Designing for Resilience–Part One

Key West, Florida, underwater.

Key West, Florida, underwater.

As the frequency of severe weather events escalates, resilient design solutions need to be found to safeguard people and the economy. With the recent devastation of Hurricane Irma, clearly coastal cities are increasingly exposed to the risk of flooding.

It isn’t just about hurricane winds, flooding and rising tides however. Resilient design must also address the shelter-in-place realities of tornadoes, blizzards, and heat waves. We are going to address all of these in our current blog series.

Living with Water

From Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to Hurricane Irma this year, coastal cities are increasingly exposed to the risk of flooding and rising coastal tides. With sea levels rising in almost every coastal area in America, even without an epic storm like Irma, large percentages of urban coastal areas face the threat of flooding. Living with water seems to be a new reality and the risks facing coastal cities must be addressed with resilient design.

While current flooding strategies exist in many coastal areas, most do not thoroughly address future challenges. The resiliency of coastal cities relies on architects and engineers and city planners rethinking how they design cities but also the multitude of individual spaces that comprise the urban environment. Extreme weather heavily impacts our infrastructure and real property, creating unique issues for developers and owners.

Resilient Design Solutions & Sea Level Rise

Should traditional mixed-use buildings by redesigned to move restaurants and retail to higher floors? What impact does that have on consumers and what do the street-level spaces become? If you build high enough in a flood zone, the building and its occupants may be safe, but the building will be inaccessible in flooded conditions.

Climate resilient strategies include wet-flooding (letting buildings flood without damaging major equipment or the structure and continuing operation even without power) and dry-flooding (keeping the water out with tight envelopes). Wet flooding requires materials that are capable of being submerged in water for 72 hours. So how long can a material be submerged without compromising its integrity? Can biomimicry be used to develop flood resistant materials? Are today’s water resistant products also resistant to submergence? There are no simple answers to these challenges. Both proactive and adaptive strategies should be examined for the future of our built environment.

Rather than wait for disaster, many coastal communities are tackling the issue of resilient design. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Resilient by Design Challenge is asking residents, community leaders and organizations to submit ideas that will shape a collaborative research process where design experts work with community experts. The idea is to develop new, creative and implementable design solutions that will protect the Bay Area’s most vulnerable shoreline communities from increasingly severe storms and flooding — while also addressing critical issues such as disparities in housing, income and access to open space.

The Venice Environmental Studies Program at Boston University is exploring these questions  as well looking at how scientists and policy makers in the famous Floating City are collaborating to develop mutually beneficial solutions to protect against sea level rise. For instance, could a sea gate such as Venice’s flood barrier system Modulo Sperimental Elettromeccanico (MOSE) be built in Boston and how would it change that city’s architectural vernacular?

Because climate is no longer predictable, design professionals need to explore and consider an entirely new set of factors. Ignoring the reality of new and extreme climate variables could mean that the huge investments made in city infrastructure and buildings lose value over time.

More on resilient design next week!


The Changing Face of Construction Engineering — Part Three

Panelization is revolutionizing the construction and engineering landscape today, saving time and money.

In this final post of our blog series, we reiterate and summarize the benefits of prefabrication and specifically the rise of panelization. We also offer an overview of what to look for if you want to incorporate these “manufactured” panel solutions into your construction and engineering plans.

Pre-Fab Manufacturing Can Mean Faster Build Times

A systemized approach to panelized construction can offer many benefits over traditional precast panels, including speed, value and superior performance. There are lightweight, energy efficient, durable panels available today from panel producers from a network of panelizers/fabricators such as those associated with Sto Panel Technology. These are available in a wide variety of aesthetic options for new construction or renovation.

Building envelope installation-time can be greatly reduced using prefab wall panels. The reason? Fast-track, systemized panel manufacturing can occur simultaneously with site prep and construction, with fewer delays due to weather and faster installation times.

Reduced Project Costs

By eliminating scaffolding and other complications of working at high elevations, prefab panels can also help reduce jobsite labor requirements and crew sizes along with the associated risks.  Lightweight panels can also lower structural requirements, drywall furring, boxing, strapping and various costs related to doing it “the old-fashioned way.” Since the shortage of skilled labor is one of the biggest issues in commercial construction today, any labor-saving innovation such as reduced on-site craft work can add value.

Ensure Quality Control, Compliance and Energy Efficiency

In pursuing a panelization solution, make sure your vendor’s output is in full compliance with codes for testing, building and energy efficiency. Sto panels for instance, have ISO-engineered components and offer superior fire, and thermal performance with industry-leading warranties. If you’re adopting this technology, look for products that offer extensive architectural and finish options. With the factory application of materials, you can count on a consistent, high quality finish that will last.

The beautiful, new Aloft / Element Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas was a StoPanel project  with panels engineered and manufactured by Baker Triangle Prefab in partnership with Dri-Design. The 34-story building represented a design and construction challenge due to the restricted access to the site and non-existent lot-line. The results speak for themselves.

