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.


The New World of Virtual Reality in Construction

Virtual building design is making a dramatic impact on the construction industry.

Okay.  You are an architect in Hong Kong, and you’re working with a construction company in San Francisco. You can both “look around” a computerized 3D model of your building (this is not new technology) but now you can also actually feel what it’s like to be right inside the structure by wearing virtual reality (VR) headsets, getting a 360-degree view. And, by wearing the same headsets, you can do this together and make real time changes even if you’re on opposite sides of the world.

Welcome to the world of virtual building design – a big leap for the construction industry, which has traditionally been more interested in bricks than clicks.

Building information modeling (BIM) – or developing a 3D digital prototype of a project – has been trending.  Using 3D gaming technology and cloud-based software, industry leaders are now bringing together building design environments and workflows into a single, navigable view. Users navigate these virtual designs almost like a video game.

The opportunity for reducing errors, keeping tabs on and tracking large complex projects while also saving money (30% of a project’s total budget is usually spent correcting errors not visible in the design stage) are the obvious benefits of this VR computer-aided design. It’s definitely disruptive technology, and it’s spawning new, streamlined building design practices that will change the nature of construction forever.


Integrated Design-Build Project Delivery Gains Momentum

Many states and municipalities are adopting new rules for commissioning construction projects.

The construction industry is re-evaluating the traditional design-bid-build method of project delivery and exploring alternatives. Rather than architects designing a project and then, after the fact, involving a contractor to bid and build, the new trend is for “integrated project delivery” with designers and builders working together from the start of a project with a single contract for both design and construction services. In fact, half of all U.S. states now favor an integrated design-build approach, which reduces the likelihood of schedule-stops and delays, budget over-runs, change orders and other conflicts.

Studies have found that a design-build delivery system can cost 6% less and result in 34% faster project completion compared to the traditional design-bid-build format. New York requires design-build on some state contracts, claiming that infrastructure projects in particular lend themselves to this integrated approach and could save New York City alone $2 billion over the next decade.

There continues to be ongoing dialogue over this practice and trend.

Construction Dive: http://www.constructiondive.com/news/do-contract-types-determine-a-projects-fate/408171/

Building Design + Construction: http://www.bdcnetwork.com/half-us-states-now-allow-design-build-public-projects ;

Engineering News Record: http://www.enr.com/articles/38694-disputed-design-build-study-raises-questions-about-costs?v=preview;

The Design-Build Institute of America: http://www.dbia.org/Pages/default.aspx


Can Green Buildings Make Us Smarter?

Green is good -- outside or inside an occupied building.

A recent study published by Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) suggests that Green Buildings create optimized conditions for health and productivity. In a series of experiments, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) factors for both “green” and “conventional” buildings were simulated in a controlled environment that included office workers, and the researchers measured variables such as carbon dioxide variation, ventilation and exposure to volatile organic compounds in the building atmosphere.

The results? On average, cognitive scores for the two groups of workers were 61% higher for those working in a building with green features than with conventional construction.  In other words, green building can potentially deliver a smarter workforce.


Energy Efficient Buildings Key to Combating Climate Change

energy efficient building

Renovating the Federal Building in Portland, Oregon cut energy usage by 45% and water consumption by 60%.

A new report from the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Sustainable Business Council concludes that energy-efficient buildings are one of the most effective and economical ways to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint in response to global warming. That’s because buildings account for more greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. than any other source, including transportation and industry. The report probes the economics of green buildings and their value in mitigating greenhouse gas production, suggesting that brick and mortar solutions to the climate challenge make for good economics in the long run.


10 Construction Industry Trends to Watch in 2016

One industry trend: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly being used for surveying, mapping and marketing.

Design-build powerhouse Korte Company monitors the latest building methods, tools and technologies. The company’s list of construction industry trends to watch this year ranges from cutting-edge building technologies to innovative construction methods and improved decision-making systems. In other words, projects are getting smarter.

Korte’s Top Ten starts with detailed 3D Building Information Modeling (BIM) providing better visualizations for both projects and systems. Other trends on their list: Increased use of pre-fab, smart buildings that provide data monitoring, integrated mobile technology and information on job sites, robotic automation for specialized work, drones for project monitoring, 3D printing for construction, and enhanced job-site safety — as technology moves workers further from the most dangerous tasks.