Thursday, December 23, 2010

Prefab Architecture by Ryan Smith

A review by an experienced fabricator.

We added another prefab book to our large "prefab" library. I just started reading this new book by Ryan Smith, Director of the University of Utah's Integrated Technology in Architecture Center.

In my view as a partner at a fabrication company with experience on over 1,000 building fabrication projects in 10 countries, I very much wish I could make this book required reading for any architect, builder, or real estate developer even considering prefab.

Click here to read the first chapter, courtesy of John Wiley & Sons. And please comment here or elsewhere on the web to keep the conversation moving forward.

The Swiss and German wood engineers I work with constantly ask me why architects in North America continue to fail to recognize that working with fabricators is the best(some say only) way to cost-effectively build high-performance buildings. When one considers that the majority of the wood-framed buildings constructed to the strict Passivhaus performance standard (25,000+ buildings in total) and the Swiss Minergie standard (20,000+)are fabricated using these same integrated systems, how long can the North American building market remain willfully ignorant of the potential of these proven technologies?

Ryan emphasizes repeatedly throughout the book that designers must collaborate with fabricators and builders from the beginning of a project. Unfortunately this almost never happens. Thank you Ryan for doing what you can to open the conversation.

Another prefab company, Triumph Modular, adds a very supportive review and also confirms our experience that the industry is full of inefficiencies with a lack of early communication among architects, fabricators, and builders being a major problem.

Ryan added a very good and long article/introduction to Randy Deutsch's blog with a lot of great information - but I still highly suggest reading the entire book - prefab is complicated and the "oldest new idea in architecture" has a long history of failure. Randy is a great advocate and prolific blogger and speaker for BIM, IPD and VDC, but I find his blog to be too focused on revit. As a builder/fabricator I am more interested in discussions involving architects, fabricators, and builders discussing process and discussing real projects. I like Revit, we use it everyday, but REVIT=BIM is simply wrong - ask a fabricator, they will make this very clear immediately. And this software = BIM design perspective goes against almost everything in Ryan's book, and in the BIM Handbook, and the BIM guide by Deke Smith of buildingSMART. The building industry very much needs an open conversation among architects, fabricators, and builders to move beyond what Vladimir Bazjanac of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab refers to as the "Convince-Build-Pray" modus operandi. We all have very much to gain by collaborating and nothing to loose except the inefficiencies which continue to hurt our industry. You can also find another extended article at the KA connect website.

I also highly recommend Colin Davies' classic book The Prefabricated Home and for those unwilling or unable to purchase either book, I recommend Harvard student Jonathan Caputo's 87-page research paper on industrialized home building.

And peruse the recent SmartMarket Report from McGraw-Hill on "Prefabrication and Modularization: Increasing Productivity in the Construction Industry." It was released on May 11, 2011.

Now here is a thought-provoking article from the April edition of Metropolitan Mag on "Prefab: The Dream that refused to Die."

It all comes down to the absolute necessity of actually involving fabricators in any substantive discussion of prefab. Now there is a new idea for the design world.

And for designers/architects who believe that collaborating with fabricators will negatively impact or constrain design?!? I refer you to Steve Jobs of Apple and this quote, "I'm as proud of the factory as I am of the computer." Go ahead, argue with Steve about design.

Prefab - a good, almost 200 page, online document

Document created by Tim Keepers

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The frustrating history of Prefab in the U.S.

John Caputo wrote a great academic paper on prefab while a student at Harvard. This is a great resource for architects exploring prefab - if only I could convince more of them to read it before sending us their sketchup and revit models.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the 8house project

Bjarke Ingels of BIG uses simulation to show his 8-house project in Denmark. Check out his TED talk on warp speed architecture.

8H - The 8-House from BIG on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

National Passive House Conference in Portland

The 5th National Conference starts on November 4th and includes an impressive list of speakers including Wolfgang Feist.

CAM CNC fabrication in Cascadia

We finally have the CutMyTimber blog live. Here it is with some great photos of a timber frame project we cut in Oregon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Masdar update in the New York Times

As a new, green city is constructed in the desert, the criticism grows.

I believe the criticism should be directed at other governments for not supporting and financing mini-masdars to support innovation and cleantech companies.

Passive House in the New York Times

Great National Coverage

The full NYT article is here. An interactive site with construction details is here.

For full information from the Passive House organization in Germany check here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

IDEAbuilder in Denmark. Building the Future

Damon Hernandez, one of our 3D engineers, was recently invited to Denmark by the Innovation Lab to speak about the future of technology and the internet at the NEXT festival in Aarhus in September 2010.

The full video is below. More perspectives from Damon can be found on his blog, Metaverse One. When people ask us what we do I prefer to show them interactive demos. Watch the video to discover how far we intend to travel. Are there many fellow travelers out there?

