A New Era for Modular Design & Construction

The Harrah's Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where modular Sto Panel technology and off-site construction played a role.

According to a recent white paper written by FMI’s* Sabine Hoover and Jay Snyder, today’s modular design and construction trends are poised to pull the engineering and construction (E&C) sector out of its 50-year lethargy and launch a new era for the industry.

Capital projects today are getting more complex and many of these projects face chronic cost overruns and schedule delays. In fact, according to The Economist, over 90% of all global infrastructure projects are either over budget or late. The authors maintain that modular design and construction can alleviate these costly issues.

While offsite construction has been around for decades – including prefabrication, modularization, preassembly or offsite multi-trade fabrication — according to these industry pundits, it has only recently emerged as a critical method for delivering projects faster, safer and cheaper in today’s labor-constrained environment. That being said, according to the FMI researchers, only 37% of owner organizations in the E&C sector are embracing offsite construction; nearly 50% still opt for traditional design-build approaches, which do not allow for optimal project planning and execution of offsite construction.

Despite advanced technologies and digital tools that now allow firms to leverage data to address these issues, and despite the fact that there is a $1.6 trillion productivity gap in the construction industry (that much additional value could be added to the sector’s revenues via higher productivity), the U.S. is experiencing declining productivity in this sector, with China and South Africa making dramatic leaps and taking the overall lead in this category.

The authors point out that the E&C industry’s resistance to change could “cost it dearly”. It is not an industry that has traditionally embraced disruptive innovation. Most firms have lacked the vision, strategic initiative, will, expertise –  and most importantly, the financial capital to innovate. There simply hasn’t been a significant return on investment or incentive to innovate. Even so, if firms don’t learn the art of managing change and take advantage of new business models and new technologies such as modular design and construction, they will be eclipsed by those that do.

FMI sees a tremendous amount of venture capital directed into innovative sectors of the E&C industry. “Private equity firms are ramping up investments and seeking new niches that are helping firms to change corporate direction,” says Alex Miller of FMI Capital Advisors. With companies like Google, Marriott, Starbucks and Autodesk embracing offsite construction, investment money is looking to revolutionize the industry.

While FMI claims that over half of all E&C firms expect more change in the next 5 years than in the last 50 years combined, the question remains: will they change? Will they adopt a new framework for success? Will they collaborate on a more streamlined approach to the design-manufacture-construct process? Can construction manufacturers leverage technology to reinvent the entire construction value equation and drive innovation?

There is plenty of evidence that leveraging off-site construction and modular design can mitigate the impact of weather delays and create safer on-site construction environments, as well as improve productivity, increase project efficiency, and enhance collaboration between offsite fabricators and general contractors. It remains to be seen however, if E&C firms can reinvent themselves, not only to keep up with the competition, but to stay relevant in the future.

The authors offer the analogy that disruption is more like a hurricane than a tornado – destructive but offering sufficient time to respond if industry participants are willing to do so. They believe it is in fact possible to respond and survive. Ironically, disruption is rarely led by current industry experts or insiders, but rather it is generated by innovators from outside the industries they disrupt.

*FMI is a management consulting and investment banking firm focused in the E&C, infrastructure and built environment sectors.

Sto Introduces New Air Barrier & Waterproofing Product — RapidGuard

Sto has introduced a new, state-of-the art air barrier and waterproofing material.

Now you can stay ahead of fast-paced construction schedules with a new easy-to-use air and moisture barrier product from Sto. Sto RapidGuard™ is a single-component, multi-use air barrier and waterproofing material that seals rough openings, seams, sheathing joints, cracks, penetrations, and transitions in above-grade wall construction.  Introduced this week; it is now available in the US and Canada.

“The material is fast-drying, and its flexible coverage makes it easy to provide high-quality air and moisture control across multiple applications,” said Karine Galla, Product Manager for Sto Corp.  “It gets the job done quickly and enables applicators to finish their work despite potentially adverse weather conditions.”

RapidGuard works seamlessly with Sto waterproof air barrier membranes, including Sto Gold Coat® Sto EmeraldCoat® Sto AirSeal® and StoGuard VaporSeal®

Costly shutdowns due to rain can be avoided because Sto RapidGuard adheres to damp substrates without blistering or increasing drying time. The product can even be installed in near-freezing temperatures.

