Posts tagged with "Construction":

Philadelphia passes affordable housing tax on new construction, but it may not last

Philadelphia’s City Council narrowly approved a tax on new construction projects last Thursday, in a 9-to-8 vote that may not stand up to mayoral scrutiny. The measure would bring in about $22 million a year for affordable housing, but trade unions and developers are arguing that the tax would slow the city's economic growth. The one percent tax on new construction and significant redevelopments is part of a sweeping package aimed at boosting the city’s affordable housing tools. In a move to capitalize on Philadelphia's meteoric building boom, the fee would apply to projects of any scope and be paid when filing a building permit. Funds from the new construction tax would go into a Housing Trust Fund, which non- and for-profit developers could tap for construction or closing costs. A zoning change was also included in the measure, which would allow developers to increase the height and density of their projects in exchange for making 10 percent of their rental and condo units affordable. Opting into the zoning bonus would not preclude developers from also paying the new tax. “Affordable” units, in this measure’s language, would be open to households who have lived in Philadelphia for at least three years, and who make less than a combined $105,000 a year; 120 percent of the city’s median income. Not everyone is on board, and building trade unions, developers, businesses, and some affordable housing advocates around Philadelphia have come out against the tax on new construction. In a letter to the City Council’s finance committee ahead of a vote earlier in the month, trade unions came out swinging against the tax, arguing that it would dissuade Amazon from picking the city for its second headquarters. On the other end, affordable and low-income housing advocates feel the $105,000 income cap is too generous, and that the city should do more to tighten the requirements. Of course, the tax’s passage is far from assured. Sources within the City Council have reportedly indicated that Mayor Jim Kenney is likely to veto the bill over the rising pushback in a move similar to Seattle’s recent head tax controversy. The veto would be the first of Kenney’s career, and would require 12 City Council votes to override–far from a sure thing, considering the slim margin that the bill originally passed with.

Meet the incubators and accelerators fostering the next generation of architecture start-ups

Technology is developing at an exponential rate, and while architecture still moves significantly slower than the latest transistor, things are picking up. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) speaks to tech experts Craig Curtis of Katerra (Katerra’s approach could make factory construction a model for the future) to learn more about the revolutionary changes that are in the pipeline for the construction industry, and Dennis Shelden of the Digital Building Lab (Talking about our tech future with the Digital Building Lab) about how we've gotten to this point, and what's next. We also profile several incubators and accelerators behind some of the most influential design and AEC technology start-ups that promise to revolutionize the construction and architecture industries. AN profiled the following: The MINI-owned URBAN-X in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a younger incubator which leverages its assembled experts to guide startups through a semester-long program; Digital agency R/GA, long a major player in the advertising field, has carved out spaces in all of its offices for accelerator space and given startups an easy way to hit the ground running; ZeroSixty, a three-month design-and-technology-focused incubator program, was launched by Gehry Technologies to help bring disruption to the AEC industry; The one-stop shop Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, which gives its members access to makerspaces, fabrication labs, and plenty of research space across a 60,000-square-foot campus; Georgia Tech’s Digital Building Laboratory, which has already released a suite of programs that architect's (especially those who use BIM) have already come to rely on; The advanced offices of the Autodesk BUILD Space, one of the company's best tools for keeping up with the rapidly changing worlds of architecture and design; and New Lab’s 84-000-square foot flagship collaborative tech hub in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The interviews and profiles were originally printed in our April 2018 technology issue.

At Lehrer, changes in construction practices requires a holistic approach to technology

If a company is looking to affect change in the AEC industry, where does it start? Artificial intelligence and machine learning are sexy (in a nerdy kind of way), but practical application is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. That intersection is where Dareen Salama, director of technical services at design and construction advisory firm Lehrer, LLC, found herself upon completing her Master of Science in Civil Engineering & Construction Management from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and entering the workforce. As the complexity of construction projects continues to grow due to advances in technology, Lehrer guides owners, developers and institutions through the process. “I started here in New York and realized [there’s a] divide between what is possible in terms of technology and what is really implemented in the industry,” she recalled. “So, then I took a step back and said, 'OK, so let’s keep machine learning and artificial intelligence on the side for now and kind of focus on the practical applications that are there.’” The project controls specialist concentrated her work on project management systems, building information modeling, project control systems, and other facets of the design and construction process to help implement new technologies within an industry that traditionally has been sluggish to adopt them.

