5 New Trends in Construction and
Building


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As the economy improves, often the construction business does as well—but that industry is still looking for sound strategies, not just structures. After the housing dip of a few years ago, value is still on people’s minds as there isn’t a guarantee that another downturn couldn’t be around the corner.

Mike Miller, the Mid-Atlantic Division leader for Southland Industries, Dulles, VA, a mechanical engineering building firm, and Jim Snyder, director of operations for construction company Warrior Group, Columbus, OH, give us insights into the trends to look for this year.

1) Single-Design Model

Miller points out that traditionally, engineering documents were created then given to the contractor to re-draw with different information. Now, to save time and money, there’s a shift to have it all in-house from engineering to coordination, creating a one-stop shop. Through the proper coordination, models can and should, says Miller, go through engineering right into construction. “Thirty month projects can get turned into 24-month projects,” he adds.

Top trends in construction and building, from single-design models to permanent modular construction, have an impact on the future.

Top trends in construction and building, from single-design models to permanent modular construction, have an impact on the future.

2) Materials

Miller, who has a degree in architectural engineering, says materials such as adapted sheet metal are popular as a guaranteed pressure class for high quality, but it’s how materials are being used that makes the difference. Going to prefabrication off-site for construction fits right into the ongoing theme of improving schedules. “Instead of joining one piece of duct work you can join 20 feet of duct together,” Miller says. “It’s about moving more work from the field into the shop.”

3) Energy Efficiency

Energy consumption is always on the mind in construction, says Miller. He notes systems that recover energy through heat wheels and occupancy sensors are becoming vital. An example of the latter are the countless interior conference rooms that can be left empty for weeks. By recognizing carbon dioxide in the room, a sensor changes the ventilation and, therefore, the energy needed.

4) Permanent Modular Construction

Snyder offers that permanent modular construction will be a huge trend in the coming years, saying the construction can easily last more than 50 years. “It looks exactly like commercial construction and can be done using many of the same things: metal studs, concrete, or even wood.” Snyder says modular construction fits particularly well when you’re in a time crunch, from fast food restaurants that need to go up quickly to army barracks for military deployment. “It also allows you to have an easier time doing the building as you go,” he says. “Instead of building 100,000 square feet, you can do 25,000 and then later, add on.” Snyder, who has a degree in construction science, sees it also becoming a part of high-rise construction and being particularly popular for how it fits in with LEED requirements. The key, he says, is changing people’s minds about what they envision. “They see it as boxes,” he says, “but it can be so many things that you want it to be.”

5) Possibly…You

According to Miller, well-rounded mechanical engineers who can go beyond calculations to fitting into these coordinated engineering design models will render themselves invaluable. The only question is: Are you flexible enough for the challenge?

Eric Butterman is an independent writer.

Well-rounded mechanical engineers who can go beyond calculations to fitting into these coordinated engineering design models will render themselves invaluable.

Nikhil A. Koratkar, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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May 2013

by Eric Butterman, ASME.org