As the world seeks ways to be more environmentally friendly, many big industries have made changes to be sustainable. Construction has joined in on these efforts, paving the way for a more sustainable future.
Our industry has the unique opportunity to significantly impact climate change for the better since a large amount of energy and material is used in the construction process. The goal for construction is to become sustainable by reducing its impact on the environment through the construction of green buildings, utilizing sustainable materials, and employing energy efficiency. How are companies in the industry achieving these goals? Let’s take a look:
Green buildings are buildings that have been constructed with respect to environmental sustainability. They first came about in the 1970’s, eventually gaining more popularity in the 90’s when the first Green Building Council was formed.
The generally accepted definition for a green building is “the planning, design, construction, and operations of a building with several crucial considerations: energy use, water use, indoor environment quality, material selection, and finally how the building affects its site.” One of the most direct ways that construction is sustainable is through LEED, the most widely used green building rating system in the world. The effectiveness of a green building is coded by the LEED Green Building Rating System.
Before LEED was established in the mid to late 90’s, there were green building projects, however there was no way to know if they were being implemented effectively. Nowadays, LEED will give out plaques to buildings which have been constructed to be sustainable. There are more than 60,000 buildings that participate in LEED today, occupying up to 1.7 million square feet.
Individuals throughout the industry can also earn a certification from LEED, which is exactly what one of our team members has done. D&B Construction’s Operations Manager, Jessica Nelis, obtained her LEED AP, ID+C (focused on interior design and construction) certification around 2010. Jess says, “I became a LEED accredited professional because I knew it would be important and relevant moving forward.” Jess provides a unique perspective on environmental consciousness that we take seriously here at D&B Construction.
Not only are green buildings environmentally friendly, it has been discovered that green buildings promote healthier living. Research shows that people who live or work in a green building experience proven psychological benefits. For example, in a green office building cognitive function scores rose by 61 percent. It is also reported that employees were 44 percent better at making decisions towards achieving workplace goals. In addition, at the Akron Children’s Hospital, 56 percent of people were satisfied with the cheerfulness of the hospital after its own green building renovations. There were also decreased reports of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
According to a report conducted by Grand View Research, the green building materials market has been a vital part of the construction industry’s green footprint, like Jess thought, and is expected to be worth $364.6 billion by 2022 (compared to an estimated $238 billion in 2020).
It’s clear to see why demand for the use of green materials has been a recent trend in the construction industry. Because of this demand, innovative green materials have become very popular.
Sustainable construction is achieved through using sustainable materials such as bamboo, eco-friendly insulation, and even smart glass windows.
If you want to be more sustainable, you could consider bamboo flooring for your project. Bamboo is a great alternative because it looks like wood but has a harvesting cycle of only three years, 22 years shorter than that of a tree. If you choose to use bamboo, you are helping to slow the rate of deforestation by allowing time for trees to grow back.
If insulation adequately cuts down on the energy used for heating and cooling, it could be sustainable. However, this can be counteracted if batts, fillers, and sprays that are not sustainable are used on the insulation. What is the eco-friendly option gaining popularity lately? Hemp insulation. It has all the same properties of normal insulation, but it is a sustainable option. Because it can be compressed, hemp can even provide more superior insulation than your typical insulation.
Another recent movement in sustainable construction is the use of smart glass windows. They were invented in the early 2000’s but have only recently become a building trend. Smart glass changes its heating properties based on the temperature outside, affecting how the heat and air conditioning is run through the building. During the hot summer months, a smart glass window will become translucent to block heating wavelengths that would allow you to run the air conditioning less and vice versa.
There are several options available if you wish to replace your windows with smart glass windows. These options vary in pricing and components of their smart glass technology. First, there are dynamic smart windows, produced by View Smart Windows. This is the “luxury” option, costing $50 to $100 per square foot, in comparison to a normal window which costs $10 to $15 per square foot. This high-end option replaces your normal windows and is even equipped with Wi-Fi control through their downloadable app.
A more cost-effective option is Invisishade’s self-adhesive and smart glass windows. Invisishade offers a “plug-and-play” adhesive film kit which transforms your normal window into smart glass. A sample of their self-adhesive film kit would cost $99, or $249 for a pack of three. The final price of their product varies on size and scope of the project, however Invisishade would offer a discount on bulk .
Smart Glass Windows may seem as if they are an expensive solution for sustainability due to its pricing when compared to normal glass windows. However, manufacturers claim that you can save up to 20% on your monthly energy costs because of their tinting properties. Smart glass allows you to save money on your monthly bills while also making the property look more aesthetically pleasing by eliminating the need for blinds.
Be on the lookout for an emergence of living materials being used to complete green building projects in 2022. Living materials are biological compounds that grow and are ready to produce full-scale production. An example of a promising living material we have not seen much of yet is self-mending concrete. This concrete is full of bacteria that bind the materials around them into a new material form. This material can grow itself into the pores of concrete, essentially being able to rebuild the concrete on its own. The bacteria inside of this concrete can live for up to 200 years. Scientists say that in theory the bacteria would then be able to extend the concrete’s life for that long as well. Seeing as normal concrete lives for 50 to 70 years, this self-sustaining concrete would be much more useful in the long run. We have only begun to scrape the surface of possibilities for this self-mending concrete, but as we learn more it may prove to be a revolutionary material in construction.
