There are barriers between companies in the design and construction sectors of the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry. For example, there are a lot of acronyms in the industry, and sometimes we assume everyone knows what is being discussed. However, people can get stuck on an acronym and glaze over while others are talking. It’s important that we all understand what is being said.
Fabrication is a separate language, and prefabrication can cause more confusion. Still, people have to be willing to admit they don’t understand what someone is saying. No one wants to look stupid; so they don’t ask.
Whereas historically we have been protecting ourselves from each other, it’s of greater importance than ever that we understand each other. Remote work has made it even more difficult to engage with people.
We can mindfully reduce friction among people in the industry, while promoting communication and camaraderie across project teams, when we:
- See each other as human beings.
- Forget preconceptions we have of career roles.
- Create safe spaces and get to know others as people.
- Make connections that are not job-related.
Good teams can be built by stepping outside the daily job to get to know the person behind the employee.
Prefabrication is one of the trends that requires solid teams, communication and understanding. Prefab has become a way to connect design with manufacturing and construction. As companies move from repeatable productization to processes/ programs that can be duplicated, they discover that standardization adds value. You don’t have to please everyone in ways that don’t really matter.
With supply chain issues and labor shortages, owners are realizing that they can erect duplicate modular buildings – for example, healthcare facilities or data centers – adapted to local conditions to accomplish their goals. Safety can be improved, while cost benefits will follow. One-off construction projects don’t offer that.
There has been a myth around architectural design that everything is unique. But that is rarely the case. Bathrooms in a building still need to be ADA-compliant and contain specified features. They do not need to be – and should not be – drawn from scratch every time. Materials and colors can still provide uniqueness, while issues like safety, code adherence, and health quality for occupants can be addressed.
Informed design is a way of knowing what needs to be drawn to add value for the estimator and the builder. There can be early trade partner involvement in projects to address pain points in the value stream. Using a single source of truth, live detailing can be done in the project model, enabling a quick feedback loop where design improvements can be made quickly in real time. Companies can be more efficient by being intentional about everything that is drawn.
Jenny Han of Boldt Construction joined me on Bridging the Gap Podcast episode 192, recorded live at Advancing Prefab 2023 to discuss the unique perspective of a licensed architect in the construction industry, ways to encourage collaboration in a hybrid work environment, embracing the “scrum” methodology, and more.