International Prefabrication: Brazilian Eco-Friendly Modular Family Residence Designed and Installed in Just 28 Days

While prefabrication has been a hot topic in the construction industry for quite some time, with KB Homes perhaps leading the effort in America, SysHaus is one of the first international modular family residence of its kind. It was designed and installed in a mere 28 days by São Paulo-based engineering and construction company SysHaus and Brazilian architecture firm Studio Arthur Casas. The home was prefabricated from 100 percent recyclable materials, and includes energy-saving elements like “rainwater catchment and reuse system, solar roof tiles, a green roof and even a biodigester to turn organic waste into gas for the fireplace and kitchen.”

Landscaping was also a priority, with low maintenance plants that require minimal water making up most of the exterior, and the interior incorporating large sliding doors to connect the indoors with the outdoors. “Nature and design integration are key to this Brazilian Startup SysHaus’ and Studio Arthur Casas’ project,” the team said in a press release. “Using modular system manufacturing, project needs and specifications made its parts in a very efficient and functional mode.” To view more pictures of the stunning SyHaus home, read the original article here.

The SyHaus is just another example of how prefabrication has been building momentum as process innovation becomes more and more vital to builders. Labor shortages require streamlined processes, and prefabrication can make that happen – while also saving resources, reducing waste and cutting costs.

At MiTek, we help our customers implement superior processes. With solutions that optimize and control costs, shorten cycle times and eliminate waste, builders achieve more profitable, higher-volume business results, and deliver more affordable, legacy-quality homes. We’ll partner with you at every stage of the process.
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How to Save ‘Hundreds of Hours’: Collaboration Tips From Steel Fabricators

Most builders, contractors, and suppliers run into communication problems from time to time.


For steel fabricators Richardson Steel, they’ve seen it all in terms of errors and miscommunications on the jobsite. Now they can offer you hard-won tips from their experience on an expensive, complicated project: the Imperial Beach Library.


“It’s hard stuff to locate without modeling it,” says Lance Richardson of Richardson Steel of the design for Imperial Beach Library. “[The shape] shifted from one radius to a second radius, and then to a third radius.”


It could have been a sticky situation, but Richardson says the process couldn’t have been smoother thanks to several smart decisions along the way.


“Because of the communication and the shared use of technology, we averted those problems,” he says.


Technology and collaboration can solve your most pressing jobsite challenges, even complex ones, even if it seems like a simplistic prescription. Each of these tips can be further broken down.


Technology Bridges the Gap

Many projects today demand a level of attention to detail that can’t be ‘done’ on anything except the latest BIM technology. Steel detailer Bart Rohal estimates feeding 2d plans into a 3d program saved “hundreds of hours.”


Work Ahead

It always pays to get out of ahead of the process. Just how early? Before the ink is even dry on the contract, says Richardson. He says, “I cannot overstate how beneficial this has been to these projects once construction begins.”


They even suggest creating positions to maintain quality control over aspects of the project that may get lost once work begins.


Incorporate Codes and Standards

For Richardson Steel, the code specifications they have to meet are laid out by the American Institute of Steel Construction. Your standards may look different depending on your end of the project, but failure to consider codes at every step of the way can derail a project later.


Take a Look Back

No matter what goes wrong or right, post-project review can save you from making the same mistakes in the future. A thorough review can also identify areas ripe for cost-cutting.


Communication and Data Management Issues Cost Construction Firms Over $177 Billion Per Year, Survey Says

According to a new report by the PlanGrid and consultancy firm FMI Corp, the construction industry could be overspending by $177 billion dollars per year.


The culprit? Communication issues and disorganization in data management.


The report surveyed 600 professionals ranging in occupation from general contractors to owners and developers to specialty trades.  A slight majority of respondents were general contractors.


The results of the survey show the devastating impact of communication conflicts and disorganization on business. Respondents reported that they spent an average of 35% of their time on non-core responsibilities, such as looking up project information, addressing communication gaps, and fixing mistakes or doing rework. To put it another way, that’s 14 hours of lost productivity that could easily be added back into the workweek by better processes and more efficient technology.


Disorganization and Miscommunication Factor In

Of those 14 hours, almost 5 were spent solely on managing disputes between stakeholders. An even more dismal 5 and half hours were devoted to looking for materials such as drawings and cut sheets.

Better systems can alleviate the root causes of these communication breakdowns. In practice, revolving blockages often looks like getting everyone on compatible software systems. Or it may require a complete rethinking of business processes so errors are caught before they can snowball.


Technology Can Help

A surprisingly low number of respondents reported taking full advantage of the technology at their disposal—even something as simple as a smartphone. 75% of respondents’ firms provided smartphones and tablets, but fewer than one-fifth of those reported using them consistently.


