A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

“The Times, They Are a-Changin” 2

Those Bob Dylan lyrics will become more and more applicable to the construction industry as the market recovers, older construction workers retire and the technology of construction enters the transition phase to whatever lies ahead.

In a recent conversation I had with a developer and a contractor, both were wondering out loud what the next big changes might be.  They both, independently, suggested that the expansion of prefabrication might be one answer to skilled labor shortages, higher technology demands for the next generation buildings, and to the lack of quality found in building construction around the world.

We already see lots of prefab in some of the trades like Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) where ducts and piping are prefabbed, then transported and installed on site.  This is becoming more prevalent in clean installations and in hospitals.

We mentioned in a previous posting that Broad Sustainable Building (BSB), a vertically integrated construction company located in China, had erected a 15-story hotel in only 6 days.  Earlier this year, the same company built a 30-story hotel in just 15 days using prefabricated floors, wet cores, and rooms.  The units were shipped to the site from the manufacturing floor fully furnished down to the linens – quite a feat!

Now, according to a recent article in CNN Travel, BSB and its leader, chief executive officer Zhang Yue, are awaiting government approval to erect a 220 story building in 90 days, completing it in early 2013.  According to the articles, “95% of the building will be built on the ground” before erection begins.

Not only will Sky City become the tallest building in the world, surpassing the Burj Khalifa, the tallest, it will be built for about 50% of the budget and 75% faster than the Burj.

Lest you think that this is not a serious venture, the building has been designed to withstand an earthquake of 9.0, a very serious earthquake indeed.

It will be interesting to watch the video on this one.  They plan to erect two floors per day as opposed to the one floor a week in most office buildings built in the US today.  Many will consider this as a passing fad, but perhaps we will see some of that Chinese technology imported into the U.S. over the next 3 to 5 years as the economy warms up, interest rates rise, and developers looking for a faster solution to building and the skilled labor shortages find prefab building construction a way to address those issues.

How would prefab and lower cost impact your bidding and building process?

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