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Building

Understanding Green Building, LEED Certification… And Their Risks

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Outline

  1. Introduction to Green Building Projects
  2. LEED Certification
  3. Building Systems, Techniques & Strategies
  4. Costs
  5. Risks
  6. Claims & Litigation Case Studies
  7. Deep Thoughts
  8. Codes & Standards
  9. Research & Links

1. Introduction to Green Building Projects

This is a brief introduction to the design, construction, maintenance, and management of Green Building projects, which are sometimes also referred to as “sustainable”, “high-performance”, or “passive.”

“Green Building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.” (Wikipedia)

The intention of Green Building is to reduce the environmental impact of building projects by:

  • Lowering energy and water use;
  • Using environmentally preferable materials;
  • Increasing durability, which allows buildings to last longer before requiring rehabilitation or replacement, which saves resources over the building lifecycle;
  • Reducing waste during construction and operation & maintenance;
  • Reducing toxins;
  • Improving the indoor environment for occupants, including air quality (IAQ); and
  • Creating neighborhoods designed to lower environmental impact and improve human health.

The point is that buildings consume something like 40% of the energy we use, and making buildings more resource-consumption-efficient in every way, including during constructing, using, repurposing, and even decommissioning, is a good thing.

Green Building is about more than design and construction. Maintenance and management of Green Building projects is, arguably, more important than the design and construction process since the total cost of ownership (TCO) of building projects and facilities over time is always many times the cost of design and construction. The Green Building movement recognizes that facility and property managers require extensive training in making the investments in Green Building design and construction worth any additional expense on the front end.

There are many available Green, Sustainable, High-Performance, or passive building certifications. The most popular in the U.S. is from U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, commonly referred to as LEED.

2. LEED Certification

“Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of Green Buildings which was Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council." (Wikipedia)

The LEED rating system is owned by U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which began in 1993 and is now an organization with more than $60 million in annual revenue, 200,000 LEED certified individuals, 92,000 total projects, 39,000 certified projects, 1.6 million registered or certified homes, 6,000 certified schools, 2,900 certified local government buildings, and 1,000 certified state government buildings. A division of USGBC is Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which administers LEED, performing third-party technical reviews and verification of LEED-registered projects including technical reviews to ensure the building certification process meets the highest levels of quality and integrity.

LEED Professional Accreditations

  • LEED Green Associate requires the candidate to study and take a test.
  • LEED AP (Accredited Professional) requires the candidate to study and take a harder test. 
  • LEED Fellow requires the candidate to show at least 10 years of exemplary impact with LEED, be nominated by a LEED professional, and have a team of endorsers who will write about the candidate’s contributions.

LEED Certification Levels for Building Projects

  1. Certified: 40-49 points.
  2. Silver: 50-59 points.
  3. Gold: 60-79 points.
  4. Platinum: 80-110

3. Building Systems, Techniques & Strategies

LEED Certification Prerequisites

  1. Sustainable Sites: Construction Activity Pollution Prevention
  2. Water Efficiency
    1. Outdoor Water Use Reduction
    2. Indoor Water Use Reduction
    3. Building-Level Water Metering
  3.  Energy and Atmosphere
    1. Fundamental Commissioning and Verification: USGBC and the LEED certification materials use the term “Commissioning” (Cx) to describe a quality assurance (QA) process, to ensure the plan for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and renewable energy systems and assemblies that is submitted to USGBC for certification is executed in the field.
    2. Minimum Energy Performance: There are multiple paths to ensuring the energy performance designs will meet current standards from ASHRAE and other specified standards.
    3. Building-Level Energy Metering
    4. Fundamental Refrigerant Management: Don’t use chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-based refrigerants… Phase-out existing use.
  4.  Materials and Resources
    1. Storage and Collection of Recyclables
    2. Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning
  5. Indoor Environmental Quality
    1. Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance: Meet minimum requirements for ventilation and monitoring.
    2. Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control: Prohibit smoking in or within 25 feet of the building.

LEED Certification Points for Building Projects (110 points total)

The outline here is from the LEED v4 Checklist

  1. Integrative Process (1 point) Think hard and analyze the energy and water-related systems from the earliest phase of design, including to inform the owner’s project requirements (OPR) and basis of design (BOD).
  2. Location and Transportation / Neighborhood Development (16 points) “To avoid development on inappropriate sites. To reduce vehicle distance traveled. To enhance livability and improve human health by encouraging daily physical activity.” Points are given for promoting aspects of the objective.
  3. Sustainable Sites (10 points) Assess the site before the design using a structured process and consider strategies including: Protect or Restore Habitat, Open Space, Rainwater Management, Heat Island Reduction (i.e. avoid giant, uncovered asphalt parking lots), and Light Pollution Reduction.
  4. Water Efficiency (11 points) While indoor and outdoor water use reduction and metering are prerequisites, points can be earned for low or zero irrigation designs, calculated savings of indoor water use from 25-50%, and management of cooling tower (HVAC system) water use.
  5. Energy and Atmosphere (33 points)
    1. In addition to having the longest list of prerequisites (see above), this category has the most point-value. The section mixes both energy savings with quality control (“Commissioning”); surely due to haw closely connected the two are.
    2. “Enhanced Commissioning”, a more complete and intensive QA / QC process, must be performed by a third party Commissioning Authority (CxA), and to receive maximum points the building envelope must be part of the commissioning plan and process, in addition to the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and renewable energy systems and assemblies required in the prerequisites.
    3. Energy related points can be earned for Optimizing Energy Performance even further than the minimum standards, Advanced Energy Metering, Demand Response through load shedding or shifting, Renewable Energy Production (like solar), Enhanced Refrigerant Management and Green Power and Carbon Offsets where 50-100% of energy use comes from a green source.
  6. Materials and Resources (13 points) In addition to the prerequisites, consideration should be given to Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction (reuse of existing buildings or materials), Building Product Disclosure and Optimization - Environmental Product Declarations including the Sourcing of Raw Materials and Material Ingredients, and Construction and Demolition Waste Management.
  7. Indoor Environmental Quality (16 points) In addition to the prerequisites, design consideration should be given to Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies (like enhanced ventilation and contamination prevention), Low-Emitting Materials, composition and execution of a Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan, Indoor Air Quality Assessment, Thermal Comfort considerations, Interior Lighting strategies to promote comfort and well being by offering controls throughout, Daylight, Quality Views, and Acoustic Performance to limit noise.
  8. Innovation (6 points) Points can be earned for Innovation using a strategy not addressed in the LEED system or exemplary measurable performance in a addressed area. There is also one credit available for having at least one LEED Accredited Professional on the team.
  9. Regional Priority (4 points) Specific credit can be earned for issues important to the project’s region as identified by the USGBC regional councils and chapters and articulated in database of Regional Priority credits and their geographic applicability.

4. Costs

So the “accounting” on the costs of LEED Certification are either very high level or fuzzy. And as I mention in the Deep Thoughts section below, the costs are commonly downplayed and the calculable benefits are sometimes exaggerated. The science here appears to remain very soft. And few of the studies I have found appear to be by disinterested professionals with expertise in building economics.

Sources claim a range of additional costs for LEED Certification between 0-30%. The claim of zero additional cost seems, at first blush entirely absurd; the cost of registration and compliance alone is well above zero. The more common figures suggest a range between 2.5-8.5%, depending on the level of certification. I remain skeptical. In one of my case studies, the “additional cost” of the project over a reasonable square foot cost made the project 80% more expensive than a more common facility of identical size. And if you include the cost to make the repairs, then the project cost was 155% above the cost of a common facility (not +55%, +155%!). Granted, this was also a more beautiful building project than a more common facility; and much of the cost for a building that looked the same, would have been incurred even if the Green Building design & construction techniques and requirements were removed.