New forms of concrete are a key component to sustainability since it is the second most used material on Earth, with only water exceeding it. One of the trends that will become increasingly popular is 3D printing with concrete. This year a 3D printed home community was constructed in Austin, Texas by ICON. It consisted of four homes, all listed on the market for $450,000. The company that built the houses used 3D printing technology to create the first floor of all four homes while the rest of the homes were built conventionally. Houses of this size can be constructed in just five to seven days. The homes were built using cement-based material LavaCrete, a material designed to cope with extreme weather. LavaCrete lived up to its claim when the houses withstood a 7.4 magnitude earthquake with no damages.
The Austin homes are not a unique case. There is also a 3D printed home community being built in Coachella, California. By 2022, this community is going to have 15 houses, each of which will be 1,450 square feet and feature three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a terrace, and a swimming pool. Sustainable real estate development group Palari and construction technology company Mighty Buildings will work together to complete the project.
The potential this unique industry has does not stop at high-end homes… nor does it stop on this planet. ICON, the same company that built the Austin, Texas community of 3D printed homes, is currently working in the research and development phase with NASA to create a space-based construction system. Their goal is to construct 3D printed buildings on the Moon and Mars.
The industry has already evolved as people are beginning to purchase and live in 3D printed homes. Meet a previously homeless Texas man who became one of America’s first inhabitants of a 3D printed home. The best thing about 3D printed concrete for homes is that it is environmentally friendly. This form of building uses the exact amount of material needed to complete the project, allowing for less materials like concrete to be used to construct the building, therefore benefitting the environment.
The potential that 3D printing concrete has is immense and is something worth following as they make progress over the next few years. Stay up to date with 3D printing news here.
Ben, who will graduate with a degree in Media Effects from Penn State University’s Main campus this coming Spring, enjoyed receiving hands-on experience throughout his Summer internship with D&B’s corporate Marketing and Business Development team. As a Professional Writing Intern, Ben helped write articles for D&B’s blog through gathering research and interviewing team members. He also helped with various business administrative tasks that allowed him to learn to use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, our construction management software, Procore, and email marketing tools such as MailChimp, to name a few.
Although the majority of Ben’s three months with us was spent in the office, our team made sure to take him on active job sites. Ben was able to go to both commercial and residential job sites so he could see what both sides of the industry are like in person.
After completing his internship experience, Ben reflected on his time working with D&B, which he described as a “fun and valuable learning experience” for his future. Here’s a Q&A from Ben so you can learn more about his experience:
Q: What takeaways, including new skills, techniques, and knowledge did you learn throughout your internship with D&B?
A: “I thoroughly enjoyed learning the ins and outs of construction. The responsibilities I was given aligned with the classes I take at school, and I now have plenty of material that I can include in my portfolio as I start to job hunt post-graduation. I have developed better writing skills throughout the course of my internship. When I look back at rough drafts from my first article versus my rough drafts towards the end of my internship, I can see that I have made a lot of improvement. I learned how to use tools like Canva, which was useful. Ultimately, I was able to experience what it is like to work in marketing in the real world, which was a really good way for me to realize that marketing is a career I think I can pursue.”
Q: Did any of the classes you have taken in college directly prepare you for this internship?
A: “Yes! My media effects classes and writing classes prepared me for this internship. For example, my business writing class taught me essential skills to writing professionally. My media effects class taught me many things about how to effectively use social media. Actually, one of my assignments was similar to the benchmarking I did while at D&B, as I was asked to look at a celebrities’ Instagram accounts and analyze the good and bad things about them.”
Q: Did this internship make you re-consider what you want to do once you graduate college or confirm that you are in the right field?
A: “I have done a lot of thinking about what I will be doing when I graduate and start looking for a job. Even though I am not exactly sure what field it is that I want to work in, learning more about the construction industry and experiencing the environment in the office has definitely made me consider a job in this industry. I have also realized that I truly do enjoy working in Social Media / Marketing. Before this internship I thought that I would like a position like this, but I was never 100% sure. This internship also made me realize that there is nothing to be scared of, and I should go into the real world with all the confidence possible. Working for D&B has been a great step for me in finding a job once I graduate.”
Q: What are you most proud of from the work you produced throughout your internship and why?
A: “I am most proud of the articles that I worked on while I was here. I have always had to write for school, but writing for D&B’s Blog allowed me to have published work. I am proud to see the articles posted on the website.”
Q: How did you enjoy going on the job sites? Was the difference in commercial vs. residential jobs what you expected?
A: “I really enjoyed going to the job sites. It was cool to go on the job sites and see how D&B Construction works. Both residential and commercial job sites were completely new experiences for me. The difference is what I expected. The commercial job sites have a more hectic feel than the residential job sites because there are many more people working at commercial job sites.”
Q: What is your most memorable moment throughout your internship and why?
A: “My most memorable moment from my internship was visiting CHOP Souderton. I had never been to a commercial construction site and it was interesting to see the dynamic between the D&B Superintendents and our Trade Partners. I also thought it was really cool to see some of the obstacles they may face while building.”
For this quarter’s trade partner spotlight, we are taking a visit to Fleetwood, PA, where AP Merkel Inc. has resided since the 1890’s. AP Merkel is a four-generation company that offers plumbing, heating, and cooling services. They have come a long way since Augustus P. Merkel first founded the company over 100 years ago. AP Merkel first started out as a company that built farm implements, such as machines that would harvest crops. They are well known for manufacturing grain separators known as threshing machines.
Their transition into the HVAC world all comes down to a smart, strategic business move. “Eventually, all of these farms that AP Merkel was working with needed heat,” explains Nate Lobb, an Estimator who has been with the company for 10 years. One thing led to another, and eventually the company added plumbing into their wheelhouse. Approximately 30 employees later, “the rest is history,” sums up Nate.
