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 David Stutzman
Design and construction projects require an enormous number of participants to complete each facility. The basic teams include owners, architects, contractors, and suppliers. The lines of communication are well defined, especially after the construction contract is executed. But how are the teams collaborating before the contract is signed?
In no particular order…
The relationship between the owner and architect is well defined by the agreement for the design services. According to AIA agreement Document B101, the owner and architect share information at each design phase. The owner provides the project program and budget. The architect reviews the information and advises the owner if there are any concerns before the design is started. They discuss alternatives for the design approach and for the construction project delivery method. The communication is nearly continuous as the design is refined and solidified while progressing to the completion of the construction documents.
When the owner retains a contractor or construction manager for preconstruction services, the architect communicates with the contractor about cost, schedule, and constructability. When the architect and contractor are collaborating during design phases, the owner can have greater confidence that the ultimate design will meet the owner’s budget and schedule.
Product representatives, whether manufacturer’s direct employees or independent representatives, will meet with the architect team, including the specifier, to advise about the use of specific products for particular applications. The discussion is particularly valuable to resolve unusual conditions, to verify the product performance will meet the owner’s project requirements, and to understand the product cost implications created by the design decisions.
The specifier typically begins by challenging the architect – asking many questions to determine the design intent and confirm project systems, assemblies, products, and materials. The Q&A process becomes a dialog to ensure all aspects of the project will be specified correctly so the owner realizes the quality expected in the completed facility.
The specifier may recommend alternative systems and products that offer advantages to the project. And the specifier will connect the architect to suppliers, subcontractors, and other resources needed to solve particular design problems. The architect and specifier discuss alternatives to determine the optimal design solutions for each application.
Subcontractors provide invaluable real-world experience, with both product and installation. They can advise architects and specifiers about the practicality of construction details, installation sequencing, system costs, and product availability through local distribution channels. The owner may engage subcontractors during design to provide design assist services to develop project specific details and shop drawings before design is complete.
Unlike suppliers who typically furnish product prices only, subcontractors can provide installed system costs that reflect the expected project complexity.
Availability can be a significant issue, especially for short duration projects and just-in-time manufacturing. When architects select the perfect product that is not available in time, project completion may be delayed.
Traditionally, the subcontractor is rarely given an opportunity to contribute during the design process, except as part of a design assist process. The architect team, including specifiers, tends to rely on suppliers for product and system information. Suppliers are rarely responsible for complete systems, while subcontractors always are responsible for complete systems. Be sure to include subcontractors in the process.
Each team and every team member has a contribution to make. The best design responses will take advantage of experience and expertise that is readily available. Together, through active collaboration before the construction contract is signed, the teams can help ensure the owner’s project requirements will be met when construction is complete.
(Editor's note: This blog post, along with numerous others, appeared originally on the Conspectus website. You can view an archive of Conspectus' posts here.)
Contributed by Tom J. Moverman, Esq
There was a time, not too long ago, that future innovation was of no interest to the majority of the companies in the construction industry. Most companies were happy with the way things had been done for decades, and they were not interested in changing that. However, as construction companies start to realize the money and time that can be saved with innovations such as wearable technology, that old school attitude is changing.
Travelers Insurance estimates that the wearable industry shipped $20 billion in products in 2015, and that number is increasing rapidly. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there are nearly seven million construction field workers who could benefit from the use of wearable technology, that is technology that can monitor health and other worker elements instantly and deliver reliable data, and the push is to get wearable technology on every one of those workers.
The Benefits of Wearable Technology
The two primary areas that benefit from wearable technology are worker health and job site safety. For example, a hard hat that has sensors on it can monitor the health of a worker, while simultaneously broadcasting real-time images of the job site to safety personnel. In some cases, safety personnel can see problems coming before the workers even know what is going on, and that is technology that can save lives.
Wearable technology can collect job site condition data and relay that to project managers and site supervisors. Companies can collect video and data from wearable technology that can be used to better train future workers, and develop more effective ways of using construction equipment. Many of the conditions that workers and site supervisors could not see in the past involving dangerous materials or high-risk working situations would now be studied in detail to create more effective safety measures.
Construction companies can use wearable technology to increase worker productivity and get real data about what happened leading up to an accident. Companies can also tell exactly what workers are doing on job sites, and track the location of each worker in real time. If a worker is somewhere they are not supposed to be, the site supervisor can act immediately and accordingly.
The Problems with Wearable Technology
Wearable technology can improve worker health, make a job site safer, and even help a company to create more efficient methods that save money. But despite all that it can do, there are still issues with using future innovations in an old school environment such as construction. For one thing, workers may not want to wear the technology because they won't like the feeling that "Big Brother" is watching them. Reliable workers have nothing to fear with technology that reports their every movement, but some workers may find this technology too intrusive.