I acknowledge that the rigorous process that LEED Certification imposes, to think the project through at a painstaking level of detail, can lead to innovative design that could contribute to a net savings. I look forward to additional research into the economics of Green Building. Check back for more in the months and years to come.

5. Risks

A TIGHT, "GREEN" BUILDING ENVELOPE

Energy efficiency is great! But it has its risks. The tighter building envelopes required by Green Building standards remind me of the "Sauna Exercise Suit" I remember my grandmother wearing around the house when I was a small child. She would vacuum and dust and sweat like crazy, thinking it was helping her to get more fit. She lived a long happy life, so it appears to have done her no harm, but buildings constructed of moisture sensitive materials, like engineered wood (including oriented strand board or OSB) often don't fare as well. 

The risks of building problems increases for Green Construction projects due to:

  • More complex building envelope
  • Use of new material technologies
  • High performance and more complex mechanical systems
  • Additional warranty requirements
  • Increased performance targets

Problems That Could Be Caused by LEED Certification

  • LEED standards can end up forcing a dramatic increase in building system complexity.
  • These standards are being built as we go along and they are changing the built environment faster than our understanding.
  • In some cases these requirements are adding costs, which causes stress to the economic viability of projects.
  • These LEED Certification requirements do not address the costs compared to the potential benefits.

From a Zurich document outlining the risks of Green Building, 5 categories of risk include…

  1. Financial risks: The additional costs of Green Buildings may affect completing projects on time and on budget, but must be weighed against the cost of not going green.
  2. Standard of Care/Legal: Mandates regarding LEED certification bring an increased risk of legal liability for Green Building design and construction professionals.
  3. Performance: Project owners/developers are starting to require additional contract provisions and warranties regarding the energy efficiency of Green Buildings, causing increased exposure to potential liability for breach of contract or warranty.
  4. Consultants/Subconsultants and Subcontractors: Lack of experience by these parties in green construction can lead to problems obtaining LEED certification, delays and improper material specifications.
  5. Regulatory: New building codes and mandates associated with green construction can mean an increased liability to everyone involved in the green construction process.

The Construction Defect Litigation Business Model

It seems to me that “the construction defect litigation business model” came about because (1.) construction is complex, (2.) no construction project is perfect, (3.) most construction contracts have indemnity agreements, (4.) common commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policies have a duty to defend the insured when sued, and (5.) plaintiff attorneys are very clever and assertive. So considering this, I have said things similar to the following, many times, related to new advances in technology: If I were unscrupulous and did not love the construction industry, I would put together a team of plaintiff-oriented attorneys and experts, I would comb through the LEED Certification Database, I would plan and execute a marketing campaign to find every project that had even the most mildly disgruntled LEED project Owners, and I would encourage them to get involved in construction defect litigation using our team. It seems to me that the LEED certification database is the best marketing list possible for sophisticated plaintiff construction defect lawyers. 

Also see The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in the Deep Thoughts section below.

6. Claims & Litigation Case Studies

PFCS Projects

  1. A “Net Zero” Educational Facility Gets A Big Repair: Defects introduced during construction, plus operational problems lead to repairs totaling more than 40% of construction cost.
  2. Leak Investigation Involving Solar Panel Installation: A national solar system manufacturer / installer litigated with a homeowner who had multiple leak sources.
  3. A Hygrothermal Study Leads to Pre-Litigation Resolution: An elegant solution to a divisive and expensive issue, allegedly related to condensation, is resolved using building science, which then leads to resolution of all remaining construction defect allegations, prior to filing of a lawsuit.

Litigation From Around the Country

  1. Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Inc. et al. v. Weyerhaeuser Company:
  2. Southern Builders v. Shaw Development:
  3. Gidumal v. Site 16/17 Development LLC:
  4. Flincto Pacific Inc. v. City of Palo Alto (2014)
  5. Burchick Construction Company, Inc. v. Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
  6. Hampton Technologies, Inc. v. Department of General Services (2011)

7. Deep Thoughts

My experience and research lead me to the following conclusions.

The Good

  • 1. The hard-thinking that is forced by Green Building principles generally, and LEED certification specifically, during the design phase, is wonderful in many ways: Environmental protection, lower energy use, human health and well-being, and on and on.
  • 2. The potential for the process to transform the built environment through the integrative approach, rather than the more traditional focus primarily on esthetics and economics or return-on-investment (ROI), is exciting.
  • 3. The requirement for “Fundamental Commissioning” is something that every building owner should require as a minimum quality control function.
  • 4. Enhanced Commissioning should be a model for a superior level of quality control throughout the building industry.

The Bad

  • 5. LEED certification can cause an explosion of building system complexity during design & construction as well as operation & maintenance.
  • 6. Increased complexity in building systems increases costs.
  • 7. Increased complexity in building systems increases risk of building system failure.
  • 8. There is no built-in cost-benefit analysis mechanism, and surely no requirement therefore, built into most of the Green Building standards, including LEED.

The Ugly

  • 9. The costs of Green Building and LEED are commonly down-played.
  • 10. The quantifiable benefits of Green Building and LEED are commonly exaggerated.
  • 11. Case studies of Green Building project failures are limited.
  • 12. Costs for operation & maintenance (O&M) for the more complex mechanical systems appear to not have been closely studied.
  • 13. Ultimately, additional costs of Green Building and LEED Certification are being passed to the people who can least afford it (low-income individuals and families).

8. Codes & Standards

  1. IBC International Building Code
  2. IgBC International Green Building Code
  3. CBC California Building Code
  4. LEED / USGBC
  5. ASHRAE Guideline 0–2005
  6. ASHRAE Guideline 1.1–2007
  7. CA 2008 Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan
  8. CA 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards
  9. CA Green Building Code: 2013 edition went into effect 1/1/2014. 2016 edition went into effect 1/1/2017. PDF Copy of CA Green Building Code 2013 edition.
  10. U.S. Department of Energy

9. Research & Links

We have a not-so-scientific research method that generally yields some amazing results. It's called PFCS Proving The Obvious Using Google Method. I began by searching "Green Building Summary" and received these results

Search Results "Green Building Summary"

  1. Green Building From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Summary of Green Building Programs by National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center, Inc
  3. EPA's Web Archive on Green Building
  4. Energy-Efficiency Standards and Green Building Certification Systems Used by the Department of Defense for Military Construction and Major Renovations (2013)
  5. A Green Building Overview by HGTV
  6. ASSESSING GREEN BUILDINGS FOR SUSTAINABLE CITIES from The 2005 World Sustainable Building Conference, Tokyo, 2005  
  7. What is a Green Building? by Sunpower
  8. GREEN BUILDING STANDARDS AND CERTIFICATION SYSTEMS from Whole Building Design Guide
  9. LEED Cost Analysis Summary by Green Building Solutions
  10. WHAT IS A “GREEN” BUILDING ACCORDING TO DIFFERENT ASSESSMENT TOOLS? from Department of Technology and Built Environment, University of Gävle, Sweden

Search Results "Costs of LEED Certification"

Coming Soon

OTHER INTERESTING RESOURCES

  • PFCS Case Study: Plumbing Leaks in High-Rise Condo. Complex investigations require development and testing of hypotheses. This is an example.  
  • Green Building: What are the Risks? 2011 document by Zurich Insurance 
  • California Becomes First State to Order Solar on New Homes (Bloomberg): In May 2018 the California Energy Commission decided that most new homes and and multifamily units under 4-stories built after 2019 will be required to include solar systems. They estimated the systems and complying with energy-efficiency measures will add $9,500 to the cost of a new home, which would be offset by $19,000 in energy and maintenance savings over 30 years. California is already the nation’s largest solar market and Governor Jerry Brown’s has an effort underway to slash carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. This will exacerbate the issue of high housing costs, seen as a drag on the economy and contributes to rising social tensions. The state only adds about 80,000 new homes a year, and the state issued permits for fewer than 480,000 new residential units in the last 5 years, yet California’s economy added 2.3 million jobs over the same period, which is about one home for every five additional workers.
  • Hidden Risks of Green Buildings from RCI's Interface Magazine 

Contracting 101

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Explain It Simply

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." - Albert Einstein

The building industry is terrible at explaining how it does what it does. And this is coming from a guy who has a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management! It’s so bad that I was once working on a construction litigation matter and needed the most basic of organizational charts to explain to a jury the most common roles, relationships, and responsibilities of the various parties involved in a typical construction project; but there was none to be found. I would have loved to have had a reliable source like American Institute of Constructors, The Construction Specifications Institute, the American Institute of Architects, or some similar organization to rely on, to tell my story to the jury. I searched and searched and there was just nothing simple enough to use for a group of people with no construction experience. Everything was overly complex, attempting to account for every possibility. So I locked myself in my office alone one weekend with a pile of flip-chart paper and made iteration after iteration, and finally I nailed it. That was more than a decade ago. Since that time almost every trial or arbitration I have testified in has included some version of this org chart to explain the roles of the parties to one another and to the physical work.