Today the company is run by Pete Merkel, standing President, and busy with approximately 50 commercial jobs a year. Nate is usually efficiently juggling 20 or so jobs at a time, which he enjoys. “I like the diversity of projects we work on. We do everything from senior living, to coffee shops, to dentist offices,” he explains. Nate also enjoys working through and overcoming the challenges that come with starting every new project. “Being involved in a job from when it is just a concept in budgeting to when it is complete is something I always enjoy,” he says.
Nate, who received his plumbing license about five years ago, grew up in a construction environment. “My dad was always in construction. I had an interest more in the mechanical / HVAC and plumbing side of things,” he explains. Nate earned his Environmental Studies degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. While in college, he interned for a company in Philly doing HVAC work and ended up coming back to the Fleetwood area and continuing his career at AP Merkel.
Nate stresses the fact that now is a great time to get involved in the industry. “There is a HUGE need for young, licensed tradespeople. There are few young people getting into this field right now. Get your license when you can, take it seriously, communicate, and you can have a great career,” he urges.
One young individual who has impressed Nate is D&B’s Superintendent, Ryan Hummel, who he has worked with since D&B Construction and AP Merkel established a relationship within the past year. “He has been really helpful and knows the industry, especially for being a younger guy. Ryan is really on top of it and not afraid to pick up the phone and check on something with us. We can talk through things and work it out. It is clear he takes his job serious,” explains Nate.
This feeling of open lines of excellent communication is just as strong a value for AP Merkel as it is for Team D&B. When we asked Ryan what he likes about working with AP Merkel, he summed it up simply in one word: “Everything.” However, what stands out most to Ryan is “their level of communication and coordination from their office staff to the field staff.” His experience working with AP Merkel over the last year has shown him that “they run a tight ship.”
An example of this can be found at one of our healthcare projects currently in active construction, Grove Dental Pediatrics. Ryan has worked with Nate and Tom, AP Merkel’s Superintendent who has been with the company for around 25 years. “I bid the Grove job, completed estimating, submittals, and the purchasing of equipment and piping, and Tom took it from there and is currently managing the actual job,” explains Nate.
One highlight of this 3,700 SF medical office space? “This project has medical gas piping, which is something we don’t deal with that often. This type of piping has to be put in very clean. It has a special fitting with a braised fitting joint. The key is to keep it clean, so when we start to install it we have to flush it with nitrogen gas,” explains Nate.
We recently visited this healthcare project in Wyomissing, PA. Here’s some photos of AP Merkel team members, Andy, Zach, and Scott, their lead plumber, working to keep the job running smoothly and safely with Team D&B:
Safe + Sound is a year-round campaign to encourage every workplace to have a safety and health program. It was launched by OSHA in an effort to gain safety awareness. Every year in August, OSHA has a Safe + Sound week, with this year’s taking place from Monday, August 9th to Sunday, August 15th.
This nationwide event recognizes the success of workplace health and safety programs and offers information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe. Seven businesses make up the list of organizers who participate in planning calls, working collaboratively with each other to develop and review Safe + Sound materials and communications, and leverage their own resources to support these efforts. In addition to OSHA, these businesses include large organizations, such as the National Safety Council and . The program also has 225 partners who are membership organizations that are responsible for communication and outreach throughout the year to promote Safe + Sound to their stakeholders.
D&B Construction is one of 68 companies throughout PA (and over 1,600 across the nation) who have signed up to participate in Safe + Sound Week 2021. We are excited to show our support and commitment to continue building safer jobsites. People come first at D&B. The safety of our employees, trade partners, and clients is always paramount in every project’s preparation and execution. In order to make this happen, safety and health are at the core of everything we do. Learn how here.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, was created in 1970 to ensure safe and healthy working conditions by setting and enforcing safety standards in addition to providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. You may have heard OSHA refer to the “Fatal Four” when describing the four most common causes of worker deaths on construction sites throughout the United States.
The four most common causes of worker deaths in this industry come from Falls,) which account for 33.5% of construction worker deaths), being struck by an object (11.1%), electrocutions (8.5%) and being caught in / between something accounted for 5.5% of construction worker deaths. According to OSHA, as of 2020 “one in five worker deaths in 2019 were in construction.” The “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (58.6%) of construction worker deaths. According to OSHA, if these “Fatal Four” causes could be eliminated, they would save 591 workers’ lives in America each year.
In 2020, OSHA gathered data on the top 10 instances of safety code violations. Learn what they are below, and hear from our Director of Construction and Safety Director, Tom, on how such issues can be avoided and prevented:
What This Means: OSHA states that a violation could include not providing working conditions that are free of known dangers, failure to keep floors in work areas in a clean and dry state, as well as not providing required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
Tips on How to Prevent This: Our Safety Director, Tom, encourages the use of safety rails and body harnesses on every job site. “At D&B we provide these on every job site to give our workers the safest environmental possible.”
What This Means: Simply put, this refers to the failure to inform all people on the job site of potential risks and hazards.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “At D&B we fill out a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) on all job sites,” explains Tom. “This helps us to ensure that we are communicating this vital information with all of our employees and trade partners. Communication is huge in enhancing safety.”
What This Means: Failure to abide to OSHA standards would include improper fall protection / fall arrest systems, unsuitable guardrail height, inadequate footing support, failure to complete inspections, etc.
