We’re drilling down to the root of all things construction
And looking for content that is both interesting and beneficial to readers
We Look For Articles, and Text/Video or Text/Photos Combinations
That Tell Real Construction Stories
Each Type of story listed below includes an example you can see by clicking on the arrow at the side, or the dots at the bottom.
Project Faces Two Strikes, But Still Manages a Home Run
When the folks at Urban Designers imagined demolition and reconstruction of a downtown building, they were initially stumped about sequencing the phases. They faced crucial overlaps between the foundation work and tie-ins to existing utilities. The timeframes just didn’t match up or work out to meet the owner’s project timelines. They were off by almost a month. But, one contractor had an answer.
Tech To The Rescue
Kaena Construction had faced a similar challenge before and had already come up with an answer. Their people used a software product called Compressario that applied algorithms to scheduling. The program calculated hundreds of scenarios based on the available dates for demolition and utilities connections, and applied results to the expected project completion. What it found was a very small change to several activities would make the difference by delivering the project within just a week of the owner’s desired completion date.
Ooops, Yet Another Challenge
Kaena’s people got the project and put the plan in motion. But, a few things had changed since bidding, not the least of which was a move by city officials to start upgrades to utilities in the area. Suddenly, utilities connections were in jeopardy and once again threatening the project’s completion date. Kaena’s team reimagined various scenarios on activity completion dates and then fed new data to Compressario. This time, a major change to foundation phases delivered the project within five days of the owner’s desires. It also meant the team could build out the rear of the building in record time, saving budget money for some much needed lighting upgrades that would reduce the building’s operating costs.
Maurice Flappingtarp, Kaena’s project manager on the project, said that before using Compressario he had to massage the schedule for weeks, and then cross his fingers on similar complexing scheduling dilemmas. Now, he said, not only is he more confident about project outcomes but company bids are more successful too.
(This is a fictional story using fictional company names, a fictional person quoted, and fictional product name to illustrate one way to develop stories about new construction technologies.)
Cropper Sandwiches New Hotel Between a Rock and a Drop Off
It was a cold, rainy morning when Miles Dwerryhouse, superintendent for Cropper Construction, noticed a definite drop in activity outside his job trailer window. Dwerryhouse knew the signs well — the end of another project. As he stared at the clean lines of the completed hotel, his mind went back in time to the very beginnings.
It was going to be a tough one he remembered thinking, as he surveyed the tight building lot. Not a square yard to spare, a rock cliff at the rear and a drop off on the front. Plus, he was in new territory, unfamiliar with the subs and vendors. Erik Cropper, the project manager, had confided in him earlier that he almost wished he hadn’t bid it. But, the project would offer some valuable experience, and help make a name for the company in handling projects of that type. All in all they were both as excited, as they were apprehensive.
To kick it off right, Dwerryhouse took the better part of a week meeting with suppliers and subs, making sure everyone had adequate plans and an early schedule to review. Then, the team hashed out the conflicts and sticking points on the way to a workable schedule. Cropper spent a lot of time with the corporate architects fielding incoming questions from the the team so everyone understood not just the specs, but the spirit and intent of the design. Dwerryhouse spent two days before the site work began, notifying nearby residences and businesses about the project, and about a few times when noise and vibrations would be unavoidable, but brief.
The day site work started, the first order of business was stabilizing the rock face. A crew dangled from ropes, meticulously chipping out loose stones and removing rocks that weren’t solid. Day three saw crews setting concrete barriers at the base while others used a pile driver to set steel supports for architectural webbing. From that point on, the project’s tone was set for smooth sailing, mostly.
In talking about it when it was all over, Dwerryhouse said the greatest challenge was accommodating all the participants on such a small property. For example, if everyone came to work in their own vehicle, there wouldn’t have been room to build. So, early on, he and the crew leaders worked out a schedule to bus workers in from a nearby park and ride. He said they also had to arrange container storage offsite for the trades to use because they were buying materials in bulk, and there wan’t enough room for on site storage. In thinking back, Dwerryhouse says he’s pleased with how it all worked out, and feels pride about overseeing the construction of such a unique hotel.
The Torino Modesta Inn, designed by Blanche and Associates, is a one-of-a kind business class hotel with a touch of glamor. Each room is juxtaposed to the next so they all have private views of the surrounding countryside, and ocean in the distance. The natural rock interior walls, waterfalls and covered stream meandering through the reception and dining areas brings the outside in, and adds to the tranquil interior design. The restaurant serves chef-inspired fare while the lounge features nightly entertainment.
(This is all fiction, including the names.)
Use Better Estimates and Better Schedules to Tame Costs
If you want to tame rising costs then do it with better estimating and better scheduling. When you estimate, account for materials and labor costs increases by looking at the historical record and the current cost growth. Popular sources include the Engineering News Record Construction Cost Index, Building Costs Index and Materials Costs Index. Turner Construction Company publishes the Turner Building Cost Index and the Census Bureau puts out detailed Producer Price Indexes.
You can also follow some best practices to increase estimating accuracy and make project costs more predictable. First, make sure to have qualified and trained people doing the estimates. To make up for changes, incorporate a process where any scope revisions go through approvals. And, you should always assess estimate accuracy.
Other strategies to consider:
- Factor in scope change so you have mapped out options in advance
- Allow enough estimating time
- Use 100% bid documents
- Involve a cost consultant
- Revise estimates as the scope changes
Strategies for better scheduling:
- Carefully review the work breakdown structure to make sure you haven’t missed a step
- Check for successor activities without predecessors
- Check for inappropriate lead and lag times
- Firm up third party dependencies so you have more certainty
- Collaborate with all participants on the final schedule
Control labor costs by first employing high quality labor, and taking care of them:
- Compensate adequately
- Pay on time
- Know your people, and their aspirations, and make sure they have ongoing training and the best tools you can afford
- Help people understand their promotion path
Marvalux Windows Defeat the Cold North Wind
Owner Gord Permelia knew his new warehouse would need some extra special attention when selecting glazing. Topping the list was of course, durability, but aesthetics were also important since he saw the warehouse as having multiple uses. He needed to please as many potential types of tenants as possible.
The folks at Permelia's architects, Malandra Industrial, decided to enliven the east face of the building with casements to take advantage of morning light and the views to suburbia. But, the northern exposure was a special problem because of the vast flat land offering no wind breaks to the fierce northern cold. Here, they might have settled for no windows at all, but they had a better idea. They scheduled Marvalux triple pane clerestories set just below the top plate to allow plenty of light without massive heat loss.
Wilmert Construction's crew, the contractor on the job, had set clerestory windows many times, but the detailing in this case was unique. Each window would step down along the gable end, staying horizontal to the ground. Wilmert's folks created a pattern out of angle iron to use when laying out the framing that would support the windows.The technique worked wonders in keeping labor costs and material waste down. And, it sped up the process, beating the estimate by nearly a day.
Permelia says the windows are performing as expected and by using heavy shades on timers during the nighttime the installation is highly efficient. [The visual support for this type of article might include architectural drawings of not just the building and elevation, but maybe also of the special model the contractor used for installing the windows. Window details would also fit.]
What's above is all fiction, but yours shouldn't be.
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