The Contracting 101 Framework

  1. An Owner wants a project, similar to anyone who wants to buy something, such as a car, but with a construction project the product being purchased is not something that is already built.
  2. The Owner goes to an Architect (or in some cases a non-architect designer) to translate his/her desires into a set of documents. This process is intended to “define” what the Owner wants to buy (often from a General Contractor).
  3. The Architect works with Specialty (Sub) Designers such as structural engineers, mechanical engineers and interior designers to further detail the Plans and Specifications (also referred to as Construction Documents) because buildings are so complex that many specialized professionals are required.
  4. The Plans and Specifications are sent to qualified and interested General Contractors, who submit proposals to the Owner. Ultimately the Owner and a General Contractor compose an Agreement (or Contract).
  5. An Agreement for construction is simply a promise by the Contractor to deliver what is described in the Plans, Specifications, and other contract documents, and a promise by the Owner to pay for it.
  6. The Agreement refers to the Plans & Specifications and should include clear definition of the Scope, Budget, and Schedule, including at Scope of Work document that includes: Inclusions and Exclusions, Allowances, a provision for handling Change Orders. The Agreement should include a Schedule of Values and Payment Milestones (for management of the Budget). And finally, the Agreement should include a Progress Schedule. 
  7. GCs usually hire specialty trade contractors, commonly referred to as Subcontractors when they are working for a prime (or general) contractor, who are specialists in their respective trades, to help deliver what has been promised in the Agreement. This is, again, because buildings are so complex that many specialized professionals are required.
  8. There is nothing in this scheme that prohibits the Owner from directly hiring Specialty/Trade Contractors (that are called Subcontractors if they are working for a General Contractor) for work that is not in the Scope of Work in the Agreement with the GC. In this situation they are Prime Trade Contractors.
  9. Most of the Subcontractors, and Prime Trade Contractors, have their own suppliers and subcontractors: these are called Sub-Subcontractors. (See diagram below)
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Using the Contracting 101 Framework

So the point of the Contracting 101 Framework is to foster understanding of the project at hand. Begin by printing the diagrams above and writing the names of the project players over the generic descriptions. Virtually every project will be different than the Contracting 101 Framework, so you might have to compose multiple iterations, moving the boxes around to fit the peculiarities of your project. I often do this in my office where we have multiple whiteboards and I move back and forth from one to the next until I get my organizational chart to accurately reflect the complexity of the roles and relationships of the current situation. The "compare and contrast," from the simple "Contracting 101 Framework," to the complexity of the real world, is often incredibly instructive. 

Sample Project: Custom Single Family Residence

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This project was a train wreck. 

The Architecture firm and the General Contracting firm were both owned by the same person, but the Owner did not know that (which is unethical and illegal without following strict consent laws). By the time the Owner tried to get control of the project, the two firms had taken $3.5 million dollars to turn a $2.9 million home (initial purchase cost) into a lumber pile. The contract called for distinct design phases but the design was never finished, and it called for the Architect to serve as the Construction Administrator (Owner Representative), but that was a sham since the entities are so closely related and have employees who work for both businesses. The construction work, based on an incomplete design, was executed negligently at inflated prices. The construction work onsite should have been halted long before it was. When the Owners finally asked for a legitimate halt to the construction work, to sort our a plan to go forward, both entities terminated the agreements (using the same lawyer) and engaged in a scorched-earth litigation policy that ensured the maximum economic damage possible from this terrible situation.

Sample Project: Construction Site Accident

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Above is a slide from a 2010 trial presentation. This case came precariously close to trial. 

The project was a four story 445-unit apartment community. The property Owner was also the developer. The General Contractor entered into a cost-plus prime contract with Owner. The General Contractor entered into an agreement with the Plastering Contractor for $6.5 million. When asked by the General Contractor to perform scaffolding work outside their scope, the Plastering Contractor contracted with a specialty Scaffolding Contractor to furnish a system to access the interior walls of the air shafts at the project. So the key parties included the Owner, General Contractor, Subcontractor (plaster), Sub-Subcontractor (scaffolding), and all of their respective staff. 

The injured individual was the crew lead for the Sub-Subcontractor. That day he was part of a three-man crew setting up scaffolding in an air shaft of one of the buildings. The crew was removing the temporary wood flooring previously installed by another subcontractor and the injured employee fell approximately 35 feet to the concrete floor below. 

Sample Project: Claim for Nonpayment / Counter Claims for Defects & Delays

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This project was the complete renovation of a commercial retail center. The Owner entered into a direct contract with our client, a Paving Company, as well as many other contracts with prime and trade contractors. The Owner had an independent contractor, who was a formerly licensed general contractor, on-site as a supervisor. Our client's initial complaint and mechanics lien were filed to collect $282,400 in work performed. The Owner cross-complained that the work was not completed in the 30-day agreed time limit, that some items were not completed ever, that some work was performed that was outside the contract scope of work (all of which had very sensible explanations).

The primary argument the Owner / Developer was trying to make was that they were NOT playing the role traditionally played by a general contractor or construction manager (which was RIDICULOUS). The Contracting 101 / Roles & Responsibilities Analysis PFCS performed in this matter, particularly the organizational chart above, made their argument seem silly (because it was). 

Sample Project: Condominium Conversion

This project arose from construction defect allegations related to the conversion of a 32 unit apartment complex originally built in 1975 into condominiums. The Developer/Converter purchased the 32 unit apartment complex and almost immediately began the conversion to a condominium complex utilizing a Specialty General Contractor (our client) and many other other contractors. Plaintiff alleged that the Specialty General Contractor's scope included defective work. Our client was a general contractor who, according to invoices, performed property maintenance, repair and improvement work related to the conversion including demolition, work in garages, on balconies, stucco, fences/gates, finish carpentry, doors, and electrical totalling $186,165.00.

One of the key allegations was that our client was THE General Contractor, which was not the case. You will see from reading two and a half pages from the 56 page report that our Roles & Responsibilities analysis made clear that the Owner/Developer was in the drivers seat for all important decisions on this project. 

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A Sensible List

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The rumors are true. I am a crazy person. Anyone who knows our company knows that we are REALLY into training. And this training module, called "A Sensible List," has been included in more of our training programs than any other. BY FAR! And the reason is (as Charles Kettering said): "A problem well stated is a problem half-solved." And our job, above all else, is to solve problems. 

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So yes; I am a crazy person. Any time someone brings me a collection of data that is not first organized into A Sensible List (or some sensible order), it makes me feel sad. So sad that people who won't stop bringing me "project piles" rather than sensible project files, are invited to work somewhere else, where they might better thrive. 

But people protest: "'Sensible' is SO subjective!" 

No it's not.