Reaping the benefits of efficiency

The shift was pivotal. As Salama built the case for BIM, it opened the door to participate in many significant infrastructure projects across the country, including LaGuardia Airport, where she guided the Port Authority in implementing BIM and cloud-based systems to modernize its processes. After landing at Lehrer last year, Salama discovered “the real strength lies with the [building] owners. The owners have that holistic view of the full life cycle,” she explained. “They would reap the benefits of efficiency through design, construction, and facility management and operation. So that’s what Lehrer focuses on,” she said. Lehrer’s primary function is to advise clients engaged in major construction projects, but the firm’s view of a project doesn’t just begin with design and end with TCO or construction completion, however. “Aiding in delivering a beautifully-designed project within budget and schedule is a given—we are thinking beyond that, thinking about the end user, whether it is the person using the building as a resident, or the person running the building as the operator,” said Elissa Conners, marketing manager at Lehrer. “And that’s really where the data piece of leveraging the efficiency that is slowly but surely becoming mainstream in the industry in design and construction [comes in] and utilizing it to help optimize facilities, operations and maintenance when running the building.” Salama is currently involved in one of New York City’s major infrastructure upgrade projects at the Jacob K. Javits Center expansion, focusing on design, construction, and facility management to realize efficiencies through technology and innovation. Implementing technology in projects like the Javits Center and across the industry boils down to three things: technology, people, and process. “I think the industry is really facing challenges with all of that,” she noted. While many may argue technology has “arrived,” Salama disagrees as far as the AEC industry is concerned­. “The technology is out there in terms of concepts and algorithms and platforms that we use in anything else but construction,” she observed. While the industry continues to lag behind consumer electronics, for example, Salama sees growing interest from investors in startups that have emerged in the industry during the past year.

Cultural, process challenges are significant

The people variable presents an even more significant barrier to progress, not only from a hierarchical or cultural standpoint, but also in terms of attracting talent. Salama explains how on any given project, there may be 60 to 70 different companies involved, from the owner to the consultants and the subcontractors. As a result, “it’s quite difficult to change the culture throughout all these different companies and try to figure out technology that works for all of them given the duration that you have.” She notes that during the course of a three-year project, a third of that time may be spent attempting to get people on board with process and technology modifications. Additionally, she said, it’s rare to see young talent coming from computer science schools entering the AEC field. “It’s just not the go-to industry for top talent. They would definitely go in other directions,” she explained, adding that if technology graduates better understood the opportunity, the industry would be well-poised to attract them. Finally, altering construction practices requires much more than a surface-level application of new technologies—yet attempting to automate old processes is commonplace. Existing document standards, contracts, and specifications that function in the world of hard copies and standard contract delivery methods simply doesn’t translate well into cloud-based systems, BIM, and mobile apps, she noted. “It’s not an easy fix of, ‘Let’s just apply technology; let’s just buy this piece of software,’ which people are frankly looking for,” she said. “It’s not really about what you buy, but it has to be embedded in everything that you do: your people, your process, and then at the end, what you buy fits that world.”

Katerra promises to transform the construction industry without sacrificing design

“Every building shouldn’t be a one-off prototype.” That’s an underlying and provocative premise behind Katerra, a technology company that’s on a mission to optimize the way buildings are developed, designed, and constructed. Truth be told, the industry is primed for an overhaul. Construction companies traditionally invest less than 1 percent of revenue in new technologies—lower than every other major industry, according to the company’s literature. As a result, simultaneous productivity decreases and cost increases during the last several decades have created a quandary that requires fresh thinking and outside-of-the-box solutions. “The one thing that’s become very apparent is that—and this is typical in an up-cycle—it’s very difficult for architects and contractors to keep up with material costs, with cost escalation in these upturn markets,” explained Craig Curtis, FAIA, Architecture, Interior Design at Katerra. “And if you couple that with the fact that the skilled labor shortage is becoming more and more critical, where we’re headed right now as an industry I think is kind of a train wreck.” To help avert such a debacle, Katerra is completely rethinking the existing construction model and replacing it with technology, design, and supply chain innovations that aim to revolutionize the world of architecture and construction.