Tips on How to Prevent This: Work with reputable scaffolding companies that you trust. “At D&B we complete daily and weekly inspections on the scaffolding on our site to ensure we are practicing proper scaffolding safety protocols,” says Tom.
What This Means: Failure to address the practices and procedures needed to disable machinery or equipment that may expose workers to hazardous energy.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “There is no better way to ensure this mishap is avoided then by requiring all electricians on your job site to use lockout and tagout procedures on all powered equipment and panel boxes,” says Tom.
At D&B, we include the following lockout safety poster on our Safety Board at all jobsites:
What This Means: A violation would include not providing the proper respiratory protection.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “In addition to providing dust masks to all employees, it is important to utilize clean air machines and air scrubbers such as HEPA filters on your job sites,” says Tom. “In any situation where there are environmental hazards present, we as a company will hire a reputable remediation company to ensure the safety and health of all people on the job site. I highly recommend doing this when the elements require it.”
What This Means: This could include placing a ladder on a box or barrel, using ladders where there is unstable footing or soft ground, exceeding a ladder’s maximum load rating, ignoring nearby overhead power lines, moving or shifting the ladder while a person or equipment is on it, using an extension ladder horizontally as a platform, etc.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “Have your Site Superintendents check ladders on a daily and weekly basis. If any ladders are deemed unsafe or defective, they should be removed immediately,” says Tom. Unlike hard hats, for example, there is no specific expiration date for ladders. Following proper storage techniques and treating ladders with care can help in making them last longer.
What This Means: This refers to improper vehicle use, lack of training, and a failure to re-certify operators every three years as required.
Tips on How to Prevent This: ” At D&B, we make sure all of our Pettibone and Lift operators are certified, and we require lift plans for any kind of crane lifts. This is something I recommend everyone get in the habit of making a standard practice.”
What This Means: Failure to provide proper fall prevention training is something that can easily be avoided if proper training and communication on fall prevention is completed on all job sites.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “All D&B Construction field personnel are OSHA certified, and we also hold training sessions throughout the course of the year,” explains Tom.
At D&B, we include the following fall protection poster on our Safety Board at all jobsites. This is an easy way to remind everyone on the job site of how to best prevent falls.
What This Means: Failure to provide one or more methods of machine guarding to ensure the safety of the operator and others in the nearby area can result in an unsafe job site.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “All powered tools are inspected for proper and adequate guarding by a D&B employee, such as the Site Superintendent, before use,” says Tom.
What This Means: Failure to make the appropriate personal protective equipment available to all employees at no cost is something that should not occur anywhere.
Tips on How to Prevent This: “Keep inventory of safety equipment, such as safety glasses and hi-visibility vests, for all of your employees. At D&B, we keep a document that is updated every time a new hire starts so we know the date in which they received all of their issued PPE. This makes it easy for us to keep taps on when hard hats will expire and new ones will need to be re-issued. We also provide respiratory and hearing protection on every job site.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry had 195,600 workplace injuries and 3,600 workplace illnesses in 2019. More specifically, Pennsylvania’s non-fatal workplace injury and illness rates were above the national average. The Center for Construction Research and Training’s Fatality Map Dashboard also shows that since data started being collected in 2011, Delaware has had 17 fatal injuries in construction, New Jersey has had 145, and Pennsylvania has had 213 fatal injuries. With these statistics in mind the importance of practicing safety is pretty clear.
“Safety Weeks such as this one exist so we can create awareness and reduce the number of fatalities our industry sees,” concludes Tom. “Chances are that some of the fatalities seen could have been prevented if better communication and more training took place. That’s why our team at D&B is focused on achieving safety every day through daily safety checks on site.”
Let us know how you work to prevent incidents on the job site in the comments below, and consider joining D&B and thousands of other companies in taking the pledge to be Safe + Sound – both throughout this week and every day.
White-sand beaches, warm weather, great food, and high-end luxuries are everything that Miami is known for. The small town of Surfside is no exception with its reputation of being pleasant, quiet, safe, and affordable. As you likely may have heard, Surfside recently become the center of attention for many people after tragedy struck the small town in June.
On June 24th Surfside’s 12-story beachfront condo, Champlain Towers South, partially collapsed at about 1:25 AM with its residents inside. As of Monday, July 26th, the last victim’s remains were identified. This brought the final death toll to 98 people after tedious efforts were made to account for every resident, and officials have now confirmed that remains for each person considered missing after the collapse have been recovered. The efforts made were the largest emergency unrelated to hurricanes ever conducted in the state, with search and rescue teams from throughout Florida, many other states, and even Israel and Mexico coming together to bring closure to families.
According to the New York Times, this disaster is one of the deadliest structural building failures in American History. Many residents are still in shock. Community Members Peggy Streter and her husband own The Carrot Café located in downtown Surfside. The two have claimed to know about 50 people who lived in the condo. The Streters are not the exception. Miami’s building chief, Charles Danger said, “Everybody in Miami knows somebody from that building or knows somebody who knows somebody.”
The rest of the building was demolished on Sunday, July 4th in efforts to continue the search. Once all remains were identified of those missing, officials began steering their focus to determining what could have caused the collapse. Since then the building has continued to be in the limelight, as many of the building’s records that would help investigators learn why the building fell could not be found, and the not-so-easy conversation over the fate of the site has started to take place. Here’s a quick summary of what is known:
People living in Surfside Condos, which were completed in 1981, had previously voiced their concerns about the structure of the building they called home, so the collapse does not come as a surprise for some. After a DEA building collapsed in Miami almost half a century ago, taking the lives of seven employees and injuring 16 others, two Miami counties instilled new regulations requiring buildings that have stood for 40 years to be investigated for any problems. Since Champlain Towers South was in one of these counties, their mandatory 40-year inspection took place in 2018.