Organizing our world "sensibly" has been obvious since the dawn of civilization, and ultimately research psychologists figured out why. When you get bored or need a sleep aid, read "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two." This is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology. It was published in 1956 and argues that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. This is why SO many things are arranged in groups of 5-9. It's not a miracle. It's just how humans think. 

So over time the folks who manage big, complex projects made some rules about making lists that conform with the way the human mind works, and they called their Sensible List a "Work Breakdown Structure." I highly recommend you study the subject, even further than I will go in this post. 

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As it says on the slide above, I highly recommend you Google (search) each of these Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) terms. Until then, take my word for the following: 

  1. A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a decomposition of a project into smaller components.

  2. 100% Rule: This means your list needs to add up to 100% of whatever it's summarizing. Not 99%. Not 101%.

  3. The magical number seven, plus or minus two: In general, each level of the WBS should be no more than 9 items long. In construction cost estimating, this rule gets broken. It's OK in this circumstance because most of the audience for construction cost estimates are people who deal with them often and can conceptualize these longer lists due to this familiarity. But any time we can't get the list on a single sheet of paper, we should usually "chunk" it down to size. At PFCS we usually arrange our WBSs using numbers at Level 1 (L1) and capital letters (A, B, C...) at Level 2 (L2). That way, if you get past Z at L2, you know you're in trouble and should consider re-thinking your list. 

  4. Mutually Exclusive Elements: In addition to the 100% rule, it's important that there is no overlap in scope definition between different elements of a work breakdown structure because this ambiguity could result in duplicated work. But sometimes an element of your list could fall naturally in two locations on the WBS, so from time to time we have a "zero value" item that refers to another element, just so everyone is clear. An example of this might be if we decided to sort documents first by "Who," then chronologically, where the name of the person or organization (Who) = L1 and the individual documents, that are listed in order by date, are each a L2 item (a common organizational scheme). If a document in this collection was authored by two parties we might list that document in both places (under both names), but refer from one of those items to the other so that we don't need to duplicate the document. 

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So the only thing I don't like about the diagram above is that they call the entire bike "WBS Level 1". Bit it's NOT broken down yet! So I call their "WBS Level 2," a Level-1 WBS because it's the first level of breakdown. It's a sensible 100% list. That is: A Sensible List. 

The PFCS Standard WBS numbering-lettering scheme for this example would be: 

1. Frame Set

A. Frame

B. Handlebar

C. Fork

D. Seat

2. Crank Set

A... 

The numbering scheme used in the slide above is appropriate for highly technical documents, like codes and standards. But our work at PFCS needs to be consumed and understood by smart but NOT technical people. Literally, our job is to help our clients make smart, informed decisions about buildings and property, and we know that if they don't understand our work, then we have not served them well. My experience is that some people get confused when you refer to section 1403.2.2.4. So we prefer an approach that is as simple as possible (but no simpler), conforming with the way humans best understand things. 

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If you've studied project management then you know "The Golden Triangle" includes the project "Scope, Budget, and Schedule." These are the big three aspects of getting a complex project planned and done.

In addition, if we layout our WBS just right, then we can manage all three aspects in lock-step, as depicted (in a simplified way) below. 

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“No plan can be considered complete - or satisfactory - until it produces measurable outcomes and incorporates mechanisms that allow mid-course corrections based on results.” - Judith Rodin

That is my favorite management quote (well... I have lots of favorite quotes :). It's so true! Most people's plans are more "hopes" than plans. I have worked on many projects in litigation, where the owners had no idea how far over budget they were until they had already paid MORE than 100% of the original contract price, because the plan did not "incorporates mechanisms that allow mid-course corrections based on results." I had a mentor who used to say to me "Pete: Hope is not a strategy." I would always retort: Yes it is! It's just a terrible one!! I recommend you NOT use hope as a strategy in your planning. 

As you can see from the slide above, with the right WBS (Sensible List) we can summarize the scope, budget and schedule, then we can compare actual performance compared to the plan throughout the life of the project, so that we can "incorporate mechanisms that allow mid-course corrections based on results." This is the promise of professional project management. And the foundation of project management is a well designed WBS. And a well designed WBS is the most Sensible List. 

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In a construction project it's not only the scope, budget, and schedule that should be connected using A Sensible List (WBS). Most construction documents will either be organized or filed using the Sensible List (WBS). Often this is simply by Who, then When; that is, by party (name) and then chronologically (by date). That would be a 2-Level WBS (who-when). Other schemes go another level deep. 

An example 3-Level WBS for Construction Document Organization: 

1. Name 1

A. Contract Documents

1. YEAR-MO-DY Document 1

2. YEAR-MO-DY Document 2

3. YEAR-MO-DY Document 3 

B. RFIs and Change Orders

C. All Other

D. Correspondence

1. YEAR-MO-DY Document 1

2. YEAR-MO-DY Document 2

2. Name 2

By the way: If we adhere to this scheme electronically, with individual electronic files organized with the date first and the format of the date YEAR-MO-DY, or 2017-10-20 for today's date, then we always know the most current version of any electronic file is the one at the bottom. Any other scheme adds complexity, which adds the likelihood of error. Even if the file has lots of different files, you can easily scan from the bottom to find the most recent version of a file (Ex. 2017-10-20 Change Order 17). So I highly recommend this scheme. 

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And the same goes for construction claim and litigation matters: A Sensible List often makes the difference between order and chaos. 

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I said above that people protest that "'Sensible' is SO subjective!" And that I totally disagree. This is not to say there is only one way to be "sensible." There are lots of ways to be sensible... And even more ways to be NOT sensible. So suffice it to say: Use one of the sensible ways. Think about how your Sensible List might get used before you begin, and work backward. Planning backward from a successful end is the essence of excellent planning. 

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When PFCS is making lists of building elements, we use Uniformat, unless there is a compelling reason to use some other scheme *. "UniFormat is a standard for classifying building specifications, cost estimating, and cost analysis in the U.S. and Canada. The elements are major components common to most buildings. The system can be used to provide consistency in the economic evaluation of building projects. It was developed through an industry and government consensus and has been widely accepted as an ASTM standard."

Lots of construction professionals use CSI Masterformat because most specifications manuals from architects are often written using this scheme, but since PFCS does so much building performance analysis, and we store building data (forever, for free) Uniformat is a better standard for us. 

* In claims and litigation, we need to be very careful about making our Sensible List(s) because so much of the work is about comparing and contrasting. If we are on the plaintiff side, then all the other parties will likely use our list to respond to our claims. When we are on the defense side, and someone else has created a reasonably sensible list, then it's usually better to adopt their's, rather than re-inventing the wheel. Unfortunately, the work of others is sometimes so poor that we have to create our own organizational scheme. But we only do this as a last resort. 

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Unifromat's Level-1 structure is a simple, Sensible List that categorizes all aspects of any building project, using capitol letters at Level 1 (because there are WAY more than 26 Level 2 options, and they wisely switch from letters to numbers when going from L1 to L2): 

A. Substructure

B. Superstructure

C. Interiors

D. Services

E. Equipment & Furnishings

F. Special Construction & Demolition

G. Building Site work

H. Other (This is added by PFCS because lots of our projects are in litigation and the issues don't always fit into Uniformat's building element codes. 

The actual building elements nest comfortably at Level 2 under the respective L1 categories. 

Slide12.PNG

In lots of what we do, we explain things by "working from large to small." I have explained this hundreds of times by asking people if they ever used Google Earth, where you start with an image of the entire Earth. You type in your address and the globe turns to orient toward your hemisphere, then it starts moving in toward your continent, then the your country, then your state, county, city, neighborhood, and ultimately your rooftop. And in going from large to small way we have been oriented perfectly to where in the world we are. First explain the forest we are in, then talk about trees. 

