Loraine Elyse DeBelser, AIA Technical Director - AE Content

Loraine Elyse DeBelser, AIA
GRS | Corteq Technical Director – AE Content

Here is the second part about my experience at the annual American Institute of Architects expo in Atlanta. You can read the first part here.

In this installment I would like to address how building metrics have become a hot issue for municipalities, among others.

Smart Cities: Resilience, Adaptation and EcoDistricts:  Cities are collecting data of ALL types about all of their buildings. The BIM (Building Information Modeling) documents are going directly into municipal databases, as well as wind and energy modeling. Localized micro-districts are being created with very localized wind, water supply, energy and flood zone data; particularly as extreme weather events and drought are becoming facts of life. Municipalities are no longer waiting for state or federal governments to get on board with climate change preparation, but are preparing their own individual plans for resiliency to extreme weather, and energy reduction right now.

In the next three to five years, municipal research will likely include reporting on how a building complies with the localized codes of its eco-district for water use, energy and impact on transportation.

What does this mean for GRS Group and its clients? We may be asked to comment on the potential resiliency in expectation of extreme-weather events. This is not the future.  It’s taking place in some major metros right now; and it will likely become EXTREMELY important to our clients as the reality of sea-level rise and extreme weather is recognized.

Florida is already planning for inundation of low-lying areas, the resultant real estate losses and the potential valuation losses/crashes that are inevitable at that point. The City of Miami is already making plans but trying not to scare off the real estate industry. Expect very big economic changes to coastal properties within the next five to 10 years as lenders, insurers and buyers cannot be found.

A couple other topics that especially stood out to us:

Construction Contract Administration:  This group discussion was sponsored by the AIA practice group for contract administration documents.  The focus was on how these documents are being used in the changing construction process. Strong indications that projects are being split between those that use BIM and Integrated Project Delivery (where designers, contractors and owners are all at risk and share the profit pool), and those who are still “doing it the old-fashioned way”.  There will be a strong uptake of BIM on the coasts, but not so much in the middle of the country.

Creativity Meets Science: Improving Performance Predictability Through Evidence Based Management:  This session was the best!  It was led by a team from Disney Imagineering, including the head of all Disney construction, and two consultants. The importance of transparency and metrics were highlighted—as well as the need to bring in the right people, tools, implementation and integration of process.  The most important take away is that efficiency, transparency, collaboration—and a spirit that “we are all in this together”—is getting their projects done better and more efficiently at a lower cost.  Here is a great video from 2011, showing how building technology, and this spirit of collaboration, have been helping to create “Disney magic” for years.

This reminds me a lot about our company philosophy and values at GRS Group—and why I love my work!

Disney Imagineering is fanatical about measuring the parts of a project or process, even down to measuring time spent and how people feel coming out of a meeting.  Now that they are using BIM, they are finding that their meetings are tightly focused, getting more decisions made in a shorter amount of time. Transparency extends to creating full-sized 3-D walk-through virtual models of their hotels, and bringing in housekeeping and chef staff to explore the image and make adjustments on the front end. It seems like an insurmountable amount of up-front investment of time and resources, but once it’s done, tiny changes equal multiples of that investment in efficiencies and savings.  In fact, The American Institute of Architects recently presented its Technology in Architectural Practice Award to Walt Disney Imagineering for its successful implementation of Building Information Modeling, the process of generating and managing digital representations of structures and facilities.

Interesting stat: Construction is the ONLY non-farm activity in the US whose productivity has flatlined since 1963. Disney is now going modular (steel-concrete prefab of rooms and bathrooms) with all of their hotel construction, recognizing huge gains in productivity of construction. It was a very interesting and informative session.

What do you think about all the dynamics and changes in development technology and process?