When the condo was inspected by engineer Frank Morabito in 2018, he identified that there was a flaw in the original construction of the building that was causing structural damage. Morabito mentioned the main issue was that the pool deck and outdoor planters had been “laid on a flat structure.” Since there was no slope where the pool stood, standing water was not able to drain off the pool deck. Instead, the water would sit on the waterproofed concrete until it evaporated. At the time of inspection, the water-proofing concrete had failed, causing the water to seep through resulting in “major structural damage to the concrete slab below these areas.” The report also pointed out distress and fatigue in the concrete, columns, beams, and walls of the parking garage below the pool area.
Morabito’s report said that “failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.” He could not predict that this may lead to the collapse of the building, however he said that repairs to the concrete were needed for “maintaining the structural integrity” of the building. The waterproofing and structural issues of the condo were never addressed by the owner’s association.
Fast forward to 2019 when a neighboring luxury tower was being built. Residents of the Champlain Towers South condominium complained that construction would often cause their building to shake. This led to a resident and board member of the condo association, Mara Chouela, voicing her opinion that workers were “digging too close” to the property. She said they “have concerns regarding the structure of our building.” Just 28 minutes later, official Rosendo Prieto responded to Chouela stating that “there is nothing for me to check.”
There is no concrete evidence that construction of the condo’s neighbor contributed to the collapse of the building, and it is still unclear if the lack of action from the owner’s association was a major factor in the building’s collapse. Cassie Stratton, a resident who was inside the building during the collapse, reportedly told her husband on the phone that she saw the pool cave in first, backing up Morabito’s claim that the waterproofing of the pool was necessary to maintain the structure of the building.
The fact remains that residents were concerned for the structure of the condo, and they felt as if no one took the necessary action to redeem the structural integrity of the building.
The city of Surfside hired a structural engineer, Allyn Kilsheimer, to inspect the site and determine the cause for the buildings collapse. Kilsheimer says it is “maybe not an individual cause, but two or three things that contributed and/or caused this failure.” While the pool could have been a major issue to the structural problems, it is still unclear and there are many theories that will be examined.
In addition to hiring Kilsheimer, another group was hired to lead the charge to uncover what caused the collapse since this was such a big case. The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) will be working constantly to investigate the situation. They say that “a fact-finding investigation of the building performance and emergency response and evacuation procedures will likely result in significant and new knowledge or building code revision recommendations needed to reduce or mitigate public risk and economic losses from future building failures.”
Like many others, we have been wondering what caused this to happen. Matt Knight, Senior Estimator at D&B Construction, has been working in the industry for over 20 years. He has been involved with the construction of many large, well-known buildings, including the 9/11 Memorial.
Matt did not do any research, but from what he saw “the building collapsed from the bottom up,” which makes him think “there would be structural cracks in the floor, columns, beams, etc.” As we know now, these structural cracks were found by engineers and deemed to be a major structural concern prior to the collapse of the building. Much like Allyn Kilsheimer, Matt believes that it is likely there are multiple causes for the failure of Champlain Towers South.
One of the theories that Matt believes had a big role in the building’s collapse was the fact that the condo had been sinking at a rate of two millimeters per year from 1993 to 1999. Scientists also discovered evidence of other areas nearby sinking as well. Matt says that one of the most important things when constructing large buildings is to make sure you are building on good soil. Since the condo was slowly sinking, Matt believes they likely “built on unsuitable soils and never got the compaction they needed.” He notes that if soil is not properly compacted so that it is suitable for the building, everything else will eventually fail. “If you are building from the ground up your soil underneath is, of course, most important,” he concludes. For now, Matt is waiting to learn more about what caused the failure once the investigations are conclusive.
At the end of the day, the collapse of Champlain Towers South was a tragedy, however Matt tries to look at how the industry as a whole can learn from what happened. “Usually a lot of good things will come out of a catastrophic failure. For example, we learned a lot from 9/11, and today those World Trade Center Towers are not being built the same way,” he says. Matt believes the industry will learn valuable lessons from this, and it will improve how we are constructing buildings overall. He would not be surprised if there will be changes for older building’s codes, especially around that area. Matt also proposes the idea of a new law emerging from this that would make building owners, when aware of structural damages, either make the repairs or move everyone out until they do.
While we wait to learn more, one question many still have is whether or not limitations on technology when the condo was built play a factor in the failure of Champlain Towers South? When the condo building was constructed in 1981 many of the rules and regulations that we have today were not in place. Miami was also known for “slipshod construction,” and in some cases they were known to take the look-the-other-way approach when enforcing building codes and regulations. While their construction practices were not nearly as good then as they are now, they also did not have access to the technology we have now.
Specifically, VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) and BIM (Building Information Modeling) are tools that Matt says, “could have helped if they had it during original construction”. BIM is a tool for 3D modeling and data input of physical objects, while VDC uses BIM models to plan the construction process from beginning to end. Watch a video to learn more about VDC and BIM here. Using technology like BIM and VDC essentially allows you to build the entire project virtually before building it in the real world, which can decrease cost and time put into a project while also increasing safety. We may often take technology like this for granted, but it is interesting to think about what the world of construction would have looked like in the 80’s if society had access to these technologies that we can now use every day.
