When rebuilding after a disaster, applying design-build process and thinking is much more effective than is perceived. The Build Back Better¹ philosophy of recovery after a disaster has wide acceptance. But there is a culprit in its full potential: bias. Not the shocking headlines variety; this is subliminal. Ever notice your preference to sit at the same table in a restaurant or at church? Maybe you take the same route to work each day or vacation in the same place each year—many of us do. These behaviors reflect our human desire to maintain familiarity. In psychological terms, it’s called “status quo bias.”
This inherent bias to keep things as they are impacts every aspect of our lives, from personal decisions to professional ones. When it comes to disaster recovery, it can limit our ability to build back better, causing us to do just the opposite: build back the same. The good news is that you can shatter the speed-limiting status quo, beginning with these three bias busters.
Design-Bid-Build is the familiar, the comfortable, the status quo giant of building processes. Design-Build changes the paradigm by integrating disciplines into a team, providing the building owner with a single point of contact. DBIA’s CII/Pankow Study placed construction approaches on a time usage continuum, and the results are confirming. Design-Build projects are delivered 102% faster than DBB.²
“In a design-build arrangement,” says Jim Whitaker, principal and director of alternative project delivery for HKS, “there is no price premium for overlapping, duplicative overhead management when design and construction firms are separated by contractual obligations, self-interested position or postures, or uncooperativeness. There is economy of brainpower and horsepower.”³
Whitaker makes the case for design-build as the preferred project delivery method for disaster recovery, citing not only speed and economy, but also its single-source project accountability, innovation and proven results. According to him, “When results matter and it absolutely, positively has to be done right, then design-build is the hands-down choice.&4
Materials Bias Buster
Since speed is crucial in disaster recovery, specifiers and contractors should resist the fallback to status quo materials in favor of those with proven time savings. In an economy already labor-taxed, materials that save installation time and labor enable commercial buildings to return to operation more quickly.
Sheathing is an essential replacement component in reconstruction. Traditional sheathing and WRB-AB installation is a multi-step process usually completed with multiple trades. A sheathing installer completes the panel installation and a water-proofer follows to apply the weather-resistive barrier (WRB). That used to be the way to do it, but today, integrated sheathing solutions should be the only consideration.
Integrated sheathing combines the weather-resistive barrier, air barrier and sheathing, removing the need for a separate WRB application. While there are several distinct approaches to accomplishing this, Georgia-Pacific approaches it uniquely. DensElement® Barrier System fills microscopic voids in the glass mat and gypsum core via AquaKOR™ Technology, creating a hydrophobic, monolithic surface that blocks bulk water while retaining vapor permeability. It eliminates the need for a separate WRB-AB.
“DensElement Barrier System is an ideal solution for faster recovery from a disaster,” says Georgia-Pacific Gypsum Product Manager John Chamberlin. “It streamlines sheathing and WRB-AB installation by consolidating traditional processes. And, since DensElement Barrier System can be installed in wet weather, rebuilding schedules don’t have to wait on Mother Nature to cooperate.”
Because the WRB-AB is integrated, it reduces the risk of inconsistent WRB-AB application in the field. Quality control checks are conducted for the seams, fasteners and rough openings versus the entire surface area of a field-applied WRB-AB. Faster dry-in means interior trades can be on the job faster, too. Speed of installation coupled with speed enablement for interior trades busts the status quo to pieces. After all, who wants to take more time rebuilding after disaster strikes?
Overcoming Site Bias
Permanence. It’s what is shattered in a disaster and what drives the urgency for restoring occupancy and building function. Status quo thinking drives onsite construction planning, but offsite is what holds the advantage of time. From bathrooms to hotel rooms to wall assemblies, building component prefabrication defines efficiency.
Prefabrication’s fundamental benefits serve the needs of rapid redevelopment well.
With a secured labor force, there’s no competing for trades during post-disaster construction’s heightened work environment. Construction occurs in a climate-controlled factory and on the ground, instead of high above it. Weather is eliminated as a factor, as is frequent delivery access to the job site, which can be exacerbated in areas impacted by disaster.
Factory_OS is changing the way high-end multifamily buildings are constructed, replacing time-consumption with speed. The company can currently build four to six apartments per day in its factory and is anticipated to reach eight to 10 by 2020—with stations for every building requirement, including adding appliances. By the time the units reach the construction site, they are essentially complete.5 Exterior siding and roofing are added at the job site. The Factory_OS process is a perfect match for disaster-recovery needs.
“We started Factory_OS almost two years ago to the day,” says founder Rick Holliday. “And during those two years, we’ve had three of the worst fires in California history.6
Through its new Rapid Response Factory, the company intends to change the way disaster-recovery housing is constructed.
“We’re going to explore if we can create a standardized unit that could be used for supportive housing or could be stitched together to create a small-to-medium to a larger-sized building after a natural disaster quickly,” Holliday says.
With the Rapid Response Factory, Holliday anticipates being able to produce 12 to 16 units per day by 2021. That’s good for the owners of multifamily properties and their occupants.
Leaving Bias Behind
By adopting speed as a strategy and design-build, time-saving materials like integrated sheathing and prefabrication construction processes as its tactics, rebuilding time after a disaster is drastically accelerated. Even for the most change-averse, it makes the status quo look like the antiquated dinosaur it is.
Now, if we could all start taking new routes to work, our status quo bias elimination would be complete. Good luck.