The beautiful, new Aloft / Element Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas was a StoPanel project with panels engineered and manufactured by Baker Triangle Prefab in partnership with Dri-Design. The 34-story building represented a design and construction challenge due to the restricted access to the site and non-existent lot-line. The results speak for themselves.

Over the past few years, leading building material manufacturers, such as Sto, have partnered with regional affiliates (leading contractors and fabricators) that are independently owned and operated, ensuring high-caliber products and solutions in every major construction market. Sto, in particular, has a network of 24 affiliates (19 in the US; 2 in Canada; 3 in South America) that are developing common processes and best manufacturing practices while adding panel components that put Sto Panel Technology on the leading edge of building design.

By specifying a single, versatile prefab panel with the option of utilizing virtually any desired finish — from brick and natural stone to the most modern, light-weight energy-efficient coating systems — owners and designers now have the freedom to choose the look they prefer while meeting the schedule and performance requirements the GC/CM desires at a price every owner will find attractive.

Exterior insulated wall systems that are engineered, fabricated, shipped and installed can be a competitive differentiator, saving time, adding value and improving quality. These prefab solutions and other offsite building processes are in fact transforming the construction industry and promise to continue doing so.

 


The Changing Face of Construction Engineering—Part Two

A primary benefit of offsite work or pre-construction engineering is that onsite construction can take place concurrently; with more fabrication accomplished offsite, the more time can be saved on site.

In this three-part blog series, we are continuing to explore how design and construction processes are changing and how prefabrication solutions are increasingly being adopted in commercial construction. This is primarily because in today’s labor-constrained construction environment, prefab helps reduce costs and meet demanding construction schedules.

Glossary of Terms

Three terms are typically used to describe structural components that are not built on a traditional job site: offsite, prefabricated (prefab) and modular. They are similar, yet, in some ways, different.

Offsite: Offsite construction refers to any building process that takes place away from the ultimate point of installation, and the term includes both prefabrication and modular construction.

Prefabrication: The term prefabrication refers to the practice of assembling building systems and components before incorporating them into a structure. Window and wall assemblies have been prefab construction staples for quite some time. Panels such as those manufactured by Sto and its affiliates are gaining traction. More recently, MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) racks, have been the rage. These are corridor-length panels that are pre-wired and pre-fitted with ductwork and piping to make connections neater and faster for the relevant trades.

 Modular: Modular construction is a form of prefabrication and most often refers to complete rooms or sections of a building — such as bathrooms, kitchens and hotel rooms — that are built in a factory.

One of the primary benefits of offsite work or pre-construction engineering is that onsite construction can take place concurrently. The more fabrication that can be accomplished offsite, the more time can be saved on site.  It is estimated that working offsite with other subcontractors to assemble multi-trade racks can reduce onsite skilled labor requirements by as much as half.

Industry at a Tipping Point

Aside from the advantage of being able to work parallel to ongoing job site processes, prefab and modular construction can allow for:

  • A safer process. Common job site dangers can be diminished on a controlled, well-supervised factory floor.
  • No weather delays. Offsite construction is usually performed inside, so work doesn’t have to stop because of inclement weather.
  • Consistent quality. Working in a centralized location allows for closer supervision and quality control.

As previously noted, offsite construction may also mitigate the skilled labor shortage currently plaguing the construction industry nationwide. An Associated General Contractors survey at the beginning of 2017 found that 73% of construction companies anticipate having trouble finding enough skilled workers and yet that same 73% also expect to have more work this year. Any offsite construction processes that can take the pressure off contractors, who are scrambling to find enough labor to manage current loads, could offer some relief.

It would appear that prefab solutions can in fact impact a project’s bottom line and can be a competitive differentiator. Those who embrace it may be best-positioned to excel in the built environment of today and tomorrow. To learn more, be sure to read Part 3 of our series next week.


The Changing Face of Construction

In this three-part blog series, we are going to explore how the evolution of design and construction processes have dramatically changed in the past decade, especially as they relate to prefabrication and modular construction.

We’re not talking about the prefabricated kit homes of the 20th century, but rather offsite construction that accounts for a wide range of projects today, from whole-building modular solutions, to prefabricated walls and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that can help contractors accelerate production schedules while employing less labor on site. In today’s labor-constrained construction environment, the prefabrication solution is being increasingly adopted where reduced costs, resource efficiency and meeting tight schedules are priorities.

Several industry reports have shed light on these big-picture industry trends, including a study by FMI, a leading investment banking and consulting firm focused on the engineering and construction infrastructure and the built environment, and the BIM (Building Information Modeling) Forum. They surveyed 156 industry leaders most of whom work in the commercial sector and whose businesses, collectively, represent approximately $38 billion in annual revenue.

Some of the findings:

  • In 2010, only 26% of the survey respondents were using prefabricated assemblies on more than 20% of their projects. By late 2016, this number more than doubled: 55% of respondents were using prefab assemblies on more than 20% of their projects.
  • Project inefficiencies and improved technologies are driving prefabrication as a way to mitigate labor shortages and improve construction schedules.
  • Contractors who use prefab on more than 50% of their projects are more productive and efficient compared to those who do less prefab.
  • While many contractors struggle to make prefab pencil out, others plan to increase their investments in prefab over the next five years.