D&B is interested to hear your thoughts. Do you think new technologies will help to prevent disasters like the one in Surfside? What policies and procedures do you think should be put into place to help increase safety and avoid disasters such as this from happening in the future? Let us know in the comments below!
Open floor plans in office spaces first made an appearance in the 1940s and later evolved in the 1960’s where they were used as a means of symbolically showing the company’s culture. Offices with open floor plans continued to be prevalent during the tech boom of the 1990’s, and in 2005 they became a real inspiration for innovation.
In 2005, Google completely renovated their headquarters signaling the “dawn of a new professional era.” The project architect, Clive Wilkinson, explained that they got rid of the cubicle because of Google’s “We’re inventing a new world, why do we need the old world?” attitude. Many companies followed suit in later years, asking to be “Google-fied.” Just 10 years after Google’s office transformation, Facebook would follow suit, creating an office space that held 2,800 employees across 10 acres. The headquarters would claim to be the largest open floor plan office in the world.
Offices with open floor plans have become a major trend in recent years. Although they all don’t span across 10 acres like Google’s may, they still pose a timely question as people return to the workplace: Will this office layout and design work in a post COVID-19 world?
As the world rethinks how we work, it will be interesting to see how office layouts as we know them will transform in the upcoming years. Companies currently looking to re-imagine or add onto their office space may currently be weighing the pros and cons that an open floor plan offers. Let’s take a look at some of them:
One of the biggest arguments supporting the open floor office design is that it provides the employee with a unique social aspect that other office designs do not offer. The social interactions in an office can provide a large system of support to your employee, helping with the individual’s motivation and overall productivity.
Depending on its design, an office can provide a balanced social and cognitive environment for their employees. When optimized, an open floor office design will have a good mix of spaces that are intended for different uses and easily adaptable to fit the employees’ specific needs.
One way that our team at D&B likes to incorporate an open floor plan into a re-imagined commercial office space is through installing aesthetically pleasing glass doors throughout. This trend gives companies a modern, sleek and updated look. An example of this look from one of our past clients can be found in Power Kunkle’s large conference room.
Although many would argue that open floor plans are here to stay, some would dispute that noise, a lack of privacy, and opportunity for distraction may cause an increase in errors, lack of production, and sometimes stress with this layout design. In 2018, the Harvard Business Report found that “open offices reduce face-to-face interactions by about 70% and increase email and messaging by roughly 50%.”
This quick look at the pros and cons of an open floor plan illustrates that this design is not a one size fits all solution. Members of Team D&B believe that transformative office spaces will increase in demand, and it looks like the latest research agrees.
As businesses leaders look to redesign their office space in the near future, they will need to think of how they can cater to different employees and their varying workflows. Some may thrive on collaboration and interaction, an essential component to build company culture, foster relationships, and create a team-oriented atmosphere. On the other hand, there will be times when some employees may be more productive in a quiet environment where they can focus. The solution to these varying needs? A transformative office space.
D&B Construction’s Pre-Construction Manager, Bob Martzall, has noticed that “some businesses have been expressing their desire to have flexibility” as they work with D&B as their general contractor. One way they are achieving this goal is through modular walls. Bob explains how “modular walls can provide an office with a great amount of flexibility and safety, as these are walls that you can take down, move, or shift.”
On a larger scale, one company that has taken flexibility to a whole new level is Salesforce. In February of this year they announced that employees would “have the option to work remotely full time, even when it’s safe to return to the office.” Their new guidelines offer employees the option of working full remote, flex time in the office, or completely office-based. Employees who choose to work the “flex” option will have the flexibility of coming into the office between one and three days per week when they need to perform tasks that may prove challenging over a video conference call, such as working on collaborative projects or meetings with clients. So how will this extensive change affect the company’s 19 physical offices in North America alone… specifically the recently completed 1,070-foot-high Salesforce Tower in San Francisco? The company has announced that they will be redesigning offices as “community hubs” that will replace rows of desks with multiple collaboration and breakout spaces.
D&B Construction’s Philadelphia office recently completed a 10,246 SF commercial office design-build project for Berger Rental Communities at their new West Valley Business Center location in Wayne, PA. Their new collaborative room is one of their employees’ favorite spaces. Lesley Yocum, a Project Manager out of D&B Construction’s Philadelphia office who also played a major role in designing the client’s space, said that they knew they wanted this space throughout the entire design process.
Research looking at today’s high-functioning workplaces show that employees are spending much more time on collaborative activities. Lesley agrees – especially right now. “People are returning to a ‘new’ office layout with more space between their co-workers. Because of this, collab rooms will be utilized as both old fashioned conference rooms and a place where you can go to get ‘comfy’ and discuss since that’s what many people are accustomed to now after working from home for so long.”
Unique spaces in open floor offices can include coffee bars, lounge areas, and other spaces designed to make everyone feel welcome, while still encouraging open communication and collaboration. This welcoming environment can be found at D&B Construction’s most recently completed project for Riverfront Federal Credit Union, who just held their ribbon cutting ceremony on June 16. The credit union’s newest branch and Operations Center features cutting edge technology with a drive thru consisting of three Interactive teller Machines (ITMs) and self-service kiosks offering Video Integrated Realtime Assistance (VIRA). Inside their new 34,000 SF office space, you will find that Riverfront’s strong belief in the value of face-to-face banking has not been lost. The interior is set up in a manner that’s more interactive than a traditional bank, and members are welcome to relax in a comfortable seating area while they complete financial transactions. A café will soon be open to the public as well, further promoting a sense of community. Learn more about this project and how it has created a grand customer experience through both technology and in person banking options here.
