Construction Advisory Group is committed to contributing to the industry by conducting a blog-conversation on monitoring projects and navigating the construction world.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Carousel Center Drama

According to New York Real-Time News, lawsuits between Carousel Center developer Robert Congel and Citigroup are growing, with the latest dispute over $410 million in mortgages on the mall.

Two of the developer’s companies, Carousel Center Co. and Carousel Enterprises Co., filed a lawsuit against Citigroup in New York State Supreme Court over two mortgage loans totaling $410 million on the Carousel Center shopping mall.

The two Carousel companies are also asking the court to order Citigroup to release $7 million to them from a loan reserve account because they have met the cash flow requirements.

Citigroup responded with a lawsuit of its own that alleges that the two Carousel companies have not met the cash flow requirements to extend the loans.

"Regardless who is right and who is wrong, it appears that, in today’s construction economy, the banks are a major factor that should be closely scrutinized," notes Val Tuhari of Construction Advisory Group, "In particular, the ones that been bailed out by this administration."

"Times will eventually get back to normality," Tuhari points out, "and owners have memory as well."

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

D7E: luxury hybrid dozer



The D7E hybrid bulldozer is in production and ready for sales next month.

This piece of equipment is the result of years of research and development, and more than 70,000 hours of lab and field tests.

The machine costs about $600,000 (a fairly small machine by comparison), a 20% premium over a non-hybrid bulldozer, but Caterpillar claims it increases fuel efficiency by 25%.

The D7E received a Clean Air Excellence Award from the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year for its innovative hybrid drive, which also cuts carbon emissions.

Is this another embodiment of our obsession with political correctness? And this when unemployment in the construction industry just reach the 22% level.

Construction Advisory Group will wait to see how many contractors spend this outrageous sum of money for a hybrid toy. We think we will be waiting a long time.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Diversity of Specialty


According to New York Construction, several large public projects will continue to move forward in 2010, but with the economy still troubled and financial markets unyielding, private jobs are few. “The name of the game for 2010 and beyond is to make sure you are well diversified in different product types," says Pat DiFillippo, executive vice president of Turner Construction Co. in New York.

Turner, in a partnership with Tishman Corp. of New York, will provide $105 million in construction management support services for the 800,000 square foot World Trade Center Transportation Hub in lower Manhattan, replacing Phoenix Constructors.

Diversity may by great, but when companies like Turner and Tishman get into a completely different line of work, it should ring bells of concern. These two are major names in building construction -- not infrastructure.



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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

High Strength Steel Reinforcing


High strength steel reinforcing, i.e., 90ksi and 100ksi, is gaining use in contrast to previous years when this reinforcing was cost prohibitive.

It appears that competition between the very few manufacturers of this kind of reinforcing lowered the price, making it more usable from an economical stance.

The professionals at Construction Advisory Group note that it is important to realize that while this rebar is more expensive than the conventional one, it drastically reduces the reinforcing congestion by reducing the amount of horizontal bars in columns and shearwalls -- thus generating substantial labor savings.

The reduction of horizontal reinforcing when 100ksi is used is 40% and 30% compared to when using 90ksi.

This certainly translates into less field labor, less material that is lighter in weight, less hoisting, fewer problems threading mechanical and electrical conduits and sleeves through rebar and easier concrete casting.

The use of 90ksi and 100ksi steel will be eased by the American Concrete Institute’s Design Guide for the Use of ASTM A1035 Grade 100 Steel Bars for Structural Concrete, on course for publication early next year.

This is considerable progress that deserves undivided attention.

Construction Advisory Group strongly recommends that all preconstruction efforts and cost evaluations, prior to job bid, should take into consideration this factor. Owners, general contractors, concrete contractors will all benefit, should the structural engineer of record be in agreement.



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Monday, December 14, 2009

Greenhouse Gases Endanger an Industry



According to Associated General Contractors of America, after the EPA declared greenhouse gases a danger to the public, construction groups said the decision could crush their already struggling industry.

“If the EPA sets strict rules based on that findings, it could force every construction project to undergo a lengthy review under the Clean Air Act”, said Brian Turmail, spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America.