The innovative new product has excellent elongation, allowing it to bridge cracks and seams in wall construction without tearing or compromising the established air and moisture barrier.  It works seamlessly with Sto waterproofing air barrier membranes, and is compatible with concrete, concrete masonry, brick, gypsum sheathing, wood, galvanized material, and cement-based sheathings. Because it is a single-component product, there is no need for tape, mesh or fabric; it can be easily applied without the use of special tools or applicator training.

AWCI Celebrates 100 Years with Centennial Book

AWCI has published a history of the wall & ceiling industry in a new book celebrating the organization's Centennial anniversary.

In March, the AWCI (Association of the Wall & Ceiling Industry) celebrated its 100th Anniversary in at its annual convention and INTEX Construction Expo in Orlando, Florida. Part of the celebration was to mark the publication of a new book to commemorate the organization’s birth in 1918; the special edition Centennial Book provides an historical overview of the wall and ceiling industry during the past 100 years.

The handsome, large-format book documents a century of industry growth with a decade-by-decade synopsis of the wall and ceiling industry, with many vintage and contemporary photographs that also tell the story.  As illustrated in the new book, wall and ceiling construction has always been a basic service; it survived the ravages of a turbulent century, continues to innovate and remains a robust industry today.

Sto Corp. was the proud sponsor of the 1920’s section of the Centennial Book; a memorable decade that started with the introduction of Prohibition and ended with the stock market crash in 1929, with flappers, Lindbergh’s pioneering trans-Atlantic flight, and the migration of Americans from farms to cities providing memorable milestones. On the wall and ceiling front, Gold Bond gypsum wallboard was introduced, and the labor movement grew in strength. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) had 5 million union members in 1920; higher pay and shorter workdays were contested issues, and skilled tradesmen were in short supply. (Sound familiar?) In 1926, 2,500 Chicago journeymen plasterers went on strike demanding a $2/day wage increase. Overall, each decade in the book provides many insights in the development of the wall and ceiling design and construction business.

As told in this industry memoir, the AWCI has taken a leading role in setting standards since its inception, facilitating union agreements, protecting and promoting the trade. As a forum for unity and direction, the AWCI has helped transform the industry into what it is today and should be applauded for its industry leadership and support for superior building standards over the past 100 years.

Sto Tint Training Ensures Color Quality

Storage and handling of colorant and maintaining dispensers and jet mixers ensures superior Sto color product.

The professionals at Sto take color very seriously as demonstrated in our recent series on color.  From Sto Studio to the Sto Color Lab, the company’s commitment to refined design is clearly demonstrated by the many resources it devotes to the art and science of color.

In addition to learning color theory at the Sto Tint School and how to best help customers realize their color requirements, Sto employees are also trained in tint product care and storage. Colorant, for instance, should be stored in a warm space — 65 degrees is the minimum – and automated dispensers should have a ceramic space heater with a thermostat blowing inside the cabinet to ensure the proper care and storage of colorant. Mixing colorant correctly is as critical as its storage, and is also an important part of employee training, as are equipment use and maintenance.

Basic dispenser and jet mixer instruction at the Sto Tint School includes calibration guidelines. Calibration is an important, but simple test to ensure a machine is dispensing colorant at an acceptable level of accuracy. Sto recommends using a digital cigar-box style pocket scale to calibrate properly.

The Sto color tech experts, recommend calibration twice a year, or any time you suspect one or more canisters has become unreliable. They even offer a video on tinting equipment calibration — one of many demonstration videos in the Sto website video gallery. The Machine Technology section of the video gallery offers clips on mixing and storing color product, as well as basic maintenance such as changing a seal on a tinting machine.

Sto produces world class color finishes and coatings, but handling these products properly and understanding them turns these superior quality color products into exceptional works of beauty that manifest technological prowess in the built environment.

The Sto Tint School – Color 101

The Sto Tint School trains Sto employees and distributors to be experts in the world of color in order to provide exemplary customer support for Sto's coatings and finishes.

In addition to the Sto Studio design services and the Sto Color Lab which we’ve described in previous blogs, the Sto Tint School is yet another asset that helps differentiate Sto Corp. in the building materials marketplace today.  At Sto, consistent material selection and consistent formulation results in consistent color and a superior product; at the Sto Tint School they strive to ensure quality customer service to support the tinted product.

At the Tint School in Atlanta, Sto employees and distributors are trained to be coating and finish specialists. There, they are schooled in the art and science of color, including an overview of color theory. This includes a primer on hue, chroma, and lightness (the attributes of every color) and an introduction to color creation based on the color wheel with its three primary colors of red, yellow and blue.