So buildings are, for the sake of consistency in naming, composed of "Elements" like foundations, walls and roofs. A "masonry wall" is a particular type of building element (at Level 2 in Uniformat). The bricks and mortar are "Components" of that building element, that would be at Level 3 or deeper. 

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This project was a Property Condition Assessment for twin high-rise condominiums, so virtually all of the building elements were addressed in our report. 

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This project was a construction defect litigation matter with discrete problems and repairs for all of those issues. 

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Even our Core Values are laid out in a 2-Level Work Breakdown structure! 

And from there, so, so many of the things we do have to be arranged in a sensible list: 

Contractor Pre-qualification Checklist

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Introduction

Background checks are necessary. There is a reason you are screened before buying a car, a gun, or getting hired for a prestigious new job. Pre-qualifying contractors and subcontractors is one of the most important steps in reducing risk associated with construction projects. A system needs to be put in place along the lines of what is expected of a contractor in order to make sure they can handle the work you want them to do.

At PFCS we have found that pre-qualifying contractors is an important step in our own unique system for hiring. In a blog post called "Avoid Bad Contractors: Basic Due Diligence in Hiring," Pete Fowler outlined 17 crucial steps in order to hire a good contractor. Pre-qualification falls on number 8. It is such an important step that it has seven sub-steps for ensuring the pre-qualification process is done thoroughly.

The following is a checklist compiled by FIRST, VERIFY that details the important steps in pre-qualifying a contractor.

The Checklist

Business

  • Business Attributes
  • Corporate Officers and/or Shareholders/Partners/Proprietor
  • Parent, Affiliate, and/or Subsidiary Companies
  • Employees
  • Operations
  • Equipment
  • Litigation/Bankruptcy/Judgments

Insurance

  • Contact for Insurance Information
  • Insurance Information
  • Surety Relations

Financial

  • Job History
  • Largest Contracts
  • Capacity
  • Anticipated Annual Volume

References

  • Banking Relations
  • List three (3) major suppliers
  • List three (3) General Contractors for whom you have worked in the last three (3) years

Bidding Interests

  • Add Bidding Interests

Safety Statistics

  • Experience Modification Rating
  • Workers Compensation
  • OSHA Recordkeeping
  • Safety Performance History
  • Regulatory

Safety Programs & Procedures

  • Written Safety and Health Program
  • Written Safety Program Administrative Procedures
  • Site-Specific Safety Plan
  • Policies
  • Substance Abuse Policy
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Management
  • Utilize Services
  • Medical
  • Benefits
  • Accident Investigation Procedure
  • Safety Inspections
  • PPE, Equipment Inspections, Audits
  • Meetings
  • Subcontractors
  • Safety Training/Orientation
  • Training Records
  • Safety Orientation Program for Newly Hired or Promoted Foremen/Supervisors
  • OSHA Construction Safety Courses
  • Craft Training
  • Comprehension

Supporting Documents

  • Certificate of Insurance
  • OSHA 300 log
  • NCCI Letter (EMR)
  • Contractor General Conditions Agreement
  • Other Desired Documents  

Understanding & Evaluating Construction Estimates

Introduction

On Thursday, November 10th, 2016 at 10 a.m., Jordan Scott & Mike Villalba presented Understanding & Evaluating Construction Estimates. This program is for everyone who deals with buildings or construction (and that's a LOT of people). Construction projects are VERY expensive (most people spend 20-50% of their income just on the building they live in), and yet so few people have the skill to analyze the fairness and value of construction costs. Therefore, being able to understand, summarize and analyze construction costs is a very valuable skill that can save or make lots of money.

Construction cost estimating is a profession with specialized skills, training, education, and certifications; but it's not rocket science. And there is some math, so it's scary to a LOT of people. There are a lot of moving parts in a big construction cost estimate: designers, insurance, labor, materials, equipment, subcontractors... The list can go on and on. 

So how does a normal person without years of experience understand and evaluate an estimate? We are going to show you. Remember: Construction is not terribly difficult to understand. It's really just sticks and stones stacked neatly. What makes it hard is the complexity; the sheer number of components requires an organizational system. For Product Manufacturers, Insurers and Lawyers, it's hard for anyone to make a case that our opinions are biased.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand how to summarize a construction cost estimate.
  • Understand the basics of estimate analysis.
  • Learn what project and labor burden are.
  • Discuss the power and dangers of Xactimate.
  • Review some case studies and real world examples of construction cost estimate summary & analysis.

Program Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. How Do You Know?
  3. Detailed Analysis
  4. Burden
  5. Match Game
  6. Xactimate
  7. Conclusion

This program is approved for one hour of CLE for attorneys in California, Nevada and Oregon, and insurance adjusters registered with the California and Texas Departments of Insurance.

Avoid Bad Contractors: Basic Due Diligence in Hiring

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Introduction

We recently published a post called Who Would You Prefer As Your Contractor? So here is our method to find professional (not criminal or incompetent) Contractors or consultants. The process works for any type of hiring BTW, including doctors, lawyers, accountants... Seriously, anything. In list form, it seems like more work than it is. Jump to the bottom for an abbreviated procedure for small jobs. 

Big Picture Hiring Process

  1. We define what good performance looks like. 
  2. We identify minimum qualifications, keeping in mind that the only reliable predictor of future performance is past performance. 
  3. We find candidates and ask them if they are interested. 
  4. We negotiate the terms of a win-win performance agreement, based on our definition of what good performance looks like. 
  5. We create and follow-through on a mechanism to verify that the good performance, defined at the beginning of the process, and communicated clearly in the win-win performance agreement, is taking place. 

This applies to: 

  • Hiring a plumber to fix a leak
  • Hiring a part or full-time employee
  • Hiring an Independent Contractor to perform a specific scope of work
  • Hiring an architect to design a home
  • Hiring a contractor to build a $50 million project
  • Hiring a dentist! 
     

Hiring Procedure

  1. Outline the Scope of Work in a Sensible List.
  2. Define the Scope of Work clearly enough so the contractor knows exactly what to do and where, including material specifications and so that a third-party inspector can verify conformance with the specification.
  3. Layout a Budget and Bid Form using the Sensible List.
  4. Layout a Progress Schedule form using the Sensible List.
  5. Use a blank contract form in coordination with the Owner’s lawyer.
  6. Write a "One Minute Summary" (less than 250 words) of the project and what you're looking for.
  7. Package all of the above in an RFP (Request for Proposal), including an invitation to bid document that includes the One Minute Summary, minimum contractor requirements and qualifications, your selection process, some project images to give an idea of where and what the project is, etc.
  8. Identify and pre-qualify interested contractors, and send them the RFP Package. If you don't know any contractors, then first apply Proving the Obvious Using Google to find some, then: 
    1. Call anyone remotely connected to the contracting specialty we're looking for. Get them on the phone and:
    2. Read the One Minute Summary and ask if they offer the kind of help we're looking for. If yes:
    3. Interview them and take really good notes. Ask all the who, what, when, where, why, how, how many, and how much (8 W's) questions. If no:
    4. Ask them if they know who can help, and try to get more than one referral, if possible. Ask "Who is the best person in this field?"
    5. Repeat this from item 8.1-8.4 until you have spoken to AT LEAST 3 qualified, interested vendors. More than 3 is WAY better; up to as many as 10 because people often fail to deliver the bids they promise.
    6. Each vendor we speak with we learn something important, so after the last one we sometimes need to re-interview the earlier people before making a decision.
    7. If you are new to an area, this could take 2-4 hours but you will begin to hear the same names over and over. This is when you know you've made enough calls. It's best to keep track of how many people referred you to each of the prospective contractors. 
  9. Job walk the contractors.
  10. Accept bids only on the Bid Form and with a Progress Schedule filled in by the contractor and a list of 3 current and applicable references with contact information. 
  11. Evaluate proposals, contractors, bids and schedules.
  12. Call references and verify contractor's license and insurance.
  13. Make a hiring decision.
  14. Execute the agreement.
  15. Collect all insurance documents.
  16. Set a date for the Project Kickoff Meeting.
  17. Keep planning for project success.