“If you follow the logical conclusion that greenhouse gas emission are an endangerment, the next step is just like for any other emission EPA considers an endangerment and you have to get a waiver to work on it,” Turmail said.

This morning, that stat is 21% unemployment in the construction industry. Regulation and review costs time and money. There must be a place here for balance to bolster a resurgence in building and trades.


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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Building to Consume "Zero Electrons"



This is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Building, in a rendering. Doesn't it look like they are all running outside? From what, one wonders ...

According to Wall Street Journal, this unit of the U.S. Department of Energy, is midway through construction of the $64 million project.




The architects and engineers have spent thousands of hours calculating the energy use of every aspect of the building, from the elevator to the exit signs.

They have tweaked the design again and again with the aim of getting the 218,000 square foot building to perform a “net zero.” This means the building will consume so little energy that it won’t need to draw a single electron from the grid.

Did we see anything about cost per square foot?

Based on the building stats, the bill reads, simply, like this:

$64,000,000 / 218,000 sf. = $294 /sf.

For a four story building? Around the "water cooler" at Construction Advisory Group, heads are shaking. These numbers border on insane!

The more critical number would be 20% unemployment in the construction industry. It is difficult, at best, to reconcile construction costs rising like there are no limits.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New York: Barometer of Construction Health

In Commercial Real Estate & Construction, Nov. 24, 2009, the New York Building Congress analysis is cited showing that construction in New York City is showing signs of stabilizing in the third quarter, with projects worth $3.9 billion getting underway.

This, per the McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge data, was the second consecutive quarter when project starts hovered around the $4 billion range.

First quarter project starts totaled just $1.8 billion, whereas starts in the third quarter of 2008 -- before the economy tanked -- added up to $5.3 billion.

Residential construction starts averaged $193 million per month for the third quarter, up to $137 million per month in the second quarter, but well shy of the $ 477 million figure of 2008’s third quarter.

Experts estimate unemployment among unionized construction workers has hit about 25%.

It is intriguing that the Building and Construction Trade Council has agreed to new hiring-hall practices that allow non–union minority or women-owned contractors to bring more of their own workforce onto jobs they manage.

This is a positive move on the part of the BCTC. But is it enough when it relates to potential savings in construction costs? No.

We are looking for New York to step back into its role as a leader in construction.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

General Contractor Performance Bond Information | eHow.com

General Contractor Performance Bond Information | eHow.com

Construction Advisory Group is proud to be a resource for consumer questions about construction practices, the construction industry and contractor best practices.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Innovative structure sensors


According to Globe Update, the restored St. Anthony Falls Bridge, on I35W across the Mississippi River, contains 323 sensors to monitor for structural weaknesses, strained joints and corroded concrete and reinforcing. The previous bridge collapse on August 1, 2007.

According to Catherine French, a structural engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, who heads a project to collect and interpret data from the new bridge, sensors suggest issues requiring investigation and possible repairs.
Also, the St. Anthony Falls Bridge is made of high performance concrete containing coal-combustion byproducts fly ash and silica fume, making it denser and more waterproof. A different approach, with the same results, has been elaborated at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, whereby a mixture of carbon nanotubes and polymer that is very strong and has electrical properties allowing it to act as a sensor skin.

This great new technology will apply not only to bridges, but dams and high-rise buildings exposed to high velocity winds. We see an application in South Florida construction, where high-rises and hurricanes inhabit the same landscape.



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Monday, November 23, 2009

Feds find link between drywall, corrosion



Click here for Nov 23 2009 Fox New 7 Report:
Feds find link between drywall, corrosion

Protocols for Chinese Drywall inspections are under consideration. Expertise is of the essence. Certified, licensed inspections will preserve investments, health and sanity.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

A-201 Challenger


The American Institute of Architecture's A-201, a family of documents that relate to General Conditions and establish the ground rules between owners, architects, engineers and contractors, has enjoyed the endorsement of the Associated General Contractors of America until 2007.

The AGC and other contractor groups now support a competing contract, called
ConsensusDOCS. The groups are working to challenge the pre-eminence of the AIA’s A-201 document, claiming the most recent version shifts too much risk away from architects and places it on contractors.