Why build with Wood? Because Trees are the Answer.

We build primarily with wood so a fair question to ask is why. We believe wood to be the best material to use for residential construction in North America.

Rather than list our reasons, I prefer to refer you to a noted voice for sustainability.

Dr. Patrick Moore, a of Green Peace, left the orga after 15 years "to establish a more sensible, science-based approach to environmentalism." Here is a short selection from his book "Trees are the Answer".

Update: Wood products part of winning carbon-emissions equation, researchers say. Full research article available here. Interesting chart from the article.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Green Building in the European Union

New York Times article on legislation requiring very energy efficient building in various countries. Consider how many high-performance buildings Europe already has, and then imagine how much additional innovation this will drive.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Green buildings won't save the planet

A great TED talk on architecture by Joshua Prince-Ramus. I wish more architects would watch this video and actually act on what Joshua is saying.

Builders and the public are tired of waiting. Watch the video here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How the building industry really works...or doesn't

"In contrast, the AECO industry seams to employ the “convince-build-pray” modus operandi. The designers convince the client by demonstrating a few selected performance aspects (usually cost and image) he/she can understand – but the designers cannot guarantee – that the building will work to the
client’s expectations; the builders build the building, and then everyone awaits to see how the building will work once it is occupied and in use. They hope for the best, but fear the worst."

Quote from Vladimir Bazjanac,of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and head of the technical advisory group for buildingSMART from this article.

Friday, August 13, 2010

CutMyTimber : Digital Manufacturing: Paperless from FIM model to CNC mac...

Here is a great example or integrated design and manufacturing. The video is only 12 minutes long and is a great case study for real integrated project delivery.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Global House Prices

Interesting chart for those of us in the building industry. Do consider the fact of how much innovation there has been in the German high-performance building industry in a falling market over the last 10 years. The question that needs to be asked - Does a booming housing market (read bubble) support or hinder innovation?
Chart Source: IMF

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

GSA Pushes For Reforms to Green Bulding Certification

Finally! And I really like the quote from the GSA official, "One of the things that I tease the USGBC about is that they really need to re-brand from ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ to ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Performance,’ and they are picking up on that,"

Jack Dangermond of ESRI on the future of GIS data

A great video interview by the CEO of ESRI showing the incredible potential of the web as a platform for geospatial data and democratized urban planning and design. If I could just convince more gamers to watch this and work towards applying gaming technologies to integrating geospatial and CAD data in a great user interface.

Is Modular Construction a greener way to build?

Yale and the University of Virginia released some preliminary findings and expect to release a full report later this year. Although I look forward to reading the full report I still have difficulty understanding why this hasn't been studied before? In the era of total-cost-of-ownership and environmental footprint why hasn't the environmental impact of different construction methods received more R&D dollars?

Minergie and Swiss high-performance building

The Swiss embassy in Washington DC will be hosting another green building event on September 8th focused on high-performance building and the Swiss Minergie performance standard. A quick video of last year's event is available here. Switzerland is increasingly recognized for the leadership demonstrated by making high-performance building almost standard practice. A great report from MIT can be found here comparing high-performance building in the U.S., Switzerland, and Germany. Information on ongoing research is available here. Switzerland recently become the most expensive country for construction. A new linkedin group for Minergie and high-performance building just formed - do join us!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"What's our exuse?" Seattle and Green Building

A serious discussion on green building codes and the local building community in Seattle is taking place on publicola. More good writing by Dan Bertolet of the architecture firm GGLO.

What is it with architects and prefabricated housing?

Colin Davies, author of a The Prefabricated Home and a professor or architecture at London Metropolitan University, revisits the topic of prefab and makes some very strong points about how architects continue to fail to work with builders to exploit the potential. His column is part of a series on "The Prefab Front" in the current issue of "The Magazine of the Royal Institute of British Architects" and definitely worth reviewing.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sustainable building in Japan

An interesting resource for sustainable buildings in Japan.

Ken Tadashi Oshima is the most knowledgeable and best resource for prefab and industrialized housing in Japan. A great video interview with him can be found at this website (interview #63)

Swiss High-performance building - 15,000 proofs-of-concept

From a 2009 conference in Washington DC. 12 page PDF introduction to the Swiss Minergie standard with comparisons to the USGBC's LEED program.

Green Building in China - Putting it all together

15 page overview of green building in China from a 2009 report on cleantech. A very good and concise overview.

Monday, May 24, 2010

IDEAbuilder in Sustainable Industries magazine

The March issue of Sustainable Industries featured an article on European green building by Justin Moresco. Both Stefan and I were extensively interviewed for the article and much of the information we shared with Justin was included. You can read the article here.