Students learn the elementary basics of color: Colors next to each other on the color wheel are referred to as harmonious; colors directly across from each other on the wheel (such as red and green) are called complementary. Mix two primary colors and you get a secondary color (red & yellow = orange; blue & yellow=green); mix a primary and a secondary color, you get what’s called an “intermediate” color.

The school also provides a primer on colorant — teaching, for instance, the differences between inorganic and organic colorant.

Inorganic Colorant

  • Excellent light fastness characteristics
  • Large particle size, tends to be opaque
  • Lower tinting strength
  • Lower cost per pound
  • Generally low in chromaticity

Organic Colorant

  • May “fade” sooner than a color produced exclusively with inorganic colorants
  • Is dye-like with smaller particle size and tends to be transparent
  • Higher tinting strength
  • Higher cost per pound
  • Tends to be bright, high in chroma

Made from raw materials and carefully tested before being distributed, Sto colorant is optimally formulated for use in water-based products and is generally stronger than other colorants used in the coatings market. A high-quality colorant is utilized for exterior use where UV resistance is required.

Tint School students learn that if a color needs to be a shade darker, you don’t add black; you add all the colorants in the formula in equal proportions. They learn the importance of matching a color standard, and that to do so they need to provide a clean color chart sample versus a popsicle stick dipped in material or paint smeared thinly on a piece of cardboard. They learn that appearance characteristics such as gloss, texture, and sheen make a color “look” different and that these characteristics cannot be altered with colorant.

Sto Tint School graduates become color experts who can tackle any issue involving color, providing smart, educated guidance to their partners in the building profession. It’s about understanding color and Sto’s products, but it’s also about the equipment and production of these products. So next week we’ll be discussing basic dispenser/jet mixer maintenance and calibration, and other important topics also covered at the Tint School.

The World of Chroma & Hue at Sto’s Color Lab

Sto's Color Lab makes the world of chroma and hue go round...including the Sto800 color collection system which is a go-to resource for those specifying color in the built environment.

In a quiet, light industrial neighborhood in Rutland, Vermont, on a tree-lined street named Quality Lane, there is a lot of good color activity going on; dare we say a lot of “quality color”.

This is the U.S. home for the StoColor 800 – a collection of 800 colors formulated to match the range of human visual perception. First released in 2002, this color system remains a valuable resource for those planning the use of color in architecture. But it doesn’t stop there. The Sto Color Lab turns out, on average, 70 fresh color variations and 100 samples a day.

Sto’s Color Lab in Vermont is a critical component in the company’s production of superior coatings and finishes. They offer what is in effect a color customization service, responding to requests from designers, architects, contractors and applicators seeking to match a particular shade that can be derived from the StoColor 800.

The Sto color formulations begin at a color computer there. A physical sample, or perhaps a color chart, is measured using a spectrophotometer. With the specific color target (standard) established, the color computer then uses previously stored colorant and product data to establish a new color formula. This initial formula is called a “starting point”. Once the color formula is approved, it is entered into the Sto color database where it “locked in” as a new standard for future use.

Color Representation: The Real World

The Sto Corp. Color Lab strives to produce the best possible match every time it develops a color formula in order to deliver ideal color representation.  This means that after all the inherent variables are factored in, the final color will closely match what was ordered. This can be tricky business, because color by nature is very subjective.  One person’s perfect match is another’s unacceptable hue.

Everyone sees color a bit differently.  Some people can have limited perception in certain color ranges; some might be completely color-blind. Color blindness, for example, is more prevalent in men than women. Color perception can also deteriorate as the lenses in our eyes begins to yellow with age.

The receptors in our eyes (or rods) that distinguish light and dark are 1500 times more sensitive than the receptors for color or hue (cones). That means when comparing a sample against a standard in the Color Lab, the easiest thing to distinguish is whether it is too light or too dark.

Once the color sample leaves Vermont, there are many other known variables that can impact the appearance of a color and can contribute to perceived color issues including:

  • Application technique
  • Substrate
  • Drying conditions
  • Angles/shadow
  • Colorant integrity
  • Texture
  • Gloss and sheen
  • Age/weathering
  • Light source
  • Dispensing machine accuracy

When a color matches under one light source and not another, it is a called a Metameric Match. Metamerism occurs when two objects display different spectral reflectance curves.  Different spectral reflectance curves are typical when the two objects being compared have a different chemical composition, i.e. they are derived from different colorants. This means a color can look good under daylight when compared to the standard but look totally different under another light source such as fluorescents.