 The Silicon Valley Approach to Building

“What we’re trying to do is take on every aspect of the entire process as the Silicon Valley way of looking at an industry so that it’s not just focused on supply chain, which is where we started,” Curtis explained. “We’re really looking at from initial site concepts to own the process all the way through design, through component design, manufacturing drawings, offsite manufacturing, and final site assembly—the entire package all in one with one hand to shake.” [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyoTBNLaXAg] For those who cringe at the term “mass customization” and shudder at the thought of a skyline full of banal, indistinguishable prefabricated structures, take heart: Katerra is, at its core, a company in the business of preserving and improving the design process, rather than dismantling it. “We’re a design-first company here,” Curtis noted. “This is not a company that is producing cookie-cutter-looking buildings; the cookie-cutting part of what we’re doing is all stuff that can easily be redundant without affecting the beauty of the architecture,” he continued. “So, we’re really concentrating on making sure that everything we do allows for that customization of not only the experience inside, but also how the building fits into a particular culture or climate or place.” In other words, Katerra does not build prefabricated modules or completed hotel room pods, for example, and truck them down the highway on a flatbed. Rather, Curtis said the company takes a cue from global furniture giant IKEA to flat-pack building materials and interior components to improve logistics and reduce shipping costs. By doing so, it offers greater flexibility in the final look and feel of a building and allows architects to do more of what they do best—not less. “By optimizing a lot of the interior and the systems that are within these buildings, we’re actually finding that as architects, we have more time to spend instead of less time to spend on the thing that really matters and that’s: What does the building look like and how does it fit into a community?” Curtis said. “We’re not spending all that time redrawing bathrooms or mechanical systems or electrical layouts because that’s done; it’s repetitive. A lot of that work can be done in the computer,” he added.

Executing the Design

Katerra operates under another premise as well: “A transformative approach to building begins with design.” As such, the company developed a novel building system to strike a balance between standardization and configuration. Based upon a standard kit of parts, Katerra’s design system utilizes structural building components and curated interior products and finishes to create a multitude of elegant, custom configurations, according to company literature. Katerra’s BIM modeling links directly to its global supply chain through proprietary technology to ensure ease of ordering, tracking, and manufacturing. Its integrated logistic network, global product sourcing, and manufacturing teams reduce the number of suppliers and manufacturers, creating aggregate demand that establishes negotiating power to the benefit of clients.  The company’s end-to-end building process mimics the process of precision-sequenced product assembly, moving labor from the job site to its factories, promising improved schedule and product quality assurance. “We have customers who are very interested in having a partner who can create a more systemized approach to what they do and just streamline the process from the very beginning,” Curtis explained. “Instead of every single project being bespoke and starting with an entire new team, which is what the industry has been forever, we can become their partner and help them develop their systems, building tools, and custom assemblies suited for their operation and what they do and what they do well, and help them execute that faster and cheaper.”

Trump’s steel tariffs are already squeezing the construction industry

Less than two weeks after President Trump signed sweeping 25 percent steel tariffs and 10 percent aluminum tariffs into law, the construction industry is already smarting, according to a report by National Real Estate Investor. Although the tariffs exclude steel coming from Canada and Mexico (at the time of writing), interviews with developers and those in the construction industry suggest that some projects are already seeing steel increase in cost by up to 10 percent. The culprit is speculation about price increases six to twelve months down the line, after the full impact of the tariffs make themselves felt. The panic isn’t without precedent. A 21 percent tariff imposed on imported Canadian timber in November of last year, used in 25 percent of wood-framed projects in the U.S., led to a nationwide rise in construction costs for single and mid-family homes. Contractors were forced to raise their prices, cut back on their use of timber, switch to steel, or change the design of their homes to use less materials. Joe Pecoraro, a project executive at Chicago-based general contractor Skender, told National Real Estate Investor that a client developing affordable housing might be forced to delay their project if steel costs rose any further. “Uncertainty drives people to be very conservative, risk-averse. It is affecting our deals,” said Pecoraro. Ironically, domestic steel fabricators may be hit harder than international firms as a result of the tariffs only targeting raw steel. With costs rising for their raw materials, Engineering News Record has reported that some domestic fabricators have already lost jobs to competitors based in Canada and Mexico. 1.2 million tons of fabricated steel was produced in the U.S. with imported materials in 2017, which went towards building bridges, roads and buildings. Two days before President Trump signed the tariff order, the AIA had released a statement warning that rising material costs would lead to decreased project budgets and potentially stifle architectural innovation. It remains to be seen how the tariffs will affect the country’s building boom in the long term, but those in the steel industry are still onboard.