Abbreviated Process to Quickly Hire a Specialty Contractor for A Small Job

  1. Write a "One Minute Summary" (less than 250 words) of the situation and what we're looking for. 
  2. Call anyone remotely connected to the specialty we're looking for. Get them on the phone and:
  3. Read the One Minute Summary and ask if they offer the kind of help we're looking for. If yes:
  4. Interview them and take really good notes. Ask all the who, what, when, where, why, how, how many, and how much (8 W's) questions. If no:
  5. Ask them if they know who can help, and try to get more than one referral, if possible. Ask "Who is the best person in this field?"
  6. Repeat this from item 2. until we have spoken to AT LEAST 3 qualified, interested people / vendors. Each one we speak with we learn something important, so after the last one we sometimes need to re-interview the earlier people before making a decision.
  7. Verify contractor's license and insurance.
  8. Review notes and make a hiring decision.
  9. Update the One Minute Summary and use it as part of the written "Agreement" (contract) with our chosen professional. Make sure the Objective is stated really clearly. For construction, you also need a detailed, written Scope of Work (too much detail for this post).
  10. Refer back to the written Agreement throughout the engagement, especially when payments are being made, to make sure the objective is being met.

Resources

Who Would You Prefer As Your Contractor?

You Might Be Surprised By My Choice

I have said this hundreds of times, and I have even testified to it once or twice: I would prefer a competent criminal contractor over an incompetent contractor. Time and again I have seen incompetent contractors cost Owners more than a criminal would ever dare to steal. 

I am working on a project now where the Owner signed a contract with a general contractor for $850,000 to construct a new home. He chose this contractor because the competing bid was $20,000 higher. Through negligence in the contracting process, negligence in the building process, and negligence in the billing and change management process, the project cost the Owner more than $1.2 million. The project changed VERY little from the time the design was completed by the architect to the time the project was completed. And yet the cost increased more than $350,000.   

So if the Owners would have chosen the other contractor for $20,000 more, they would have been FAR better off, even if he was a criminal who stole $100,000 from them at the end of the project. Think of that. I'm not kidding. 

Open Source Construction Contracts

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Are you tired of the existing methods for getting a construction contract drafted, negotiated, finalized and signed? So are we. And we think we have a solution. 

What is Open Source? 

Open Source is a development model that promotes universal access via a free license to a product's design or blueprint, and universal redistribution of that design or blueprint, including subsequent improvements to it by anyone.

Did you ever see the game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" Remember how when the contestant would "Ask the Audience," the audience was almost always right? The cleverest among us have known for a long time that "Everybody is smarter than anybody." Open Source is a technology-enabled way for us to take advantage of the wisdom of the crowd. 

Probably the most commonly used and known Open Source body of material is Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. There have been many research studies that have verified that the content is equally reliable as other scholarly sources such as Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Why Should I Care About Open Source Contracts? 

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I think the industry standard contracts that we are all using now are terribly flawed. And they are expensive. And they are cumbersome. Since Everybody is smarter than anybody, we should all get together and write a great contract. Then we can all use it on our client's behalf, for free.

In addition to a place where we can all contribute a small amount of time and get the HUGE reward of a really good construction agreement, we will also have training modules and recommendations showing how to use these awesome documents. Maybe we will even host open training forums, seminars, and webinars that will count toward continuing education requirements! 

Just imagine: Someday the Contracting 101 family of open source construction documents might be more popular than the standard form agreements that are so widely used today! You could be one of the founding members of a movement that improves contracting henceforth and forever more! 

What's Happening at Contracting 101.com?

We are getting smart people together to draft and continuously improve a family of inter-connected construction contract documents. 

These documents might include: 

  1. Owner-Owner's Representative (CM) Agreement
  2. Owner-Designer Agreement
  3. Owner-Prime Contractor Agreement & General Conditions
  4. Owner-Prime Contractor Change Order
  5. Owner Purchase Order (For purchase directly by Owner)
  6. Contractor-Subcontractor Agreement
  7. Contractor-Subcontractor Change Order
  8. Purchase Order
  9. Payment Application

How Do I Get Involved?

At this point, all you have to do is tell someone at PFCS that you want to be involved, and poof! You're involved. We will maintain a list of people who want to be involved and we will send update messages from time to time. 

Next Actions

  1. DONE Setup documents for electronic collaboration (probably Google Docs and Sheets)
  2. IN PROCESS Collect and organize what other industry standard documents (AIA, AGC, Etc.) have to say on these key subjects (sections and clauses). 
  3. IN PROCESS Get a diverse team of collaborators together including property owners & managers, developers & contractors, product manufacturers & suppliers, insurers and lawyers.
  4. Outline the first document to identify all sections and clauses. 
  5. Make another draft of the list of documents that will be included in this family of construction documents. 
  6. Start writing our own clauses. 
  7. Make a more detailed plan :)
  8. Publish our first draft document for use. 

Who Needs a Contractors License? Everyone, It Appears... Well, not quite.

Surprise! You're a contractor!!

Yes, you Mr. Interior Designer. And you too Ms. Community Manager... Wait... The community managers were saved by an exclusion added after the fact. 

In 2012 California Assembly Bill 2237 turned anyone who oversees bids for construction, on behalf of homeowners, is a contractor, and requires them to obtain a license with the CA Contractors State License Board. Then, in 2013 CA Senate Bill No. 822 clarified the term "Contractor" and "Consultant" to NOT include community managers. But the language of California Business & Professions Code Section 7026.1 remains pretty broad. 


The Law

CA B&B Code Section 7026.1.

(a) The term "contractor" includes all of the following:

...

 (2) (A) Any person, consultant to an owner-builder, firm,
association, organization, partnership, business trust, corporation,
or company, who or which undertakes, offers to undertake, purports to
have the capacity to undertake, or submits a bid to construct any
building or home improvement project, or part thereof.
 (B) For purposes of this paragraph, a consultant is a person,
other than a public agency or an owner of privately owned real
property to be improved, who meets either of the following criteria
as it relates to work performed pursuant to a home improvement
contract as defined in Section 7151.2:
 (i) Provides or oversees a bid for a construction project.
 (ii) Arranges for and sets up work schedules for contractors and
subcontractors and maintains oversight of a construction project.

...

 (b) The term "contractor" or "consultant" does not include a
common interest development manager, as defined in Section 11501, and
a common interest development manager is not required to have a
contractor's license when performing management services, as defined
in subdivision (d) of Section 11500.

Why We Care


Lots of people engage in activities related to contracting. Many are nice people with good intentions, just trying to make a living. But because they are not educated, licensed or registered and regulated after having undergone a rigorous process of verifying they have the appropriate professional knowledge and level of skill, they inadvertently cause harm to their clients. 

Construction management is hard and it’s complex. Construction management is a professional discipline that should be regulated like architecture, engineering, or even cosmetology; but it’s not. This lack of recognition, that there is a set of well-defined construction management principles, leads property owners and managers to try to save money by managing complex projects themselves. Our experience is that for maintenance, improvement or repair projects that cost $50,000 or more, our professional construction management services are cost-neutral. For projects of $100,000 or more, well-executed construction management services are a cost saver. So technically, these services can be FREE, plus a profit (I'm only half-joking)! In addition to the economics, these services create the closest thing to a guarantee of success that the construction industry can offer. 

