Embrace creative destruction to build better buildings
Welcome to the second in a series of three articles focused on how integration – combining products, processes and vocational expertise – is helping designers and builders create higher quality structures more efficiently, resulting in a variety of advantages for both building owners and occupants. In this article, we’ll focus on how architects and contractors are working together in new and unique ways that are helping to alleviate problems that can cause scheduling delays and budget overruns.
Maybe this sounds familiar. Nothing has gone according to plan. That 18-story multi-use tower project you’re working on that should have been completed six weeks ago has been a nightmare plagued by arguments over design details, multiple change orders, a shortage of skilled labor and stormy weather. The delayed dry-in has you at risk of losing crew to other projects and pushing the completion date well into the region of unacceptable. Now that the building owner has threatened to sue, the finger pointing has reached a fever pitch. You’re faced with a timeless dilemma: Sacrifice quality and get the job done or deliver late and face the penalties. Either way your reputation is headed for the mud.
The good news is you don’t have to rinse and repeat. Let’s do a quick review of integration in process and products that can change your work cycle for the better.
Together Everyone Achieves More
First, let’s look at an antidote for the most widely used construction process. If you’re still working within the constraints of the traditional Design/Bid/Build process (D/B/B), you’ve probably experienced the nightmare scenario we discussed above at least once before. You’re not alone. But in an industry dedicated to traditional practices, the move toward processes and working models that enable stakeholders to work together from start to finish is gaining acceptance.
Why did it take this long to move from Design-Bid-Build, where project players are siloed and segmented by construction stage and role, to Design-Build, where they function as a working team from Day 1? While D/B/B was good in its day, CMAR, Construction Manager at Risk, was the stepping stone to Design-Build. It’s a model that includes the general contractor in the pre-construction process. In the design phase, feedback on materials and installation costs could be provided. In addition, it allowed more time for the contractor to understand project parameters. CMAR had a few downsides though, in a lack of transparency in project accounting and in limiting the subcontractors bidding on the job making the way for Design-Build. Thanks to the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), which celebrated its silver anniversary this year, the adoption of D/B as the best way to work is growing. Nearly half of the commercial building projects in the U.S. are delivered through D/B, and recent studies predict that growth to continue at a rate of 18 percent through 2021.
Who would have thought meaningful collaboration could have such a dramatic impact? Constructability and design working together like a bit and drill. Owners, architects and contractors melding vision, design and construction viability and methodology nearly from the point the project is a twinkle in the owner’s eye. Contractors have the advantage of offering input on designs before they’re finished, architects can work with contractors to specify building products that will help ensure the integrity of their final designs, and building owners have a single point of contact during the entire build.
Chris Laumer-Giddens, Principal of Atlanta-based LG Squared Architects, has found the Design-Build Process instrumental in preserving his design intent on projects such as Benoit Farms, a self-sustainable off-the-grid homestead in the wilderness outside Hayesville, North Carolina. Their team of architect and general contractor encapsulates the beauty of the Design-Build process.
“We spent over two years designing Benoit Farms,” Laumer-Giddens reflects, “and to hand it over to someone else – even if we were to do the construction administration and site visits – there would still be so many things that wouldn’t come together the way the owner or I envisioned it. Through the Design-Build process, when I meet with an owner during the design phase, I’m the architect who is thinking like a builder, which helps me create designs that can be well executed throughout the project. And if an issue does arise during the construction phase, when I meet with the owner in the field, I’m the builder who’s thinking like an architect. This helps us think things through from both a financial and constructability standpoint and come up with a solution that still fits within the original design and doesn’t feel like an afterthought. This gives the owner a lot of confidence that the end result will be exactly what they were expecting.”
Collaboration on Steroids
Our second focus on improving your work cycle is a relatively recent approach called, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). It seeks to create a truly collaborative relationship between not only the contractor and architect, but also the client, engineers, managers and subcontractors. The IPD process is based on the philosophy that each of these disciplines offers its own unique insights into how a project might come together, and that by ignoring or placing any of them above the others, the project is less efficient. It’s a democratic approach to construction projects that, when implemented correctly, harnesses a massive wealth of experience and wisdom. The result is more accurate estimates, open collaboration and sharing of ideas, faster detection of problems, and universal improvements in efficiency. And since all parties collaborate during the design phase, it helps to improve constructability by identifying issues that can cause errors, delays and cost overruns during construction, helping to prevent the changes that can occur as a result of the disconnected D/B/B process and ensure that the architect’s vision is preserved from start to finish.
IPD leans heavily on modern construction technologies such as Building Information Modeling (BIM). This cutting-edge tech is nearly mandatory for IPD to work effectively, as the unique visualization it provides creates the necessary information base each team member needs to ensure the project is successful.
Leveraging Technology for Stronger Integration
Building product manufacturers are taking advantage of advancements in technology to create innovative new materials that help architects and contractors ensure the buildings they create together stay true to their design intent and don’t face unexpected delays or cost overruns. Meet a product that seems intentionally designed for the Design-Build process, the DensElement® Barrier System with AquaKor™ Technology. Chris Laumer-Giddens, selected it for the Benoit Farms project.
“DensElement® Barrier System is the product of a lot of research and a lot of discovering that buildings fail if you don’t have the right assembly and the right pieces in the right place. As we take them apart, we see where and how they’re failing, which helps us come up with these technologies and strategies to prevent that – from products to features designed to shed more water or keep water away from the building. DensElement® Barrier System is the direct result of all of this research.”
AquaKor™ Technology integrates the properties of DensElement® sheathing and a water-resistive barrier into the mat and core to deliver DensElement® Barrier System. It’s hydrophobic, monolithic surface blocks bulk water but is vapor permeable. This product innovation means fewer crew are needed to install and it provides a high-performance integrated WRB-AB solution for architects concerned with preserving the integrity of their building designs from inception to completion.
“DensElement® Barrier System eliminates the need to have an additional crew onsite to apply a separate WRB-AB, which saves both time and money,” explains Georgia-Pacific Gypsum Product Manager John Chamberlin. “Instead, the same crew that would normally apply traditional sheathing can install the DensElement® Barrier System. Continuity of the WRB-AB is accomplished by sealing the joints, fasteners, opening, penetrations and transitions with PROSOCO R-Guard® FastFlash® liquid flashing – even in inclement weather – eliminating the need for another team of workers to follow up with a fluid-applied, peel-and-stick or building wrap WRB-AB. The result is a faster installation that gives back hours if not days in the schedule. In turn, this eliminates the risk of post-design WRB-AB changes to the envelope design, as well as the risk of inconsistent WRB-AB application in the field.”
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
It’s two weeks before deadline, and you’re about to pick up the phone to call the building owner with the good news. Despite the torrential rainstorm that drenched the jobsite for six straight days last month, thanks to the close collaboration among the architect and contractors during the entire process — along with their decision to specify integrated products like the DensElement® Barrier System for the building envelope — this project is finished, ahead of schedule, and it came in slightly under budget. Sound dreamy? No need to wake up. Just take advantage of these innovations, and start improving your work cycle.