Christine Riker, office manager for the
Todd Hess Building Co., said Hess Building uses ConsensusDOCS for roughly 90 percent of its jobs, and that it really takes all parties’ considerations into account.

Jeremy Vermilyea, president of Tigard-based
Vermiliyea Law Group, often represents contractors in contract disputes. He recommends caution when using the latest AIA sponsored document.

We see this competition as a welcome development, since a well balanced contract is always the key to a successful project.

Comments, opinions, experiences: your input is welcome.


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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

St. Louis' 300 Acre River Project


According to St. Louis Business Journal, 11/4/2009, The City Council designated Mike Sellenschuetter and his Riverwalk the developer af the 300 acres project along the Missouri River, called Harbor San Carlos.

The plan calls for a hotel, shops, condos, marina, restaurants and pedestrian walkways on the St. Louis’ largest undeveloped swath of land.

This project has six or seven private angel investors who, Glenn Jamboretz, a consultant and spokesman for Riverwalk Development, declines to name.

Arcturis is the project architect and Cole & Associates is the engineer of records.

We are intrigued with this undertaking; should it be a “Reality Project” considering today’s national economy in general and the construction industry in particular?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cost by the square foot


Engineering News-Record is promoting the new 2010 Edition of ENR Square Foot Costbook.

Quotes from the promotional material include:

“No other publication make cost estimating so easy."

and

“Each project is broken by CSI MASTERFORMAT division and costs are reported in two ways: total cost by division and square foot cost by division.”

For decades, square foot indicators have been used in conceptual estimating. This method is at times successful, and at times not so successful.

A Conceptual Estimate/Budget Projection has been recognized to be more accurate based on a preliminary take-off, unit price estimate and the correct application of factors related to the very local conditions.

In today’s economy, a budget estimate must be closer to reality than at any other time. If a "hard number quote" is to be presented, we would be hesitant to endorse a square foot indicator approach.




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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Construction Permits Extended Expiration Dates



According to New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, on Commercial Real Estate Politics, “The City Counsel will vote on Wednesday on a law that would create a Department of Buildings program to allow developers to quickly restart work at stalled construction sites once the real estate market rebounds.”

This law will allow renewals of building permits at stalled construction sites for up to four years after they expired.

Under current law, construction permits expire after 12 months of suspended or abandoned work.

The building department has identified 541 stalled construction sites across the five boroughs so far this year.

Obviously, the permits should be issued after a complete inspection, not only from a safety angle but structural integrity as well.

It is a very commendable action and should serve as an example of good will for all our municipalities across the land.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Academics of Super Concrete

Parthenon, photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons/simon_music

U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is conducting studies related to a Geopolymeric based super concrete that will create impervious bunkers and “bomb bouncing structures” by using geopolymers as a bonding agent.

Geopolymers are synthetic aluminosilicate materials. In layman's terms: super cements capable of far exceeding the strength of modern concrete.

There are all kind of theories floating around, in Europe particularly, speculating that the ancients used similar chemical formulations for their concrete. Some theories go as far as reinventing the pyramids by concluding that the huge blocks used are, in fact. cast-in-place superconcrete blocks and not natural stone.

What is really amazing -- and indeed inexplicable -- is that the Panthenon in Rome, the largest unreinforced concrete dome, stands after 2000 years, as strong as ever. Go and figure that out since we all know that concrete is not an impervious material and water combined with alkaline and acid elements is the number one concrete enemy.

Since we are just construction guys, the Construction Advisory Group will refrain from any related academic polemics.

The concrete we know today was developed in England in the mid-1800s when Portland Cement was produced for the first time.

We hope that once the study is over, at least the economical parameters of this study will be released by the Air Force.

It would certainly verify the applicability of super concretes for civil purposes.


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Hoover Dam Case Study: Schedule Recuperation







Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge over Colorado River linking Nevada and Arizona

Design: concrete-steel composite arch bridge

Total Length: 1,900 ft.

Height: 890 ft.

Longest Span: 1,080 ft.

Designer: HDR, Inc. Lyn International for the bridge and Severdrup Civil Inc, for the approaches

Completion Date: November 2010


When completed, this will be the first concrete-steel composite arch bridge built in the United States. The composite design, using concrete for the arch and columns with steel construction for the roadway deck, was selected for schedule and cost control.

