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 Randy Nishimura
Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’re probably aware of the growing interest in and use of mass timber as a construction system in increasingly significant (larger and taller) buildings. I wrote previously following a tour last year of a CLT plant in Riddle, OR, architects are quickly latching onto mass timber because of its sustainable attributes. Mass timber structural products can outperform steel and concrete, whether the metric used is embodied energy or the amount of air and water pollution produced during their extraction and processing. Additionally, wood products sequester carbon and are derived from renewable resources.
Despite the greater awareness and appeal of mass timber as a viable alternative to steel and concrete for primary structural systems in larger buildings, its use remains a challenge because current building codes have been slow to recognize its inherent fire-resistive properties, resilience, and ability to be assembled by means capable of resisting seismic forces comparable to steel or concrete alternatives.
A recent CSI-Willamette Valley Chapter meeting was a real treat, as Eric McDonnell, a structural engineer and associate with KPFF, built a solid case in favor of mass timber construction systems. As someone who’s been at the forefront of the development of emerging industry standards for CLT use, Eric was eminently qualified to deliver a technically comprehensive, yet concise, primer on the topic to our audience.
Eric originally joined the KPFF San Francisco office in 2005, but left in 2010 to respond to a strong need in New Zealand for structural engineers capable of completing damage assessments and helping with the rebuilding process following the Canterbury Region earthquakes. He rejoined KPFF after two years of work in Christchurch, relocating to the firm’s Portland office.
Eric’s experience in Christchurch proved invaluable, as the damage wrought by the massive earthquakes served as a real-world laboratory for him and other structural engineers. Eric could see firsthand how the buildings there—designed and constructed in a similar fashion to those here in the U.S.—had performed. The vast majority of buildings engineered to meet modern codes did achieve their life safety performance objective; however, the central business district was cordoned off for two years and more than 1,000 buildings ultimately were demolished because the cost to repair them was too great. In that aftermath, public entities, engineers, and the general public began to ask whether it was reasonable to expect better outcomes in the wake of a seismic event. The notion of low-damage or resilient design took off in earnest.
Contributed by Marvin Kemp
At CONSTRUCT 2014 in Baltimore, I gave a presentation called "Building A Highly Collaborative Team." At CONSTRUCT 2017 in Providence, I gave a similar presentation called "Symbiosis: The Importance of Collaboration between the Owner, Architect and Contractor." (Editor's Note: This session was teased in this Let's Fix Construction post from August 29, 2017 here)
Both presentations were based on my experiences in construction over the past 20 years and focused on three projects from the past 15 years. In those presentations, I offered 7 strategies for increasing collaboration on construction projects as examples of real world ideas to help the attendees in their jobs. While space won't allow me to give all the background to the stories like I did in the presentations, I think these are still good strategies for anyone involved in team projects, whether in construction or not.
Strategy 1 - It's Sometimes Okay to Work Around Obstinate Team Members
We've all seen them: the one team member who is obstinate or obstructionist and unwilling to compromise. The person who will say the sky is red when the rest of the team says its blue. That's okay. Some people welcome negativity and thrive in that environment. It does not have to bring the whole team down. Work around that person by improving communication with the rest of the team and doing your best to avoid unprofessional situations. As the team gels and everyone does their job and holds each other accountable, the obstinate member will be revealed for the obstructionist which will make the team's success shine more brightly.
Strategy 2 - Communicate More, Email Less
Nearly everyone in our society carries a smartphone in their pocket. The operative part of that title is "phone." Yes, it is a powerful computer that can facilitate messaging in multiple formats - text, email and social media - but it is a phone. All of those other message formats are one-directional: the sender messages someone who can choose to reply or not. Telephones are truly two-way communication, so use it and embrace it. Face to face, two-way communication will always be superior to one-directional email or texting. However, we can't always answer our phones. When you receive someone's outgoing voicemail message, leave a message. Don't rely on them to look at their phone and see that you called in the caller ID. And when you receive a voicemail, return the call. It sounds simple, but many of us simply don't do it. We say we're too busy or we'll get to it tomorrow. Have some common courtesy to return the call, even if it is to say, "can we talk more tomorrow? Your communication with the team members will increase exponentially.
Contributed by Thad Goodman
This month's post deals with Attitude. Having the right one makes all the difference.
The year was 1999. The company I worked for was involved in a 73-million-dollar capital improvement project.
My position dictated that I would have a part in it, but not until we were past the early stages and in construction.
The initial project team had taken on a theme…
Failure is NOT an option."
I was a little skeptical of the name at first, as it seemed like a negative connotation.
Shouldn't the mantra have been "WE CAN DO IT!" or "THIS WILL BE GREAT!"?
Then I sat in on my first project meeting.
The task presented looked like an insurmountable obstacle.
It was daunting just to go over it in detail.
The lead on the project wrapped up his overview.
The room was quiet, everyone letting the scope of the problem sink in.
Then one of the project managers in the back of the room said
Well, Failure is not an Option, so if we start with..."
The rest of the sentence is not important to this story, but his mindset and the reaction of the team is.
When he said these words, the rest of the project team silently, confidently, nodded their heads.
There was no doubt from anyone in the room they would succeed.
And they did.
The project was completed on time with minimal apparent struggles to be seen from those outside the team.
Construction is destructive by its very nature. Construction is not an exact science. Every site is different. We disrupt the Earth. We alter wind patterns as we impede them with large blocks of cement and sticks erected in its path. We change the flow of water and harness electricity to fit our desires. We test gravity with overhangs, cantilevers and roof lines. We should expect nature to fight back, and it does. We challenge time and manpower constantly to get these structures erected and inhabited safely and prepared for the owner’s purpose.
It can be a new year, a new project, a new job or just a new day.
One important way to fix construction is to have the right attitude.
Contributed by Jake Ortego
Within the last few months, I have heard each of these statements:
I’m sure that each of these statements is rooted in a truth relative to a certain point in the AEC process. But buried in many of the comments is an increasing feeling that the quality of the design documents themselves are on a downward slope despite the notion that technologies such as BIM should be improving the designs.
Many will admit that the idea of BIM is fantastic. Albeit, a true single building model is a dream that may be unrealistic. These concepts are then quickly countered with criticism that the technology creates nearly as many problems as it fixes. Even the most outspoken BIM supporter would agree that it is not a perfect system. So, should we abandon it for the “old school 2D” model?
Put that thought aside for a minute and set the way-back machine to the 1860s. Back then, chemists figured out a way to duplicate a drawing using ferro-gallate. Construction reprographics was born…with a blue tinge. And with that, an entire profession was eliminated. The once critical job held by tracers and copiers was now a thing of the past.
What does this have to do with BIM?
While drawing reprographics seems like simple technology to us now, imagine how revolutionary it was when it was invented. There were many who undoubtedly thought it created more problems than it solved. Somewhere I recall reading that the design professionals of the time criticized early blueprints for being “…inadequate and free translations of the author’s original lines.” It took 20 to 30 years for the cost of the blueprint to drop low enough to make hand copies and tracing uneconomical. And it wasn’t until the 1940s that someone figured out how to drop the blue and go to the white sheets we see today.
Now, we can’t imagine not having instant reprographics of the drawings. This clunky new technology changed AEC forever. Then there was CAD. This technology got its start in the 1950s and you better believe that it was not an instant hit. CAD was criticized for inhibiting the brainstorming process and viewed as much slower than traditional sketching. But at the same time, it spawned libraries of standard steel shapes, doors, patterns, and that “person” that is put in the drawing for height comparison.
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