Just how much can prefabrication impact a project’s bottom line, and can it really be a competitive differentiator? Join us next week as we delve deeper into this topic and take a look at the relatively small, fast-growing cottage industry of prefabrication innovators who are driving change and shaping the future of the industry.


Sto To Present at D+D Material Selection Conference

VLC odor neutralizing coatings are one of the innovative products that will be featured including StoColor™ Climasan®  an interior wall and ceiling coating that will neutralize odors in the air when exposed to a light source. 

Durability & Design (D+D), the trade magazine focused on architectural coatings for the built environment, will be hosting a one-day Material Selection Conference, September 26,  2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The program is designed to help owners, architects, contractors and other building industry professionals determine the best coating systems to manage moisture intrusion into exterior walls, and the best liquid-applied air barrier designs to limit heat, air, and moisture transport through walls.

In each of two panel sessions, a panel of industry experts, including manufacturer representatives, will discuss how their specific brands perform in different climates and indoor environments, and on different substrates. Sto will be presenting in both sessions – one focusing on coatings and the other on liquid-applied air barriers.

Attendees should leave with a better understanding of the effect of permeance on exterior wall coatings; learn how to determine the performance, cost and cost-effectiveness of liquid-applied air barriers; and understand the advantages and disadvantages of specific coating brands that are candidates for use on their buildings.

Attendees will qualify for 8 AIA learning credits for full-day participation and 4 credits for a half-day.


An Award-Winning Project that Includes StoGuard®

Disney Springs won an award for its contractor and kudos for a key vendor on the project: Sto. Photo: Chad Baumer

Disney Springs won an award for its contractor and kudos for a key vendor on the project: Sto. Photo: Chad Baumer

KHS&S is an international design-assist specialty contractor with a portfolio that includes more than 5,000 casino resorts, hospitals, hotels, entertainment venues, retail facilities, theme parks, attractions and public works projects around the country and overseas. Founded in 1984, the firm is now the second largest specialty wall and ceiling contractor in the USA.

At the recent Florida Wall and Ceiling Contractors Association (FWCCA) convention and trade show in Orlando, the company picked up the award for Project of the Year for the work they did on Disney Springs, an elegant shopping, dining and entertainment complex at Florida’s Walt Disney World. A key partner in the KHS&S supply chain? Sto Corp, who provided wall components for two stucco buildings, that included products from its leading air and moisture barrier system: Sto Gold Fill® and StoGuard Mesh, Sto VaporSeal®, Sto TurboStick™ and Sto DrainScreen.

Sto worked with Disney’s architects on the specification details. Now that the work is done, the results speak for themselves.

The Disney Springs design team specified StoGuard for the KHS&S project. Photo: Chad Baumer

The Disney Springs design team specified StoGuard for the KHS&S project. Photo: Chad Baumer

StoGuard

The handsome brick facing was constructed using StoGuard Vaporseal for protection. Photo: Chad Baumer


Construction Industry Labor Shortages and the Rise of Robots

The In-situ Fabricator is an autonomous construction robot capable of laying bricks into pre-programmed structures. Can robots mitigate the labor shortage crisis in the construction industry?

Automation has long been considered the harbinger of future unemployment, and experts have in fact predicted that the widespread adoption of robotics and other technological advancements — artificially intelligent (AI) software and smart machines — could lead to millions of people losing their jobs. Many tasks in transportation, manufacturing, even insurance, law and taxation are already being taken over by machines.

Increased automation is expected to dramatically disrupt worldwide employment as early as 2020, but in the construction industry, which suffered massive job losses in the Great Recession,  automation could help mitigate the impact of current labor shortages and improve efficiency.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the construction sector lost more than 2.3 million workers (40% of the workforce) between April 2006 and January 2011. The share of builders reporting serious labor shortages skyrocketed from 21% in 2012, to 46% in 2014, 52% in 2015, 56% in 2016 according to Construction Dive. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that almost 200,000 construction jobs were unfilled in the United States as of February 2017.

Can an industry plagued by labor shortages get help from automated systems and machines? A number of AI-powered systems that could help alleviate the construction industry’s woes are currently in development. These include a mobile construction fabricator as well as a 3D-printer for buildings, both of which are capable of adapting to their immediate environment. And equipment giant Caterpillar has just invested $2 million in Fastbrick Robotics to develop and sell the Australian company’s robotic bricklaying technology. These construction systems are typically able to finish their tasks more efficiently and quickly than their human counterparts, so construction companies may benefit from certain  automated systems.

Some critics are wary of intelligent automation because they view it as an attempt to shut out and replace human workers. But in an industry that is already suffering from a lack of skilled labor,  intelligent automation is making inroads. In the race between man and machine, the pace is now quickening