The arches are made of 106 pieces, 53 per arch, cast in place 24 feet at a time.

More than 17,000 cars and trucks are expected to use the new bridge daily, a number expected to grow by 50 percent over the next 20 years.

Strong wind gusts across Black Canyon on September 15, 2006 appeared to be the cause for the collapse of the “high-line” crane system used to carry people and materials.

The crane collapse anticipated a two years delay on bridge completion, yet, according to experts, the time recovery is well on it’s way. The schedule recuperation is remarkable considering that the project lost the master crane.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Florida has more vulnerable seacoast areas under construction than any other state, study shows -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

Florida has more vulnerable seacoast areas under construction than any other state, study shows -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

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Carbon Fiber Research



According to
Technology News 10/21/2009:

Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology have received $567,000 to explore how carbon fibers could improve the blast and impact resistance of conventional reinforced concrete.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Volz, professor of civil and architectural engineering, “The fibers will absorb more energy as they pull out during the pressure wave or impact, cutting down on the potential for failure during an explosion or earthquake, The fibers will also significantly diminish secondary fragmentation, reducing one of the leading causes of damage to surrounding personnel and materials.”


Fiber in concrete has been used for a very long time, primarily as a substitution for welded wire mesh on SOG and occasionally in structural elements.

Let’s not forget that one of the most important functions of fiber is to eliminate cracks due to shrinkage as water evaporates, increasing the tensile strength of concrete.

The reason that the size of fiber used in concrete is extremely small -- half of one inch in length, at max -- is the fact that fiber has the tendency to stick together and “ball up” when concrete is being mixed.

Researchers are very much aware of this characteristic. They intend to use fibers as long as 6 inches, and to identify a technology that permits the coating of the fiber particle, thus reducing the effect of coagulation or “balling up”.

Upon consideration, a serious question arises:

Is this research contemplating a possible elimination of conventional reinforcing, or, does it see it as a supplement to the conventional reinforcing, and, before spending over half of a million dollars, wouldn’t a feasibility cost study regarding the cost of coating the carbon fiber make sense?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Dilemna: Contractor Walk Off


Are the bonding capacity and the contractual bonding provisions a strong deterrent for a contractor “Walk Off”?

Some may think that a substantial retainage to the contractor’s monthly requisition for payment is the answer. Others believe that a strong legal team working closely with the surety/insurance provider, would be the answer.

But it seems there is no clean cut solution to the problem, since the contractor, with initial honest and well-intended goals to complete the project, due to certain circumstances, is forced to declare bankruptcy or similar.

Fairness and openness at the time of contract negotiation between the Owner, Contractor, Surety Company, Insurance Company, Legal Teams, and Owner Consultants, may not be “The Complete Solution,” but it is most assuredly a step on the right direction.

And then. It's integral not to neglect the “Fairness Factor” when it relates to the actual construction of the project.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Reviewing: NX-SCR Rebar

NXI, using patented manufacturing technology offers NX-SCR rebar, which features a carbon steel core, clad with a stainless-steel outer layer. This pairing provides equivalent corrosive resistance to solid stainless steel and equivalent mechanical properties to optimal Grade 60 (ASTM International Ratings).

It sounds like a great product, providing that adherence between the building core and cladding is obtained.

This technology has been previously tested by different manufacturers. The results were not very successful: a good bonding between the carbon steel core and the stainless-steel outer layer could not be obtained.

If NXI has achieved this bonding, their product must be of great interest when applied to infra structures, tunnels, atomic plants, sea walls and foundation for shore located buildings. Cost will be a factor that must be balanced with undeniable structural qualities.

In a conversation between Val Tuhari, of Construction Advisory Group, and Seth Fisher, NXI, VP, North America, it was revealed that the product must be imported from the U.K. until 2011 when their manufacturing facility will be completed here in the U.S. According to Seth, an average $5,000 per ton would be a fair number to consider and of course would depend on order magnitude.