That said, only 28% of firms seek out feedback before investing in technology for their teams. “[T]hey’re not including all the right people in the conversation,” said Pete Schott, senior product marketing manager at PlanGrid.


Your organization may not be able to save all $177 billion the industry is wasting every day. At all levels, however, it is clear that inefficient systems and processes can cost any firm in the industry a staggering amount of time, effort, and cash.


When Disaster Strikes, Better Building Pays Off

Building stronger, safer structures is not just good for your customers— it’s also more cost-effective in the long run.


A recent UC-Boulder study found that for every dollar spent on fortification for fires, floods, earthquakes, and hurricane winds, $6 were saved in property damage, human healthcare costs, and business interruption costs.


“This study shows it pays to build new buildings better and to fix existing ones, and everybody wins when we do so,” said Keith Porter, an engineering professor at UC-Boulder who authored the study. “We wanted to find out what would happen if the goal of codes were to protect human life and to have the most resilient building stock possible that still makes economic sense.”


Of course, the appeal of spending upfront to avoid greater costs down the line depends on who’s footing the bill. The study focused on government spending. Nevertheless, there are lessons for private builders, engineers, and contractors.


Private builders are in an influential position: by spending as little as $3.6 billion, as an industry, in the next year, they could save $15.5 billion in the future. The potential for payoff is particularly high in disaster-prone areas like California, where investing in exceeding code requirements can reap as much as eight times the initial investment. Of course, for many cash-strapped builders operating on slim margins, it may be hard to commit to short-term costs for long-term gain.


However, the benefits of better building don’t just extend to costs. Thoughtful investment can also save lives. 600 lives, to be exact, over the next 75 years, as well as over 1 million injuries. That’s the kind of math that adds up.

How Machine Learning Unleashes Human Creativity

The robots aren’t taking over just yet. At least, not for designers. Wasim Muklashy for Redshift recently explored the evolving role of technology in design.



It’s true that automated processing can “kill” an industry, but in reality, it is far more likely to transform it instead. Some degree of automation has been influential in design for decade– CAD is an acronym for “computer aided design.”



One benefit is the added time. As Mike Mendelson of the Nvidia Deep Learning Institute says of automation, “through automation, we’re able to save time doing repetitive tasks, and we can reinvest that time in design.”


Not to mention, a partnership between humans and machines can play to human strengths. “We can still leverage the things that humans are really good at—the human intelligence, creativity—but then also leverage the machine intelligence,” says Jim Stoddart of design studio The Living.


Data-Based Design

Designers today use BIM and other technology to construct realistic, data-rich models. Virtual reality is poised to take that a step further, incorporating the perspectives of end users in the design process. Zane Hunzeker of Swinerton Builders describes a process his company has for enriching user experience: “…our software in VR [virtual reality] will track where you’re looking, and if you’ve stopping and looking at something for more than a half a second, it’ll put a little tick mark in that viewpoint.” This tool often effectively models real-life experience in a space. As Huzeker says, “You do this for 25 people in this office, and then all of a sudden you know where people want to look, where they want to be, and then you can feed that into learning.”


Machine Learning

With enough data, a robust machine learning system can be created. This goes way beyond fixing flaws in a plan or resolving conflicts—the designer of the future will optimize projects. As Stoddart puts it, future designers may ask themselves questions about more than basic functionality– instead it may be, “‘Is this exciting or not? Is it inviting? Is it beautiful?’”


While data does not replace human knowledge, it is a powerful tool and its capabilities to alter the way we think about design cannot be denied.


Virtual reality has revealed that we don’t know as much about how space is utilized as we might think. Says Stoddart: “[W]e have to address our hubris in understanding our ability to predict solutions to increasingly complex problems.”


In other words, machine learning may take human creativity to new heights.

Beat the ‘High Risk, Low Margin’ Game: How BIM Can Help You Adapt and Thrive

What does BIM really do for you? The truth is: more, every day. AS BIM technology develops, more and more firms are switching to the technology they trust to reduce cost and save labor.


Reddesk at Autoshift recently took a deep dive into the current state of BIM technology and its capabilities.  There has never been a greater need for cost- and time-saving technology. Only a quarter of construction projects from 2012 to 2015 came within 10 percent of their deadlines, according to KPMG’s Global Construction Project Survey.


The benefits of BIM are well-known: reducing errors by getting everyone on the same page, enhancing safety, and lowering costs. But it’s not just a cool tool in your arsenal. In recent years, BIM has become essential to modern building.  Like many firms, DPR Construction of Redwood City, California consider themselves early adopters of BIM. In 2007, they used the technology to construct Sutter health’s Camino Medical Group campus in Mountain View. Using BIM, they collaborated and implemented Lean principles to create a groundbreaking new facility.