Fortunately, Sto representatives are well-trained and well-versed in addressing these issues. They also understand that “hue” is the color perception that allows an object to be judged red, blue, yellow, purple, and that “chroma” is an attribute of color perception that expresses the degree of departure from gray of the same lightness (sometimes referred to as saturation or density).

The result is a lot of beautiful color for clients and achieving “just the right match” for the color requested.

Join us next week when we visit the Sto Tint School.

The Art and Science of Color

Color has become big business; and at Sto, the science and technology of color have been perfected over decades to create coatings and finishes that offer both form and function in the built environment.

With spring blooms beginning to burst forth from the grey, white and neutral tone of winter months, we are reminded once again of the significance of color in our world.  In fact, the right color can be worth a lot of money — in fashion, interior and exterior design, in advertising, and yes, even in building materials.

Color has become big business; the psychology of color is now well-documented, and the science and technology of color have been perfected over time. But then, as the famous painter Claude Monet said: “Color is my day long obsession, joy, and torment.” Color design truly is an art form and has become a defining quality that can seemingly make or break a business, whether it’s the “right” blue in Google’s ad links, the latest designer fashions, a building’s curb appeal or the wall color on a company’s entrance.

Since the Pantone company introduced its first “Color of the Year” in 1999, the mysterious art and business of color forecasting has been elevated to a competitive level on a global scale. That first color of the year was a cerulean blue, and it launched countless projects and generated millions of dollars, as recounted in The New York Times.


The experts from The Pantone Color Institute declared 2018 to be the year of Ultra Violet, saying that # 18-3838 was “a dramatically thoughtful purple shade that communicates originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking.”

Experts continue to forecast color trends years in advance (What will resonate with consumers for instance in the Spring of 2019: brights or neutrals, jewel tones or pastels?) and while color forecasting is an interesting (and lucrative!) practice, it can be arguably subjective and somewhat suspect. However, the theory and basics of color are not, nor is the science of color, which Sto has been perfecting for decades. Color technology is grounded in far more than mere prognostication, and the science of color is where Sto excels.

The Sto School of Color

Sto has been a leader in providing high-performance color systems, with a colorant scheme that offers form and function, which means it offers an unlimited spectrum of colors and aesthetics, along with durability, and safety. It starts with the design gurus in Sto Studio, a team of color professionals who are inspired by color and art in architecture, and who know the science of color mixology, but also the gestalt and psychology of color.

Then there is the Sto Corp Tint School – a training lab for sales reps, distributors, applicators and other contractors — and the professional Sto Color Lab in Vermont that turns out, on average, 70 new color formulas and 100 samples a day. With all these resources, Sto has a corner on mastering the art, science and psychology of color in coatings and finishes.

In 1965, Sto introduced a revolutionary color system and has been building upon that first offering since then. The StoColor 800 — a collection of 800 colors formulated to match the range of human visual perception — was released in 2002, and remains a favorite go-to resource for those in the architecture, engineering and construction sectors.

StoColor 800 Collection

The StoColor 800 Collection is based on an understanding of the complete range of human color perception. The related StoColor System is a unique tool for planning the use of color in architecture.

Sto colored coatings and finishes are not only beautiful, but they meet the strictest test standards for measuring accelerated weathering and UV fade resistance.  There is zero-variability with Sto coatings and finishes, and optimized tint loads for better results. A proprietary cloud-based system provides access to more than three million color formulas. Sto is expert at color, but also understands the importance and value of a coating or finish that is sustainable and satisfies the goals of the design and building community, for both new or restored building projects.

Join us over the next several weeks as we delve into the vast and wonderful world of color. We’ll be doing a primer on color (the difference between the critical attributes of light, hue and chroma, and how DO you tone down the shade of a color?), as well as providing insights into what makes a colored coating or finish product durable. We’ll look at the variables that contribute to perceived color problems, complaints, and costs such as application techniques, substrates, lighting conditions and even the human eye. What are the guidelines mixing and storing colorants or for dispenser and jet mixer maintenance and calibration checks? What is a metrameric match, and what is the difference between organic and non-organic color?

The trending colors for Spring fashion, may not directly apply to the color trends in coatings and finishes used in architectural design, but clearly, color is a powerful influence on many fronts, including exterior and interior building design. Building material industry leaders such as Sto are on the forefront of this brave, new (and dare we say) colorful world of the built environment.