The price may sound high. But, specific project considerations should balance the financial feasibility.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Soap Bubble Inspired Design


Building Design, 10/15/2009:

“Securing the design contract for the National Aquatics Centre for the Beijing 2008 Olympics was a task worthy of gold metal distinction in itself. Arup (a multinational engineering design, project management and consulting firm), and PTW (an architectural firm based in Sydney, Australia) beat out 10 qualifiers for this prestigious world-class project. Arup used MicroStation, MicroStation TriFormula, Bentley Structural and Bentley generative design technology for its unique design based on a natural pattern of organic cells and the formation of soap bubbles.”

This is an extraordinary revolution in structural design.

From Webster's, “Generative” is defined as , “having the power or function of generating, originating, producing or reproducing."

This sounds like the governing God’s laws, does it not? C

lassic structural design is based on clear and concise parameters related to mathematics and physic principles. This new approach exceeds those parameters.

Simply think about the “soap bubbles," smile and think again.

In essence, the optimal design for the “Water Cube” was determined by analyzing multiple configurations of thousand of steel members and connecting nodes.

We understand the concept started with The SmartGeometry Group that originated The London Gerkin Geometry. It is indeed revolutionary.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Revolutionary Structural Design Thrills

Revolutionary alright: structural design that defies convention and gravity. It rises 355ft and cantilevers over 30ft.

This is the 23 East 22nd Street building in Manhattan, designed by Rem Koolhaas with OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) and the author of the classic 1978 book, “Delirious New York”.



The developer is Slazer Enterprises, the structural design by Cantor Seinuk, $200 plus millions and completion scheduled for the end of next year.

This is the definition of structural design.

What is very interesting, is that it is almost a replica of Hugh Ferris’s futuristic drawings, dating from a century ago.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Construction Employment in Crisis

Construction employment declines in 48 states in August of this year compared with August of last year were substantial, according to Building Design and Construction (September 18, 2009).

The five biggest percentage losses in construction employment over the year occurred in Arizona (27% or 50,000 jobs) and Nevada (25% or 29,500 jobs), followed by Connecticut, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Construction PPI (September 15, 2009) notes that the producer price index (PPI) for inputs to construction industries, a weighted average of the cost of all materials used in every type of construction, increased 1.1% in August compared to the previous month.

This increase was caused by a 17% increase in the cost of diesel fuel, a 6.8% jump in steel prices and a 11% rise in copper prices.

It must be time to get back to reality and common sense, which could include halting unnecessary changes in design standards and extricating politics from design and construction issues.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Engineering Wonder Beneath World Trade Center Site

This is from Matt Dunning, Oct. 2, 2009: "Port Authority crews built a temporary support structure to hold in place the concrete-clad tunnel housing the #1 train subway tracks that run across the World Trade Center site. With the tunnel suspended above ground, trains can continue running through the site as work on the transportation hub, new through streets and other pieces of the rebuilding go on-above, around and underneath the active subway line."

The projected savings are $108,000,000.

This is, without a doubt, something refreshing coming from the current construction industry.


Here is the engineering beauty of the system. To build the temporary bracing structure, 60-foot steel columns (blue) were driven through the concrete-clad tunnel, then hung the tunnel from series of lateral steel I-beams (red and green) and suspension ties (yellow). (See the color-coded diagram for reference.)

Now, this is structural engineering.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Leaning tower of Padre Island

According to The New York Times, Sept. 21 St, 2009, Business Section, The Ocean Tower on South Padre Island, Texas Golf Cost, recently known as “The Leaning Tower of Padre Island” will be demolished. This was announced by its developer.

The Ocean Tower, considered to be the most luxurious tower in the region, a 31-story condominium project with 151 units, spa and other amenities, is structurally complete and in the interior finishing stage.

It is also sinking more rapidly than the attached parking garage structure, causing cracks in beams and columns.

Not intended to be an evaluation of this particular matter without knowledge of th
e design parameters, geotechnical conditions and applied geotechnical considerations/models, we do, however, have some input. In a tower structure with a garage attached, uneven settlements are always expected and design compensations as well as construction considerations are always provided. This is because the tower’s weight considerably exceeds the garage’s weight.