A new startup aims to make every construction site safer, faster

Every year, thousands of people – an average of three per day – die from accidents on construction sites in the United States alone. One of the driving forces behind this trend is the paucity of safety inspectors. Now, some engineers are turning to tech to make the safety inspection process easier and more accessible, turning construction sites less deadly in the process. This is what led Ardalan Khosrowpour to found OnSiteIQ in 2017. Khosrowpour has a background in engineering and says that as someone who had grown up around construction sites, he’d seen the negligence that exists in the industry. “Construction is the second least digitized industry after agriculture, and as a civil engineer, I believe that our industry deserves better than this,” said Khosrowpour. His program, usable from anywhere and on any device, allows anyone to remotely inspect a construction site using a technology-based documentation system, promising to cut down on the fatalities, injuries, and insurance costs. Here’s how it works: the company has a network of data collectors, each armed with a 360-degree camera, to walk through an entire construction site twice monthly, recording all the while. This video is then uploaded onto the platform and gets automatically mapped onto the site’s floor plans using a built-in computer vision algorithm. The result is called a 3D “panograph” – a large, wraparound digital image created from these photos and video clips strung together. Because all of the collected data is geolocalized and timestamped, users can pinpoint exactly when and where site conditions might be changing. An artificial intelligence system trained to highlight potential safety hazards expedites this process. This is all a far cry from the traditional, pen-and-paper methods used to document, inspect and assess the potential hazards on a construction site. In short, it “enables any stakeholder from any location to virtually walk the site and do their own inspection,” says Khosrowpour. This program also consolidates this data into easy-to-read graphs, allowing users to quickly track when, where, and how often a particular safety issue, like a missing guard rail, occurs. The program’s location-based technology also tracks where on-site the most safety issues are occurring. All of this together allows users to quickly assess and eliminate any potential safety risks, and any comments about a site can instantly be annotated, tracked, and shared among those that need to know. Khosrowpour presented OnSiteIQ at the BuiltWorlds Project Conference this past week at Grand Central Tech in Manhattan. The conference was dedicated to discussing the emerging technologies meant to augment city planning and architecture. OnSiteIQ was one of the finalists of the NYC Startup Challenge – a shark tank-style pitching session, where CEOs of five selected technology-based startups presented their projects to a panel of judges from the construction and urban planning fields. The winner would attend this year’s Builtworld Summit: a prime opportunity to drum up new clientele and reach potential investors. Though the competition was close, OnSiteIQ ultimately came in second. While the judges liked the concept, their main concern was how this concept could evolve into a continuous and real-time monitoring system on the job sites. RoadBotics, an URBAN-X cohort member using phones to survey road conditions and AI to assess them, took home first place. Since its inception, OnSiteIQ has collected over 3.7 million square feet of data using its twice-monthly data collection model. The program is available through a monthly subscription from the program’s website with three different tiers depending on the services required for a project. Depending on what a user needs, they can choose to focus on documentation and safety inspection alone, or they can add in risk-assessment technology.

Advancing Construction Claims 2018 Conference Atlanta, GA

Are You Ready for Your Next Complex Claim? In an increasingly digital and complex industry, Advancing Construction Claims 2018 is a contractor-led meeting where you will learn to mitigate and manage a wide variety of disputes. Preparing your organization is critical, from ensuring you have robust insurance coverage to retaining crucial electronic documents. Trends in contract language and design delegation add further complexity to claims management. Best practices continue to be updated on how to manage delay, defect and other frequent claim types. At this meeting you'll hear how contractors and their partners are dealing with all of the above from reducing risk and dealing early with disputes, all the way through to the management of mediation and arbitration. If your job for 2018 is to mitigate and manage construction claims, then this is the event for you!