Fast forward eleven years, and today DPR representatives say they “use BIM on 85% of our projects.”


It’s easy to understand why. According to the study, across the pond in the UK, BIM saved £800 million in construction costs over a one-year period.


However, it’s more than just cost savings. BIM also makes the building process run more smoothly, and helps firms handle risk in ways that wouldn’t have been possible even five or ten years ago.


Take Down Silos

With BIM, communication issues are resolved quickly—sometimes even before they start. With contractors, managers, architects, and owners all working from the same file, there’s less room for error.


Reduce Rework

Small changes add up when budgeting for a construction project. One unnecessary expense that can derail a budget is rework—that is, fixing the mistakes produced by data clashes. BIM greatly reduces these unexpected costs—or takes them out of the picture entirely.


Mitigate Safety Risk

In another leap forward, virtual reality technology, combined with BIM imagery, can now help workers visualize and prepare for safety risks.


Building with the basic calculus of the construction industry in mind is not easy. Razor-thin margins, plus high levels of unpredictability, can leave contractors struggling to meet deadlines.


However, as BIM technology advances, it is increasingly capable of helping you shoulder the burden of building in the ‘high risk, low margin’ economic climate of 2018.

A Sustainable Skyscraper, Powered by BIM: Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Financial Center

Skyscrapers aren’t exactly the picture of sustainability. But one firm– China Construction Eighth Engineering Division Corp., Ltd.– intends to change that. Their most recent project, Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Financial Center, brings together businesses, retail, luxury apartments, and a five-star hotel—and makes it all sustainable.


Designing Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Financial Center was an epic undertaking. Standing about 1,739 feet tall, 103 stories high, the skyscraper also features complex design details like a curved façade. It took 100 BIM designers to accomplish the task.


The usual approaches, says, project manager Su Yawu, had to be thrown out the window. “Before, we used a traditional construction approach by joining Excel files and the project files with other components for the project planning,” he says.


However, BIM quickly replaced that approach, making it easier to communicate with stakeholders, and share and alter models faster and with fewer errors.


In a team whose membership spans continents, working from one platform prevents misunderstandings. Of course, with a project at this dizzying level of complexity, “one platform” sounds simple—much simpler than it has been for the stakeholders. During the design process, the team created 1000 BIM models, with a total of 184,504 components.


Engineers also used BIM to design the prefabricated components that came together to produce the superstructure. The designs called for 2000 materials—but with BIM, they were able to cut waste before construction even began.


VR technology was put to work in safety training for workers. Plus, designers also used virtual reality to visualize the final product.


According to Su, BIM technology—supplemented by VR technology—“will change the way people build buildings and skyscrapers in China and around the world.”


Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Financial Center is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2019 but has already caught the imaginations of designers and design aficionados around the world. It recently won first place in Autodesk’s 2017 AEC Excellence Awards.


The project is in the running for some of China’s top design awards, including the Luban Prize and the Zhan Tianyou Prize. The project is also pursuing LEED Gold Certification standards.


No Construction Jobs Please, Say Millenials

Where is the next generation of construction leaders? It’s one question everyone in construction, from builders to framers, has been asking themselves. It’s an especially relevant question given the ongoing labor shortage—a situation likely to worsen with enforcement up on immigration laws.


Upcoming talent is a significant health indicator for any industry, and that goes double for the labor-strapped construction industry. According to an NAHB study published last year, the next generation of construction labor may not be waiting in the wings.


How the Construction Trades Fared


The survey respondents ranged from 18-25 and included 2001 people selected to create proportional representation along race and gender lines. In this group, 74% felt they had decided on a career, while 26% were still undecided. The top draws included management, IT, and the medical field.



Unfortunately, for those who are decided, only 3% plan to pick up a hard hat anytime soon. Though the numbers are higher among white and Hispanic men, few young people overall seem decided on a career in the construction trades.


Choosing a Field


The good news is that undecided young adults are more open to considering it, with a few caveats. Many Millenials seem less moved by pay than interest – they want a job they love. The second largest group of ‘decided’ respondents indicated they chose their field based on skills they already possess.




While pay is not a primary motivator, undecided young adults seemed more open than their decided peers to choosing a career based on compensation.


Perceptions of the Construction Trade Among Young Adults


There seems to be a gap between what young adults want and what construction offers.


However, it seems to be due in part to a perception problem—not a genuine mismatch.


Young adults who felt strongly against a career in construction cited their perception of construction work as “difficult” (32%) and physically demanding (48%). They doubted the pay would make up for these perceived deficiencies. 19% said they “wanted to make more money than people in construction trades make.”


