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Building and construction innovations in 2014

Features | April 1, 2014 | By:

The construction industry is on the upswing, and 2013 construction starts saw an increase of 6% to $516.8 billion over 2012, according to McGraw Hill Construction (a division of McGraw Hill Financial). The industry utilizes up-to-date building methodologies, technology resources and materials, which generate prospective economic growth.

Michael Craig, a serial real estate investor, marketing expert, and real estate futurist, offers three game-changing advancements that he thinks will impact building and construction concerns in 2014 and beyond:

  1. Cargo container construction. Workers within the U.S. construction industry continuously search for methods to cut costs and provide sustainable solutions without undermining quality. Cargo container construction provides these opportunities to America’s multi-family, mixed use and commercial markets.

    Companies readily accept cargo container construction as they recognize the reported cost efficiencies, heightened profitability, and minimal build-time associated with this option. Reports estimate that cargo container construction amounts to half the cost (on average) of other building methods.

    Shipping container-based construction marries the trend of sustainable housing solutions with resolving the issue of escalating building cost. The surplus of cargo containers allows for flexible repurposing of frame residential, retail and commercial structures.

    In addition, these heavy-gauge steel structures only take a fraction of the time to build and are more energy-efficient than their counterparts. The myriad advantages of this method means that architects, contractors and individuals are increasingly seeking retired shipping containers. Travelodge built a hotel using cargo container construction methods. The builders finished the project six months early and the company was 10% under estimates requiring alternative building methods. Starbucks is building hundreds of stores across the U.S. using shipping containers. Detroit-based real estate developer Three Squared Inc. has a 20-unit, four-story condominium complex underway that spans 26,000 square feet and integrates 93 shipping containers.

  2. Building industry modeling (BIM) software. The emerging BIM process allows designers and architects to work in “5D”—a 3D model with the 4th and 5th dimension being the addition of scheduling and cost estimating, respectively.

    Using BIM, developers can employ an integrative project delivery approach to planning and design and bring together all members of the architectural, design, engineering, construction and environmental teams at the onset of a project. This team then benefits from a 3D model of the structure to see individual considerations. Clash detection capabilities seamlessly integrate input from architectural drawings, MEPS designs, constructability and interior designs into a holistic building approach.

    By seeing a project from a whole vantage point, rather than viewing a building plan as a series of silos, developers can employ a more efficient and streamlined approach to the design and construction process. Additional benefits of BIM software include reduced errors and reworks and an overall maximized project outcome with long-term savings.

  3. Insulation advancements. Insulation needs with regard to non-traditional building methods, including solar and cargo containers among others, differ greatly from customary approaches and solutions. Insulation for emerging building methods must create an easy-to-manage living environment from a thermal comfort perspective while minimizing the space utilization requirement to create a desirable effect.

    Traditional insulation does not stop the transfer of heat or cold between external environments and interior living spaces; rather, it simply delays the transfer through multiple inches of material designed to absorb hot and cold.

    New insulation, like that being manufactured by Cargolinc, repels external heat or cold. This insulation does not require factoring in the necessary 4-8 inches of insulation space that would not mitigate the condensation factor that metal runs against when facing a temperature difference between outside and inside spaces.

    Emerging insulation technologies maximize space while providing the highest form of a thermal barrier that utilizes the Bernoulli Effect—diverting heat and cold from a surface to block transfer versus attempting to simply slow down the process.

    By spraying the inside and outside of a structure with this type of product that only requires 20mm of thickness, usable living space is maximized. In addition, this process eliminates the condensation effect on metal and produces a comfortable environment even in remote locations, such as the desert and above the Arctic Circle.

    This allows scaling down HVAC systems to meet the reduced demand. All combined this lowers operating costs for building facility managers and homeowners.

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