Dewalt unveils their own construction site friendly smartphone

After making sturdy smartphones cases, Dewalt has unveiled their very own smartphone: the Dewalt MD501, Android-tailored and designed to be at home on the construction battlefield.

Naturally, the phone is designed to withstand conditions that other smartphones cannot, though one would expect this given the $544 price tag. Able to survive 6.5 foot drop onto concrete, the handset can also fully function in temperatures ranging from -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Dewalt also claims that their phone is "impervious to dust and particles" and can be submerged in 6.5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

The phone also packs a 13 Megapixel rear camera complimented by a 5 megapixel on on the front and 16GB of internal memory to store pretty much all the photos you'll take. This can be upgraded further via the inclusion of a microSD card slot.

As is the usual gripe of modern smartphones, the battery can provide up to eight hours of talk time while also being able to be charged wirelessly (with QI technology). Bluetooth integration and an amplified loudspeaker essentially means users can chuck their phone down near to a QI charging base and still be able to hear instructions coming their way from the phone.*

The lack of wires will be good news to many within the building and construction industry, as will the inclusion of a touch screen that can be used with gloves and G-sensor, gyroscope, pressure, magnetic, light and range sensors.

*Note this is not officially recommended.

Construction underway on SO-IL–designed UC Davis Art Museum

UC Davis is set to open the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art to the public on November 13. After choosing SO-IL to design its on-campus museum in 2013, the school has been hard at work constructing what it envisions as a "hub of creative practice." Working alongside San Francisco-based firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and Whiting Turner, the museum features a 50,000-square-foot canopy made from aluminum triangular beams. The canopy is supported by straight and curved glass walls interweaving both open and closed spaces. Its shape, according to SO-IL, represents a "new symbol" for the campus with its natural surroundings of long, green plains making up the sensory landscape of UC Davis. In its designs, SO-IL emphasized the importance of capturing the essence of the California Central Valley. Changes in season and lighting will be reflected from within the museum which will play host to a variety of activities and programs both informal and formal. The inaugural show will feature work from artists Arneson, William T. Wiley, Manuel Neri, Wayne Thiebaud and Ruth Horsting among others. And with the date for its grand opening months away, the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum looks set to become a site of interactive and cutting edge learning.

Construction begins on John Ronan’s 36-story CNA Center tower

John Ronan’s largest commission to date is climbing skyward in Chicago’s Loop. What will be the new CNA Center at 151 North Franklin Street is to rise 36 stories with 820,000 square feet of office space. The insurance giant is leaving 333 S. Wabash Avenue, the tower often referred to as “Big Red,” after 44 years. In an unconventional move, developer John Buck Company is building CNA Financial’s new home, and buying its old one. CNA will lease back its current space while waiting for its new building, and John Buck will redevelop it once CNA moves out. “The series of public plaza spaces addressing how the building hits the ground is very much the same,” says Ronan. The glass curtainwall has been simplified, however, with rounded edges reverting to right angles--par for the course when adhering to a strict pro-forma as the market around a project goes up and down. Aesthetically and programmatically little else has changed from conception to fruition—a coup for Ronan and a credit to the developer considering the more than two years it took to score an anchor tenant. Those interconnected plazas, Ronan’s favorite feature, exist to liberate the office worker from a rigid typology. Work can take on a different, more intuitive form in this more casual environment. And column-free corner offices, open floor spans, and 9.5-foot ceilings lend maximum flexibility for build-to-suit. Worker amenities are virtually unchanged and include two restaurants, a professional fitness center, three outdoor terraces, a conference facility, bike parking, and 34 executive parking stalls connected to the neighboring garage. The tower’s materiality is Ronan’s unblemished handiwork, from the elegant basalt-surfaced courtyard nestled into the building and segueing to entryway, the tower’s transparent skin, and screened sky garden that acts as a visor of greenery to onlookers in neighboring towers and at street level. One crucial characteristic that Ronan drove home is how the building’s compositional quality and engagement with the street exceeds the importance of vertical form. “This isn’t the tallest building on the block, so it’s not really about how it presents at the roofline,” he said. https://vimeo.com/118022698   https://vimeo.com/118022698

