has been making in upgrading its technological footprint, the time is ripe to develop this product.
What would WebFormat contain? I imagine a single hyperlink on each manufacturer's homepage that would bring us to an index of the available products, perhaps organized in multiple ways (how about drop down options for sorting by MasterFormat number, UniFormat category, and OmniClass table), with a very brief description of the product within the index. The main index page would also have a way to search for local reps and senior technical reps. Upon visiting a specific product, we could immediately find details, product data sheets, photographs, available colors/finishes, guide specs (in MS Word), warranty information, HPD's and EPD's, installer qualifications, and installation instructions. All the information will be organized by every manufacturer in a uniform way.
Let's end the endless, frustrating, fruitless web searches, and learn from how MasterFormat and SectionFormat have transformed AEC. CSI needs to begin working on WebFormat, now.
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
Purchasing for construction projects isn’t like purchasing in our personal lives.
When we buy things in our personal lives, we go to a store, or go online, find exactly what we want, and buy it. Sometimes we ask someone else to get something for us. The very particular among us might attach a photo of exactly what we want when we send the email or text message request for the item.
On construction projects, the architect finds out from the owner the general idea of what is required, then the architect, through the drawings and specifications, tells the general contractor exactly what to provide. OK, so this is complicated, but it still makes sense.
What happens next is where it gets weird…
The bidding general contractors solicit bids from subcontractors and vendors, each of whom is a specialist in his or her area. These are the people who read the documents and actually provide what the drawings and specifications require, and the general contractor who is awarded the project coordinates all of that work. These bidders may submit bids on the specified items, or may submit substitution requests, requesting that different products be approved by the architect.
One time I was talking with a product rep at my CSI Chapter meeting about specifications for toilet partitions and lockers. The rep represents several different manufacturers. She currently has someone working with her who is new to the construction industry.
The new person looks at specifications for all projects that have just hit the street, to see if the specs include manufacturers they represent, or products that they might be able to meet the spec for, even if their manufacturers aren’t specifically listed. If their manufacturers aren’t listed, but they can meet the spec, the product rep will prepare a substitution request and submit it to the general contractor for him to submit to the architect, to see if they can get approved, and therefore be able to provide a bid.
The new employee described this process as “the strangest way to do business.” It is very odd, from a manufacturer’s or distributor’s point of view. The building owner, through the architect, asks for something specific, or maybe says “provide one of these three” or maybe says “provide this, or something equal.” Then the manufacturer, distributor, or subcontractor goes through a process which looks a bit like begging to be allowed to play, too.
This isn’t actually that strange when the documents are clear.
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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