As D&B’s recent project with Riverfront Federal Credit Union depicted, and to no one’s surprise, an even stronger emphasis will be placed on technology as the future of work evolves. One way we are already seeing this? Our clients want their conference rooms to be decked out with cutting-edge technology that will allow them to host video conference calls in their meeting spaces. Our Pre-Construction Manager, Bob, has already seen rooms with cameras and microphones that are set up to instantly switch over to the person talking and simultaneously broadcast them to the Zoom meeting. A room like this is something businesses may want to seriously consider if they are designing an open-floor plan, especially if they predict to be in a hybrid working environment.
Bob predicts we will see “more hands-free devices and more technology-oriented safety” in the near future. This can include investing in Bluetooth technology throughout conference rooms so employees don’t have to touch a speaker or shared phone. Doors can also be fully controlled by an app on your phone or simply don’t need to require handles and can instead swing open both ways by pushing them with your shoulder or foot. Hands-free water dispensing systems are another trend that Bob has noticed. Want to be health conscious while also looking out for the environment? Try installing motion lights throughout the office, from conference rooms to bathrooms.
Limiting high touch point areas such as door handles strongly reduces the spread of germs, and for this reason, Bob imagines these current trends are here to stay for a long time. Case and point: The upscale conference room D&B completed for Berger Rental Communities’ new headquarters at the end of April included a specific wall mounted camera with multiple speakers in the ceiling, motion lights with sensors throughout all offices, and dimming lights throughout all other areas. View more photos and learn more about this project here.
A study by USA Today shows that 35% of Americans prefer a home-office hybrid working situation, and 25% of Americans want to go back to the office full time. With over half of the population hoping to return to the office in some capacity, the question of how employers will accommodate for safety concerns and the “new normal” of flex time still looms over many individual’s heads.
Bob believes safety will determine many office designs post COVID-19. He thinks that one of the most important things to include in your post COVID-19 office is environmental air filtration systems. This refers to how the air circulates through the office so that it is environmentally friendly, limiting the spread of germs and being sustainable. Bob has seen clients wanting to have this included in their project design.
Having more collaborative rooms may result in a more open floor plan being replaced with more individual office spaces (which may help some individuals feel more at ease with returning to the office). With 36 years of experience in the industry, Bob has noticed that “many offices are shifting away from a cubicle environment and instead building more individual office spaces.” He believes that building more office spaces can make it much easier for an employer to provide safe precautions for their employees when necessary, thus explaining this recent trend. These adaptations can make a work environment flexible and safe for everyone involved.
As many companies continue the transition of shifting back into the office, Bob has noticed that companies across all sectors have been trying to get their projects fulfilled by construction companies. He says that this is because “the cost of borrowing is so cheap right now, so the cost of doing business is more economical. The question is, do you need the space?”
The companies who answer yes to this question (and companies such as Salesforce who need to re-imagine their spaces) will be left to map out how their office space should look in a post COVID-19 world. In some way, shape, or form, many businesses will have to change their office footprint in the upcoming years, whether through down-sizing, expanding or renovating their current space to fit future needs. This is something that is weighing heavily on the minds of many employers. Although daunting at first thought, this is an opportunity to create a new blueprint that sets the stage for office spaces for years to come.
After considering the thoughts of our industry experts, years of research, and the current state of the world, how would you design your office’s blank slate to best meet the needs of your team?
We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
Our first Trade Partner Spotlight features Gillespie Electric, Inc. Located in East Greenville, PA this full-service electrical contracting company has been a recognized industry leader known for its reliability for over 40 years.
We recently drove out to Souderton, PA to check out the new 12,500 SF community health center quickly taking shape for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Every time we visit we are greeted by the smile of D&B’s Superintendent on the jobsite, John. He always has a positive energy about him, but when we visited on June 23rd he was literally excited to show us the work that Gillespie Electric, Inc. just completed. We’ll show you as well so you can see what John was talking about:
Although new to Team D&B, John has been in the industry working on a variety of large construction projects over the last 34 years (including the delicious Steak 48 on Broad Street in Philadelphia). John described the work the Gillespie team completed as a “quality standardized performance” and claimed he has never seen such well-executed work from electricians. “This demonstrates the quality and care that these guys have to make this job beautiful,” says John with a smile as he admires their work once more.
According to Gillespie Electric’s Project Manager, Keith Lewis, who has worked on this healthcare project with D&B Construction since it began, they “have been on and off site since this project first broke ground last year and will be on site until the job is complete in a few months.” Over 350 receptacles and 15,000 linear feet of HFC Hospital grade MC are being installed on this project. “All of the lights are LED and we are installing a back-up generator for all of the vaccine refrigerators,” explains Keith.
The company’s Foreman, Mike, as well as Nick (who John admiringly refers to as “another badass” on the Gillespie team) just recently finished tying everything into the panels, a job that took about a week to complete. “Mike and Nick both completed two different rooms. A lot of times when you have two electricians on the same job you can notice slight differences, but their work looked identical. I couldn’t even tell who did which room since their work was so precise,” says John.
The Foreman, Mike, has been with Gillespie for 10 years since 2011 and received his Electrical Apprenticeship from Bucks County Tech in 2012. Keith, who sings high praises of his co-worker, says that Mike was a journeyman for nine years and became a Foreman at the company last year. “Interestingly enough, this job is Mike’s first job that he is completing from start to finish as a Foreman. It’s not every day you win both the core and shell and fit-out phases and are able to be involved in the entire project.”