Just 13% thought construction work could yield salaries of over $75,000.


Finding out construction work might, in fact, command a higher paycheck than they thought led many to second-guess their decisions.



The jump is particularly noticeable at $75,000.


While most construction roles don’t earn that amount, a substantial minority do—including supervisors, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamers. US Bureau of Labor data indicates that one-fourth of those key roles are filled by workers making more than $75,000 in 27 states for supervisors, and in 14 states for other skilled roles, respectively. The top 10% of most construction trades also make more than the cut-off.


Of course, rising to the top of any profession requires skill and work. But the rewards may be worthwhile. Management and executive positions in construction often go to those with the most experience in the trades. In construction, it’s relatively easy, in other words, to start at the bottom and work your way up. And that’s what this achievement-minded age group really wants.


Next Steps


Construction trades suffer from an image problem among Millenials and Gen Z. If the industry emphasizes that the construction jobsite can be a safe place to make a living– and that numerous opportunities for advancement and pay raises are available—we can begin building the construction leaders of the future.



Inside the MiTek Booth at IBS

The NAHB 2018 International Builders’ Show® is a wrap! The show hosted 85,000 attendees and we were privileged to share our new technology and trusted solutions with people from all aspects of the building industry.


Eye Candy: OZCO

The MiTek booth made a statement, featuring an impressive OZCO pergola. This was our way of showing off how excited we are about this beautiful addition to our connector offerings. Professional builders and DIY-savvy homeowners are head over heels with this new product.


Barry Ashwell, MiTek VP of sales and marketing, talks about the inclusion of our OZCO product line.


Heart and Soul: The Combination of Hardware and Software


While the pergola was eye-catching, the heart and soul of MiTek is the system of innovative software suites and the most solid hardware in the market. We aimed to communicate the breadth of our offerings within our booth. But more than that, we wanted builders to know that MiTek understands their needs and we work hard to provide real solutions.


MiTek’s Tom Dixon explains the ecosystem of hardware and software at MiTek.


Inside the Booth: Real Solutions for Real People


As builders visited the MiTek booth, our team members took the time to figure out what kind of solutions we could provide each individual. One size does not fit all. We also had experts demonstrating the products and software in real time, allowing visitors to ask questions and get real-time feedback.


Sales manager, Jean-Marc Lefebvre, explains how he helps visitors to the MiTek booth.


Interested in learning more about the solutions we showcased at IBS this year? Read about how builders are “wasting less” and “building more” with MiTek:

The Spirit of the Independent Stave Company

From the MiTek series on the American Craftsman, comes the story of the barrel-making Boswell family. This story comes from the visual storytelling artist, Tadd Myers, a photographer who has captured the heart of the American craftsman in a pictorial masterpiece. 


Born in the Missouri Ozarks in 1912, the Independent Stave Company has been in business for over one hundred years—with the exception of Prohibition of course.  That’s four generations of expertise for the Boswell family.


The Process

The family handles the entire barrel-making process. They own their own stave mills. Sprinkler systems preserve the white oak logs until they’re ready to be made into staves. Craftsmen debark the logs, then pass them through a metal detector to check for impurities in the wood.  They cut the logs into bolts. They split the bolts into four quarter bolt sections that will become the staves. Then they “season” the staves in the open air.


Craftsmen “raise the barrel,” or fit staves together to create the skeleton outline of the barrel. Once raised, barrels go through the steam tunnel and are temporarily hooped. Customers can have barrels “toasted” or “charred.” These affect the flavor of the alcohol. Light charring adds fruity and spicy flavors. Darker charring adds vanilla flavors.


Placing the heads and hoops makes a barrel. Each barrel consists of six hoops and a top and bottom head. Then makers will drill a bung hole. To ensure quality control, testers add water and air pressure to the completed barrels to make sure they’re ready for their task.



What sets the Independent Stave Company apart may be their commitment to sustainability. They understand the importance of protecting their most valuable resource. They keep a close watch on the national supplies of white oak. Currently white oak is the second fastest growing hardwood resource. The cooperage uses both the select white oak and eastern sawtimber varieties of the species. They use 100% of every log they purchase, to ensure no waste is produced. They also make use of the bark for fuel and landscape products and sawdust for fuel and charcoal.


With their broad portfolio of clients, the barrel makers of the Independent Stave Company could be the unsung heroes of the liquor industry. So the next time you kick back with a drink, thank the craftsmanship of the hard-working men and women of the Boswell family.


This story was sourced from the American Craftsman Project website, with permission by the author, Tadd Myers. MiTek appreciates the heart of the American craftsman – the men and women who perform their work according to principles of integrity, hard work, quality and a desire to forge something that will create not just a lasting product, but a lasting relationship.