Most of us at the Construction Advisory Group have worked at the Marquis Tower, a Miami Florida project, for four years, from Preconstruction to Certificate of Occupancy. The Marquis Tower is a 67-story luxury condominium, with an attached garage, structurally similar to The Ocean Tower. As at most buildings located on beaches, the foundation system of The Marquis Tower consists of pile caps supported by friction piles/caissons. It is reasonable to assume that a similar system has been used at the Ocean Tower on South Padre Island.

On projects like this -- and because of expected differential settlements between the two structures -- the garage is built when the tower is close to completion (concrete) thus giving the necessary time for the sinking process to settle and the garage to be built on a more stable geotechnical condition. For example, at Marquis Project, we started erecting the garage when the tower was 40 stories high and when completed, the anticipated garage settlements matched with the respective elevations of the adjacent tower slabs.

Realizing that we do not know the actual field related provisions taken to prevent the Ocean Tower situation, it is a matter of speculation whether the same constructability approach was in use.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Builders Unveil "Recovery Plan" for the Construction Industry

"Armed with grim numbers about construction employment, the Associated General Contractors of America ... released a recovery plan for the industry," reports Finance and Commerce. (9/30/09 issue)

"The plan calls for tax cuts, policy revisions, streamlined environmental reviews, increased government spending and other measures designed to spur the ailing construction economy, which has a 16.5 percent unemployment rate," the article continues.

This a a commendable action and worthy of applause from everyone with concerns and investments in the the construction arena. There are challenges, however, beginning with financial corruption, bureaucratic mismanagement and the general ongoing Federal Reserve Bank woes.

Challenges that are daunting, and may be insurmountable. Where does the industry go, good intentions in hand?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Vertical loads and GFRP

Researchers at the University of Miami are studying and testing the behavior of columns reinforced with glass fiber reinforced polymer bars, GFRP. According to the researchers, “The use of GFRP bars as compression reinforcement may be allowed when design is for vertical loads only."

Any academic study is very much welcomed when it is not precluded by a feasibility study that relates to financial exposures and actual applicability.

There are a few realities that should be considered:

  • No design for vertical loads only exists, or if it does it is purely scholastic.
  • Even in the academic world, when a laboratory test for vertical loads is performed, the eccentricity will exist and moments applied.
  • In the real world, columns loaded only with vertical forces simply do not exist.

The University of Miami's academic efforts are to be lauded, but do leave room for discussion of applicability. Where are they going with this?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Concrete crackdown


According to the New York Construction, September 2009 edition, NYC officials are determined to crack down on superficial and dubious practices when relates to concrete testing.

This New York crack down should be very much appreciated by construction officials around the country. It is related to strict quality control parameters as opposed to unnecessary code revisions that may be politically motivated. The program includes a $1 million concrete testing lab that will be city owned. This is commitment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Overbuilt and there it sits



Downtown development: Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach officials check to see if they overbuilt in the early 2000s -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

If its overbuilt, the solution is more important than the proclamation. Buildings cannot be unbuilt. The challenge is creative reworking of use and available space and financing crises. It will sit there until need catches up.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hanging on for the "Boom Return"

According to the ZweigWhite Report, half of engineering and architectural firms have drastically cut staff due to the current economical recession.

The article addresses the reluctance of those firms to let good, solid and qualified staff go, since that workforce does not exist in abundance, even thought the predicted“Boom Return” is almost impossible.

"Is this the time for ASCE/SEI code revisions?" Val Tuhari, of Construction Advisory Group in South Florida, wonders. "Is this the time for the exorbitantly expensive green design codes?

These are valid questions, and worthy of discussion among building and design professionals.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Steel Day Sept 18


Steel Day 2009 events are planned across the country.

This is a welcome event, but is Florida, and South Florida in particular, paying attention?

The saturation of condominium buildings is blaringly evident, so it seems logical to assume that the next wave of construction will be of much needed office buildings.

Office buildings go hand-in-hand with structural steel. South Florida has a wake up call. Are we listening?

Revising the minimum design loads




The ASCE and SEI will hold public comments on revisions to the existing standards of “Minimum Design Loads”.

With no exceptions, all past revisions have increased the safety coefficients and this round of revisions will probably not be an exception. Is this the right time for such structural codes modifications?

Let's keep in mind that those minimum loads on dead loads, live loads, snow, wind, earthquake, etc., now exceed the same used by European Standards and International Standards.