Although Gillespie has completed a number of jobs for CHOP over the years, this is the first job they are completing for D&B. “There are always some challenges when working with a new general contractor,” says Keith. “It’s like when you first start a new job. You have to feel out your new boss, and they are doing the same with you. But we have had very minimal challenges working with D&B. Communication has been easy, and working with Jim (D&B Project Manager on the job) has been easy, too. It honestly feels like we have been working with them for much longer than we have.”
Keith had similar remarks to say about our Superintendent on the job. “John is on top of things. He gets questions answered efficiently and makes good, on-his-feet decisions. If I ask John a question, I know I will have the answer within a day or two. That’s unusual. Construction should be fluid, and he makes it that way,” says Keith.
At D&B, we view our trade partners as an extension of our team. That’s why we work with trusted trade partners like Gillespie Electric who bring the same level of care that we do to the jobsite.
With the prospects of a slightly warmer than average summer looming, it is important that those within the industry, and anyone working long hours outside, brush up on their knowledge of high heat safety. At D&B, safety is our standard. Our Safety Committee meets monthly (and will actually be discussing this relevant topic at our upcoming meeting) to help ensure that all members of our team and trade partners are safe. In the name of safety and looking out for our brothers and sisters in the industry, we wanted to share these helpful tips from D&B’s Safety Director and Construction Manager, Tom Rinaldo:
Tom suggests that all D&B employees and trade partners stay well hydrated during the summer by drinking one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. On every D&B jobsite, we provide ample amounts of water for our employees and trade partners. It is important to hydrate the night before and after you work on a jobsite. Doing so puts less strain on the body to replace the fluids you have lost while sweating.
If water is not easily accessible or you are looking for an alternative, Tom recommends trying drinks that have electrolytes, like Gatorade. Gatorade contains valuable electrolytes that can help maintain the ionic balance in your body. Gatorade and similar drinks are also able to replace electrolytes that you may have lost while sweating, and having enough electrolytes is vital to keep your body functioning properly while on the jobsite.
Tom urges team members to avoid eating salty foods. Why? They dehydrate you. Foods such as pretzels, potato chips, and popcorn can be a great snack, but in the summer months you may want to trade them in for your favorite fruits and veggies.
It can be hard to avoid eating salty foods on the jobsite, especially since the convenience of fast food restaurants can be tempting when you’re on the go. Fast foods like McDonald’s can be unhealthy – and even unsafe during the summer months – for more reasons than just its high sodium content.
Let’s say you’re on your way to the jobsite and decide to stop at McDonalds to get a classic Big Mac Meal with fries and a soda. This meal is 1,320 calories; 51 grams of this is fat, 192 grams is carbs, and 1,425 mg is sodium.
Construction workers can burn up to 300 calories per hour while on the job. This is three times as many calories as the average office worker who only burns around 102 calories per hour. Because of this, it is recommended that individuals completing manual labor on the jobsite consume at least 2,500 calories a day. After eating your Big Mac Meal, you have already consumed 79% of your daily fat, 64% of your daily carbs, and 60% of your daily sodium, and you still need to consume 1,180 more calories to obtain the recommended 2,500 calories.
Not only are you consuming too much sodium, but regular consumption of fast food meals such as this can be unhealthy to you and may even influence other workers to follow suit. To stay healthy on the jobsite, we recommend packing protein and complex carbohydrates low on salt, with some healthy snacks (see the next tip for more info on this).
Start your day off right with this easy to make breakfast burrito. For lunch, try saying adios to the usual cold cuts and deli meats high in sodium and nitrates by trading them in for the ultimate trifecta: something delicious, healthy, and safe for your body in the heat. We think this Protein Packed Pasta Salad looks delicious! While you are feeling inspired, check out these 15 tasty and uncomplicated lunches that are packed with protein.
Watermelons, strawberries, oranges, peaches, cucumbers and other fruit are great snacks, especially in the summer while on the jobsite. In addition to drinking water, eating water-filled fruits and other snacks is a great (and healthy) way to stay hydrated.
One great lunch option is a cucumber-watermelon salad with avocado and bell pepper. Aside from being tasty, it is simple, too! All you need to do is cube these foods and add the dressing of your choice.
Let us know which recipes you’d like to try and what your go-to healthy lunch is on the jobsite in the comments below!
Darker clothes attract more sunlight. Naturally, this rule applies on the jobsite in the summer. Our Safety Director, Tom, suggests this simple tip that can make quite the difference: wearing loose, light-colored clothes.
Potentially the most important tip out of the five, make sure to get some shade. Naturally, jobsites can get extremely hot in the summer months. Our Safety Director encourages all workers to take breaks in the shade to cool down and to be vigilant for signs of exhaustion, both for themselves and their co-workers on the jobsite. Having a buddy system may work well here. It is important to watch for the following signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke for everyone on the job:
Implementing an acclimatization plan is one way to prevent heat exhaustion. Simply put, this allows workers to get used to the high-heat conditions of the summer. This should take place over a one to two-week period. For new workers, the schedule should accommodate for no more than 20% exposure to heat on day one, with an increase of no more than 20% each day. If the worker has had experience on the job, you should do the same sort of process over a four-day period. Start day one at 50%, move to 60% on your second day, and 80% on your third day. By the fourth day you will be at 100% exposure. Tom supports this kind of plan if he feels the situation is right for it, although the tri-state area that D&B covers usually doesn’t require this since the seasons are well-balanced.