Six design lauded for ideas to reclad Manhattan’s MetLife Building with an energy-efficient facade

Manhattan's MetLife building celebrated its 53rd birthday on Monday. The tower has become engrained into Manhattan's urban fabric, but it has also become an incredibly inefficient in how it uses energy, and a recent competition tasked designers with fixing the problem by applying a new building facade. Metals in Construction magazine has unveiled six winners of its “Reimagine a New York City Icon” competition after its jury couldn't select just one winner. Tasked with developing an "innovative and energy-efficient redesign of the façade of 200 Park Avenue," the winning teams split the $15,000 prize. The brief stipulated that designers come up with a "highly efficient envelope with the lightness and transparency sought by today’s office workforce—while preserving and enhancing the aesthetic of the building’s heritage." Prizes were given at a conference at the Times Center in New York City, preceded by talks on sustainability and retrofit facades which included panel discussion. The winning submissions are: Panam Under Glass (PDF) According to competition organizers: "Adapting the tapered form of the tower as a geometric module/motif creates a non-directional pattern across the surface of the tower – in keeping with early models and renderings which emphasized the form over the surface. Applied in a larger scale to the tower allows for maximum daylighting while the denser, smaller scale at the podium creates a more monolithic reading much closer to pedestrian level." Performance-Based Preservation (PDF) According to competition organizers: "By preserving and overcladding - instead of demolishing and recladding - our proposal reduces the building’s environmental impact by 42% over the next 50 years... On the north and south, we add a new unitized curtainwall outboard of the concrete that uses emerging materials to generate energy while dynamically controlling solar heat gain and glare. On the east and west, we bring the new envelope inboard of the concrete to highlight the materiality and plasticity of the existing skin." Thermalswitch Facade (PDF) According to competition organizers: "The Thermalswitch facade looks at hybridizing the overcladding and double skin techniques to create a unitized frame which mounts directly over the existing precast panels. The Metlife facade is constructed of a primary precast panel with integrated fins on both sides that alternates every other bay. Between these primary panels, secondary infills are set at the spandrel conditions." Harnessing Urban Energies (PDF) According to competition organizers: "In our submission for the Metals in Architecture competition, we have lowered the present annual energy consumption of the building by 80 percent, and by 74 percent as compared to the median New York City office building." Vertimeme (PDF) According to competition organizers: "Macro geometry of the curtain wall unit creates a self shading effect to reduce undesirable direct light and heat gain. The angle of the glazing is tuned to reflect solar insolation, optimize views from the building and reflect the image of the city back to the streetscape. Pre-assembled unitized aluminum curtain wall frame and assembly, stainless steel mullions, caps and grills." Farm Follows Function (PDF) Submitted as a graphic novel, "Farm Follows Function" sees Walter Gropius say "This will surely be my Finest work: A masterpiece - my crowning achievement! A multifunctional complex set in the middle of america’s metropolis..." His work is then dramatically transformed into a living tower-block farm. One passer by is shown to be saying "This elevated park is a real oasis of calm in the hubbub of midtown! with a market and even outdoor seating! awesome!"  

Rush hour construction crane collapse in Tribeca injures two, kills one

During the height of rush hour this morning, a construction crane collapsed on Worth Street between Church Street and West Broadway in Tribeca, mere blocks from AN's New York headquarters. One person is dead and three others are injured in a collapse that occurred around 8:25 AM, the FDNY reports. The collapsed crane also damaged surrounding buildings and crushed cars parked on the street. As firefighters, police, and personnel from the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) assess the scene, there is no 1 train service at Franklin and Chambers streets until further notice. The OEM notes that there will be significant gridlock surrounding the affected block.     https://twitter.com/FDNY/status/695622838988963840   Sadly, the accident today is not the first New York crane collapse in recent memory. Bay Crane, the Queens–based company that owns the crane, was also implicated in a 2015 crane collapse that injured ten people in Midtown, The New York Post reports. New York Crane and Equipment Corporation's crane collapsed on a Long Island City job in 2013, injuring seven.