Building Information Modeling: B.I.M. and Building Lifecycle Management (BLM)

Welcome to the third post in our series on Building Information Modeling (B.I.M.)! If you haven't read the first two posts, I encourage you to read them! The first post in this series introduces the concept of B.I.M., and the second post explains why everyone needs to care about B.I.M. For those that just need a refresher, here’s a recap of what we covered in the last post:

"B.I.M. is beneficial to everyone who deals with buildings needs to care about B.I.M.:

  1. A three-dimensional (3D) computer model provides a central place for all parties to contribute to and pull from;
  2. Data about each of the physical building elements can be used during all phases, from construction through building maintenance;
  3. Information related to time (4D) can be used for scheduling during construction, communicating changes, and incorporating maintenance intervals and maintenance plans;
  4. Information related to cost (5D) will help produce lifecycle cost data as well as set reasonable service-life expectations and maintenance costs;
  5. And all aspects of the project lifecycle (6D). Need to know who designed the buildings being worked on? Or who applied the peeling paint on the exterior doors?  And what the expected service life of that paint was, who made it, and how much did it originally cost? B.I.M. helps answer all of these questions."

Today I’d like to discuss the profound impact that BIM will have on all phases of Building Lifecycle Management, from planning and design up to and including decommissioning a building project.

  1. Plan/Design:
    • All designers will work in the same model (database). This way, any coordination issues can be worked out in the design phase rather than interrupting the construction phase.
    • Total Quality Management (TQM) can only be fully implemented when it begins in the design phase.
    • Project Management and planning data (scope, budget, and schedule) are integral to BIM.
    • Cost-benefit, if-then scenarios can be considered cost effectively. For example: Comparing a more durable and expensive deck assembly against a less expensive alternative that will require more frequent maintenance.
  2. Build/construction:
    • Clarifications (RFIs) and changes in the field will (1.) be reduced significantly by planning and designing using BIM, and (2.) be updated in the model (database) as the project progresses.
    • Because the scope, budget, and schedule were coordinated during the planning phase, and will be updated in real time, coordination and “Just-In-Time” delivery will, for the first time, come to construction projects with the kind of regularity that we see in manufacturing.
  3. Use:
    • The model will pass from the construction team to the facility management team during the commissioning process.
    • Significant configuration of interiors for use will be updated in the model. Details such as communications cabling will sometimes be included in the model. The model may even include information on who is sitting where, so that the space can be optimized.
  4. Maintain:
    • What was originally the Construction Progress Schedule will become the Maintenance Schedule.
    • All operation and maintenance (O&M) documentation for each and every element will be available in, or referenced from, the model.
    • Building maintenance, both planned and unexpected, will be updated in the model. “Best Practices” for maintaining structures and contracting for maintenance services will be applied by integrating data into the model, and owners of multiple projects will share these best practices from model-to-model. This will include who, what, when, where, how, how much, and how many.
    • Contracts for maintenance should be maintained element-by-element, location-by-location, and player-by-player (contacts) in the model.
  5. Repair & Improvement:
    • All repairs and improvements should be updated into the model. This will include who, what, when, where, how, how much, and how many.
    • If it is found that some element or elements were constructed in a way that is not consistent with the applicable standards, and the building is not performing as expected, the model will include information from construction about who designed, approved, supervised, executed, inspected and approved the assemblies, so that any disputes should only address the applicable elements, locations, and players.
  6. Learn:
    • Over time, since that data is structured, it will become information that smart people can use to make smart, informed decisions.
    • Not only will the decision makers have the structured information for the project at hand, they will also have the data from other, similar projects to aid in decision making across projects. This metadata (a set of data that describes and gives information about other data) can be created to further inform best practices.
    • See PFCS’ publications on Building Lifecycle Management, which argue the position that collecting and organizing building data such that it becomes actionable information is the only way to make smart decisions about building projects. Therefore, a central database of all building related data (BIM), searchable and able to output by building element, location, person/company, or timeline, is an amazing decision-making resource.
    • See a sample PFCS Building Lifecycle Management Matrix (BLMX).
  7. Decommission:
    • The decision to update or demolish is a tough one. But it will be made much easier when we can do multiple, cost-effective, A to Z, what-if analysis.
 PFCS Building Lifecycle Maintenance Matrix (BLMX

PFCS Building Lifecycle Maintenance Matrix (BLMX

Decisions, Decisions...

There are many aspects of B.I.M. that seem small, but will have a profound impact:

  • For the first time in the history of building construction, all parties from design to decommissioning will use common names for all of the physical elements and locations of the project.
  • We will be able to finally know what the physical elements cost to design, build, use, maintain, repair, improve and decommission, since we will have a central repository for all information about each of the physical elements. And the actual history of costs associated with each phase in the lifecycle will be readily available.
  • Naturally, financial accounting will need to evolve to make costs associated with the respective physical elements available through the lifecycle, but this will be easy once the data has a home and its use begins to save building owners and users money over time.
  • The implications for the science and profession of construction Project Management are profound. The key fundamentals for all management of all projects are scope, time and cost management. BIM has these aspects of the "building information" built in as part of the "model" so project management software tools should be interacting with the model (BIM database) in a way that is very similar to the way all of the designers are interacting with it.
  • Financial management of the building lifecycle will become integral with building information modeling. Electronic financial tools (like the almost ubiquitous financial software Quickbooks) will eventually communicate directly with the model, with data that flowing out of, and back into a project's BIM. Periodic reports as well as permanently stored historical financial information should be integral to the model, even moving from owner to owner when the property is sold. Therefore the entire, uninterrupted economic history of the project will be able to be known. This will be similar to the record keeping of a fastidious automobile owner, who maintains records and receipts of every service appointment.
  • Naturally, changes to the scope of work will be limited when projects are fully modeled in 3D due to all of the physical elements being fit together in the virtual model before actual construction begins.
  • The simple avoidance of re-typing the same information over and over and over will save many thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the building.

This series on Building Information Modeling continues: 

  1. Building Information Modeling: What is B.I.M.?
  2. Building Information Modeling: Why Everyone Who Deals with Buildings Should Care about B.I.M.
  3. (This post) Building Information Modeling: B.I.M. and Building Lifecycle Management (BLM)
  4. Building Information Management & Modeling

To learn more about how PFCS leverages B.I.M., browse our services or give us a call at our Southern California Office (949) 240-9971 or Portland Office (503) 660-8670.

Building Information Modeling: Why Everyone Who Deals with Buildings Should Care about B.I.M.

Who should care?

  • Property Owners & Managers
  • Developers & Contractors
  • Product Manufacturers & Suppliers
  • Attorneys and Insurers

Welcome to the second post in our series on Building Information Modeling (B.I.M.)! If you don’t know what the heck we’re talking about, I encourage you to read the first post in this series which introduces the concept of B.I.M., talks through an industry definition, shows the opportunity for expansion, and even includes a fun video to help break it down.

For those that just need a refresher, here’s a recap of what we covered in the last post:

"B.I.M. is a sharable collection of building data, including:

  1. A three-dimensional (3D) computer model of the entire project;
  2. Data about each of the physical building elements including their location, number, and size;
  3. Information related to time (4D);
  4. Information related to cost (5D);
  5. And all aspects of the project lifecycle (6D).”
6d-bim.jpg

"So what?"

Now that you know what B.I.M. is, you’re probably asking, “So what?” Why should you care about B.I.M.?

The truth is that B.I.M. introduces a transformation in the way we think about, document, and share information related to building projects – and the results have serious implications and unrealized benefits for users across every industry that deals professionally with buildings (not just the construction industry).

We’ll illustrate this with an example. As you probably know, buildings are traditionally designed graphically, even when using three-dimensional computer aided design (CAD). It’s common for an architect to design a building project using 3D CAD, then print the contract documents but not share the electronic files. Contractors offering proposals then have to manually measure the scaled drawings and input their own interpreted data in order to develop their estimates and proposals.

As you can imagine, this traditional methodology is inherently inaccurate and inconsistent. Even two estimators in the same office will have different datasets. And this messy process is repeated for each and every contractor involved, which is terribly wasteful when you consider that large projects can have hundreds of players involved.

B.I.M. presents an alternative to this inaccurate and inconsistent approach.