The fundamental concept of structural engineering is ECONOMICS.

If we continue traveling this road, structural engineering will turn into an appendix since any architect, as we know in South Florida, can very well over-design any structural components.

Structural steel for shear walls


Structural steel use on shear walls for high-rise concrete structures is getting attention and actual application in the Northeastern United States, while the South shows little to no interest.

At the Marquis project in Miami, Florida, which is a 67 story tower, a substitution of conventional reinforcement with structural steel, at the inverted spandrel beams, was proposed.

Those principals of Construction Advisory Group, involved in the Marquis project in differing capacities, cited productivity and cost as over-riding considerations in favor of structural steel. It was noted that some of the distribution girders/spandrel beams, extended for two stories in height and acted as shear walls as well.

The structural engineer on the Marquis project approved this substitution.

Val Tuhari, of Construction Advisory Group, poses the question, "Why is this approach practically nonexistant in the Southeast regions? Further more, why is the use of structural steel, in general, drastically lower here when compared with a great majority of regions in the U.S.?"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Green politics and real money


With the construction industry struggling for survival, is there room for fantasy and green politics?

Since the Green is the new Red, shouldn't Mr. Van Jones, the new Green Tzar, be the keynote speaker?


The Net Zero Energy Buildings Conference, Innovation 2009, is set to take place October 7-8 in New York. The conference focuses on the challenges of building "green." Few buildings have received the much lauded status of "green," primarily because both cost and technical requirements are prohibitive.

The conversation at Innovation 2009 will center around how architects, designers and engineers can move their projects toward zero - totally "green."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tons of steel nets many zeros

IDEAS2 (Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel) has awarded the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco the design of the Golden Gate Park.

The project entails 2.5 acres of undulating roof, perimeter steel canopy supporting photovoltaic cells, and glazed domes. That is just the start. The project also includes implementation of the new Energy Efficient Building Code.

Currently, the estimated cost of structural steel -- engineered, fabricated and erected -- for this particular project is: $17,500 per ton.

The average actual cost for structural steel, in place, for massive steel structures, union, is: $7,500 per ton. Fifteen years ago, the average cost for structural steel, in place, for massive steel structures, union, was: $4,500 per ton.

The price tag on this California beauty is only $488,000,000 when completed.

Val Tuhari, of Construction Advisory Group, predicts an overrun, "My cost prediction on this project is way over $1,000,000,000."

Throw your bid into the ring. Where do you see the final cost landing? Leave a comment.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Determination of code amendments in whose hands?



The International Code Council has issued a statement that, "The ICC governmental consensus process leaves the final determination of code provisions in the hands of public safety officials who, with no vested financial interest, can legitimately represent the public interest."

Shouldn't the final determination be implemented by qualified and well-recognized Architectural/Engineering authorities?

Among many others, the following items are newly introduced in amendments to the codes:

1) "Fire Service Elevators" - in buildings 120 feet or higher.
2) "Wind Tunnel Testing" - the proposal references a new testing standard.
3) "Additional Exit Stairs" - on all high-rise buildings higher than 420 feet.
4) "Exit Enclosure Integrity" - to be increased from the actual 2PSI.
5) "Building Burnout Survivability" - buildings higher than 420 feet to be designed as not to collapse when exposed to fire.

These amendments raise legitimate questions regarding construction costs, among others. The conversation around the ICC statement is interesting.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Construction down market still offers opportunities

Even with a profit slump of 57 percent caused directly by the slowdown in nonresidential construction, Canam - manufacturers of welded beams, girders and joists - sees opportunity ahead.

The lesson here is that rainmakers, creative thinkers, nimble decision makers can parlay negatives into positives.

Canam, according to a Reuters news story, reports that it intends to stay profitable for the rest of this year. And, they say that they have a broad choice of acquisition targets. Targets made accessible by the same economic slowdown that has hit Canam's own profits.

"As we enter a more challenging business environment, we've seen an increase in the number of acquisition opportunities we are presented with, and we are more than ever convinced that our strengthening balance sheet will be a great asset in the quarters to come," Reuters quotes Canam Chief Operating Officer Marc Dutil.

Canam has won the contract for the retractable roof at the new Marlins ballpark.