Another big issue with this new technology is the idea that workers will be more interested in the technology than the job at hand. If a worker knows their hard hat is collecting environmental data for a job, then that worker might be more tempted to try and see what the data looks like as opposed to doing their job. New technology is not only useful, but it can also be distracting as well.
Hard hats that can read environmental conditions and safety vests that report worker vital signs are just the beginning of wearable technology in the construction industry. Newer technology that is either in development or already in the field include specially designed glasses that help skilled workers to be more precise in their measurements, exoskeletons that protect workers and make lifting heavy objects much easier, and hard hats that can do 3D mapping of any part of a construction website.
The future of the construction industry includes wearable technology that can save money, save lives, and speed up the construction process. Instead of shying away from all of these technological advances, the construction industry has proven that it is looking forward to these future innovations.
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.
Contributed by Cory Robbins
I work for a multi-disciplined exterior envelope contractor. We have run into the same problem over and over for the past decade and are looking to address it sooner rather than later. We are talking about the huge gap/loophole that exists when installing a multi-layered dry-joint rainscreen system. Rainscreens are here to stay, and architects are designing buildings across the country to include them and show off some beautiful looking exterior facades that make everyone stop and stare when walking past.
The issue that we have run into is quite simple, but tricky to fix. At the end of a project, if there happens to be a leak in the elevation including a rainscreen, the owner is in a heap of trouble. There is usually an Air & Vapor Barrier installer, and an Exterior Façade installer on the project and they both will complain and blame the other contractor for the leak. The worst part is they both have valid arguments. The AVB installer has an easy out in that “My work was watertight before the exterior façade installer drilled 50,000 holes through it, you can’t blame me!” The exterior façade installer says “My system is dry-seal, and is designed to let water through, how can you possibly blame me?”
And so…… The Blame Game ensues!
To make things worse, every AVB material warranty is void the moment it is pierced by any fastener. They specifically do not warrant workmanship and the best they will do is warrant their material failing. Manufacturers of AVB will replace the material (which costs next to nothing) and sometimes pay for the labor to remove their material, NOT INCLUDING the overburden/exterior façade. The owner of the building has two options at this point.
Both of these options are TERRIBLE! In both situations, the owner loses and the only winner is the lawyers who are making $400/hr. We have come up with a solution that can be incorporated into the specifications by the architect designing the project. The concept is simple, place the AVB installer/subcontractor underneath the exterior façade installer/subcontractor and make them one entity that provides a 10-year workmanship warranty for the wall system. This way, there is only one company to call when a leak is found in the elevation, the exterior façade installer. That subcontractor is in charge of the wall system, and they vouch for the AVB installer and their work. This does not mean one sole-source company, and it can be two separate companies, with one united goal, a leak-free rainscreen wall system.
The precedent for this has already been set in curtainwall when the curtainwall installer includes the storefront and glazier and caulker under one umbrella. Or, when a roofer brings along their favorite plumber for the storm drains that need to be installed. The 10-year workmanship warranty language also forces a more detailed coordination effort by the two installers, simply because they know they will be coming back if there are any leaks after project completion.
Contributed by Elias Saltz
In my very first post on this site, the one titled, “Is Construction Broken?” I listed a few ways in which the profession of architecture is contributing to the ways in which construction is broken and needs to be fixed. I’m providing the link so readers can go back and refresh their memories on the whole discussion but for the rest of this post I will be addressing one observation, which reads in part:
(Most but not all) Architects have very poor knowledge of how much construction costs, and use loose rules of thumb to try to determine whether or not their designs are within their clients’ budgets. They rarely know how the details they create affect the project cost, and the resulting necessary Value Engineering (VE) costs them time, money and prestige.
As I’ve thought more about this, it occurs to me that this is one of the biggest problems facing the profession. The Owner’s money is not an unlimited fountain and most projects have some sort of budget, either a hard limit or a ‘this is where we’d like to be’ type of budget. Owners rely on architects to curate the expenditure of amounts of money that massively outweigh the architects’ own fees. They also rely on architects to develop designs that meet their facility needs.
When architects begin with the ‘design concept’ as the primary driver, or if they have a personal ‘favorite move’, the client’s budget is already at risk. Swoopy curves and other grand gestures may be considered the fun part for the architect and even for the building occupant, but complexity often carries a heavy premium. I learned recently of an office that designed an S-shaped, low-slung residence with structural insulated panels (SIP) instead of normal framing and sheathing for the roof structure. Each SIP would have needed to be custom made in a trapezoidal shape. Is there any wonder this project was significantly over budget? The resulting VE exercise cost the architects most of their interesting design as well as their (uncompensated) time, while it cost the client its seasonal construction window. It also generally cost goodwill all around.
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