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. 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 […]

Building Better Walls PART ONE: Moisture Control

The key components to building better exterior walls systems are: sheathing joint treatments, rough opening protection, transition membranes and an effective air/moisture barrier.

The moisture layer in an enclosure assembly controls the passage of water even after extended exposure to any moisture. The water control layer is the continuous layer (comprised of one of several materials and formed into planes to form a three dimensional boundary) that is designed, installed, or acts to form the wall’s rainwater boundary. In face-sealed, perfect barrier systems, this is the outer-most face of the enclosure. In concealed barrier perfect systems, it is a plane concealed behind the exterior face. In drained systems, the water control layer is the drainage plane behind the drainage gap or drainage layer. In storage reservoir systems, the rain penetration control is typically part of the innermost storage mass layer. Key components for moisture control in wall systems are: sheathing joint treatments, rough opening protection, transition membranes and an effective air/moisture barrier. Pre-formed drainage mats can also help remove water, as well as promote drainage and drying in vertical wall assemblies beneath stucco, stone, siding and thin brick veneers. (Example Sto DrainScreen) Fluid-applied, waterproof air barrier membranes in wall construction have proven their worth as excellent protection against moisture intrusion and air leakage, delivering thermal value in the form of significant energy savings in hot and cold climates. (Example: StoTherm® ci XPS) These fluid-applied air/moisture and vapor barriers may be used with all types of above-grade claddings and wall substrates. Trowel-applied air/moisture barrier and adhesives may be used for above- and below-grade walls and for attaching continuous insulation. Look for wall systems that provide seamless air and moisture control as opposed to building- wrap barriers that are typically penetrated by staples and fasteners for attachment. An entire wall assembly that provides seamless protection will provide reliable control layers for air and moisture intrusion. Wall coatings can also offer protection against moisture and rain, along with UV degradation, heat, salt, wind and humidity. Coatings with permeance can help resist blisters and mold in a wall cavity, which can be caused by moisture resulting from vapor migration. In addition to repelling external water and moisture, an advanced coating system can also help resist cracking and prevent corrosion in substrates containing steel. While every building is different and coatings will vary based on cladding types and other variables (such as regional climate), wall coating formulations today are not only weatherproof, but can offer vapor permeability, crack-bridging capability, and mold resistance; some are so high-tech they create a durable surface that both beads water and sheds dirt, thus self-cleaning a wall. (Example: StoColor® Lotusan®)

Using Design to Address Sea-Level Rise

The architectural, engineering and construction industries are looking at ways to mitigate sea level rise and climate change in coastal communities.

People love being near the water — beach front homes, offices on the Bayfront, cultural and entertainment centers on an ocean or lakeside. The water’s edge is always alluring. In fact, 40% of today’s U.S. population lives on or near the water Unfortunately, as recent climate-change experts point out, nature seems to have other ideas. What is now perched on the water in many areas, will likely be under water in the foreseeable future. Even if carbon emission targets and other benchmarks set at the historic Paris Agreement in 2015 are met, sea levels will likely rise 20 inches by 2100. If we continue emitting greenhouse gases, it is more likely to be a 29-inch rise. And, according to a January, 2017 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, some US coastal areas, will experience as much as a 6-foot rise in sea levels by 2100. If unaddressed, this phenomenon poses an unprecedented human and economic threat. Already, current sea level rise has contributed to more damage in extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy, causing massive flooding and infrastructure damage. Mitigating the Effects of Sea Level Rise While government and community agencies are now addressing sea level rise issues in coastal areas with plans for levies and sea walls and other means of circumventing water rise, the architectural and engineering community has begun to seriously develop strategies and tactics as well. Fighting sea level rise from a design perspective boils down to either keeping the water out or designing around it.  Preserving views and water access and maintaining aesthetically pleasing design however can be challenging under the circumstances. For new and/or existing buildings, resilient design is critical. Using materials that protect buildings from wind and water damage, even elevating buildings above water are certainly valid strategies for addressing sea level rise, but what about entire streets or neighborhoods that are submerged? As Construction Dive points out, architects, engineers and contractors need to understand the issues and be on the forefront of advocating for design that anticipates and counters potential rising waters on our coasts.

Construction Industry Slow to Adopt New Technologies

According to a new report, construction firms are missing the boat in failing to adopt new technologies. Photo Credit: Construction Dive

According to consulting firm KPMG’s Global Construction Survey, the vast majority of construction industry companies are failing to adopt new technologies now available to improve workflow management and building performance monitoring – including advanced data and analytics, automation and robotics. While project-related risks seem to be increasing, only a small percentage of construction and engineering firms are re-thinking their business models to take advantage of new technologies that could mitigate these uncertainties. Research indicates that even though the construction industry is well-positioned for technological disruption, most firms don’t want to be first-adopters, even though there is an opportunity to use high-tech innovation to streamline work flows, improve data collection, integrate project management information systems, and gain competitive advantage by using whiz-bang devices such as smart sensors and drones. Cost and scale, perceived as risk in relation to benefits, seem to be hindering investments in the new-new things. With so few firms adopting tech innovations (only 8% fall into the “cutting edge visionary” category according to the KMPG survey) it would seem there is tremendous opportunity for a few fearless leaders to gain market share and improve the bottom line by embracing the new tech-savvy innovations.  

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: Building Design + Construction: ; Engineering News Record:; The Design-Build Institute of America:

The Biggest Architecture, Engineering & Construction Firms

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center, Virginia Beach, Va., is only the eleventh building to earn Living Building Challenge status. It generated 83% more energy than it used over the past year.

For the 40th consecutive year, the editors of Building Design+Construction have ranked the nation’s largest architectural, engineering and construction firms as part of their “Giants 300 report”.  AEC firms are ranked by discipline, specialty and sector with 22 building sectors covered — from airport terminals to healthcare and educational facilities, hotels and sports arenas. Over 50 design firms and their latest innovations are showcased including Green Building firms who are focusing on technology and occupant health to maintain their edge in sustainability. Turner Construction was ranked #1 out of 90 Green Construction Firms with revenues of $5.7 billion and Gensler, not surprisingly, was at the top of most of the architectural lists.