Accurate, Consistent Information with B.I.M.

At its core, B.I.M. is a methodology that transforms the underlying design of a building into data that can be shared with all stakeholders, without interpretation, for reuse throughout the building lifecycle.

Recall our flooring contractor from the first post: Having one dataset about the building, that can be easily shared throughout the building lifecycle, will decrease historic inefficiencies associated with parties needing to create and re-create data over and over.  These savings will naturally lower the total building lifecycle costs. Those who participate by using this data will be at an advantage over those who continue to operate in the older, less efficient way. In addition, this data will make smart decisions easier, so in addition to lower costs, the performance will be better and more durable. Better and more durable building performance usually means “longer lasting,” so the cost over time is lowered ($/year).

Let’s discuss how each of our B.I.M. components becomes a living data set to be used virtually by all key players in a building project's lifecycle:

  1. A three-dimensional (3D) computer model of the entire project:
    • Build a true 3D model of the building project, representing the elements (floors, walls, roof, windows, doors, etc.) that will make up the real building in three-dimensional space. This is in contrast to 3D CAD (computer aided drafting), which is a purely graphical rendition requiring interpretation (which often leaves chances for error).
    • Create a “home base” model from which all players in the design of the building project contribute to and pull data from.
    • Leverage your 3D B.I.M. as a sophisticated database to output building information in various forms, including all elements in "one dimension" like Excel spreadsheets, two dimensions like traditional construction drawings, or three dimensions from any vantage.
    • Eliminate costly errors in dimensions and conflicts in physical space associated with the traditional methodology.
  2. Data about each of the physical elements including their location, number, and size:
    • Incorporate all physical elements of your project in your 3D model, accounting for the way that manufactured products are actually put into a real building.
    • Pull precise specifications and information related to physical elements that are not pre-manufactured.
    • Automatically account for every element, a process that traditionally requires calculations and scaling.
    • Incorporate service-life and maintenance information associated with each discrete building element (walls, windows, roof, mechanical equipment, etc.).
  3. Information related to time (4D):
    • Associate progress schedule and sequencing information with each discrete element, combining and associating with other interrelated elements that will be combined during construction.
    • Efficiently and effectively communicate changes to the construction schedule with a sophisticated B.I.M. scheduling mechanism.
    • Incorporate maintenance intervals for each element, and output maintenance plans for those elements that require periodic attention.
  4. Information related to cost (5D):
    • Include the cost of each physical element in the model.
    • Associate each discrete element with service-life expectations and maintenance costs, and manage throughout the building lifecycle.
    • Integrate lifecycle cost analysis data, including that for reserve studies.
    • Accurately evaluate the performance of the building against the expectation, as described in your model.
  5. And all aspects of the project lifecycle (6D):
    • Do we know who designed all of the buildings we worked on? This is an easy question if you have a complete Building Information Model.
    • How about trying to figure out who applied the paint that is peeling off the exterior doors?
    • How long did we expect that paint to last anyway? And who made it? And what color is it?

This series on Building Information Modeling continues: 

  1. Building Information Modeling: What is B.I.M.?
  2. (This post) Building Information Modeling: Why Everyone Who Deals with Buildings Should Care about B.I.M.
  3. Building Information Modeling: B.I.M. and Building Lifecycle Management (BLM)
  4. Building Information Management & Modeling

To learn more about how PFCS leverages B.I.M., browse our services or give us a call at our Southern California Office (949) 240-9971 or Portland Office (503) 660-8670.

Building Information Modeling: What is B.I.M.?

Welcome to the first post in our series on Building Information Modeling! I invite you to take a few minutes (3.5 to be exact) to watch this introductory video from Graphisoft on Building Information Modeling – just keep in mind, they are selling software to designers.

What is B.I.M.?

According to Wikipedia:

Building information modeling (B.I.M.) is a process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. The resulting building information models become shared knowledge resources to support decision-making about a facility from earliest conceptual stages, through design and construction, through its operational life and eventual demolition.

Translated into English, B.I.M. is a sharable collection of building data, including a three-dimensional (3D) computer model of the entire project. This model includes data about each of the physical building elements (foundation, windows, plumbing system, site lighting, etc.) that make up the project, including the location, number, and size of those elements.

The model can also include information related to time (adding a 4th dimension to the B.I.M.), cost (a fifth dimension), and all aspects of managing the project lifecycle (a 6th dimension).

Levels of B.I.M.

  • 3D B.I.M.: Building Information Models in 3 Dimensions
  • 4D B.I.M.: 3D + Time (Think Einstein’s Space-Time Continuum)
  • 5D B.I.M.: 4D + Cost (Think Project Management’s Scope-Budget-Schedule. All 3 are now covered.)
  • 6D B.I.M.: 5D + all aspects of project life-cycle management information
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Benefits of “6D B.I.M.”

Imagine a flooring contractor preparing a proposal for a project. If the project was designed using B.I.M., the contractor would simply search the B.I.M. database for all of the flooring types, their locations and exact quantities. A perfectly accurate list could be generated along with links to all applicable specifications.

This method is far more accurate and efficient than the traditional method – which involves reviewing a set of paper drawings and specification manuals, making hand measurements, calculations and notes (which are never perfectly accurate). Just think how many times the floor area of a public building gets measured over the course of its service life. With today’s technology, this is a silly waste of time.

When B.I.M. is fully executed, it will save contractors unimaginable hours performing tasks that have no lasting value to the building owners.

And in a full 6D B.I.M. implementation, the flooring contractor would also have access to bidding and contracting information including the progress schedule. The general contractor (GC) would accept proposals electronically, and all of this information would be forever stored in the B.I.M. model for easy reference.


This series on Building Information Modeling continues: 

  1. (This post) Building Information Modeling: What is B.I.M.?
  2. Building Information Modeling: Why Everyone Who Deals with Buildings Should Care about B.I.M.
  3. Building Information Modeling: B.I.M. and Building Lifecycle Management (BLM )
  4. Building Information Management & Modeling

To learn more about how PFCS leverages B.I.M., browse our services or give us a call at our Southern California Office (949) 240-9971 or Portland Office (503) 660-8670.

General Conditions to a Prime Construction Contract

From PFCS's Training Construction Document Literacy:

"General Conditions to the Contract describe the general guidelines for administration of the Prime Contract. The document includes information like how to terminate a contract under various circumstances, obligations of the parties to a construction contract, and important definitions. It is intended to guide the Owner and Contractor through all agreed upon aspects of general contract administration. By reading an industry standard document like AIA 201 you can learn a tremendous amount about how construction projects are supposed to work."

 

If you deal with construction regularly, I highly recommend that you print out one or more of the documents below (or upload to your iPad), put it on the nightstand, and let it bore you to sleep a few nights in a row. It will solve insomnia and enlighten you significantly. Then, any time there is a problem with a construction project you are working on, just remember the old favorite acronym: RTFC. Read the f-ing contract! Since you will have read these General Conditions, you will know generally what should be in the contract and how the clauses work together. This will allow you to make smart decisions in applying specific contract language to specific situations.

 

Window and Door Installation and Defects

On January 31, 2012 Pete Fowler presented a 1-hour webinar called Window and Door Installation and Defects.  Pete explained the basics of modern window and door installation techniques and introduced the principles of design, construction, and installation of window and door components. Improper installation of windows and doors is one of the leading sources of building performance failures that lead to construction defect litigation.

This is the first in our Construction Defect Seminar/Webinar Series which will be presented throughout 2012. A complete list of the dates for the remainder of the series is listed on the Events page of our website.

The programs are recorded and available to PFCS clients free of charge. If you are a client and would like access to this program, or if you would like to schedule a PFCS Expert to deliver a presentation live at your conference or in your office, please contact marketing@petefowler.com.

Read more about our Window and Door Installation and Defects program