Construction Ideas

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Bubbling with Benefits

Building with less concrete by using BubbleDeck technology

 

Riley Construction recently saved a client both time and money by using an innovative concrete slab technology on a large healthcare construction project. This patented technique, called BubbleDeck, replaces up to 35%* of a concrete slab with plastic air-filled bubbles that act as a void. The bubbles are inserted into the slab and held in place by reinforcing steel mesh on the top and bottom. The bubbles displace concrete without sacrificing structural strength.

Customer Benefits

Cost: By using prefabricated panels and less concrete, cost can be reduced by about 10% versus traditional site-cast concrete.

Flexibility: Lighter, thinner, prefabricated slabs, and smaller and fewer columns and beams create longer spans for more extensive and open floor plans. The system also offers wider access for overhead MEP systems, and the material is easier to cut through later during remodels.

Schedule: Floor cycles can be up to 20% faster than traditional construction methods.

Safety: Off-site manufacturing, fewer vehicle trips and crane lifts, and simple installation all minimize operating and health & safety risks. BubbleDeck systems are fire-rated, so there is no additional fire proofing needed.

Environmental: Reduced construction materials and lower energy consumption, combined with the use of recycled plastic “bubbles,” helped Riley and the customer lessen environmental impact.


A Global Team Effort

To implement this creative construction technique, Riley Project Manager Craig Matthews and his team had to be equally creative in their procurement methods.

“We sourced the steel lattice gutters from Europe, where BubbleDeck originated,” Matthews explained. “The plastic bubbles came from a recycled plastic manufacturer in Madison, Wisconsin. We were able to obtain the prefabricated panels from a local precast concrete manufacturer.”

The team’s extra effort paid off in the end. “The client is happy with the reduced costs and increased flexibility the BubbleDeck system provided, while not lessening quality,” said Matthews.

 

*All percentages are according to BubbleDeck North America LLC.

Value Engineering/Collaborative Savings

Value Engineering, also called Collaborative Savings, is an organized effort to analyze construction systems, equipment and supplies and achieve the required results at the lowest overall cost, while maintaining quality.

The basic procedure consists of 1) identifying and defining a high cost area; 2) determining the basic function of the item; 3) “brainstorming” the problem to create a list of alternative ways to perform the function; 4) selecting the best alternative that will perform the function at lowest cost; and 5) presenting a proposal or alternative proposals for the design team approval. Participation in the early stages of project allows construction managers to apply ingenuity and technical know-how and produce a more economical design without sacrificing quality.

A construction manager should conduct a systematic and aggressive collaborative value engineering program in conjunction with the design team, with particular emphasis on areas of high cost and those impacting the construction schedule. Areas typically studied include foundations, structural frame, building envelope, floor systems, HVAC systems, ceilings, and luminaries. The evaluation process includes cost analysis, construction feasibility, considerations relative to labor and material availability and effect on the project schedule.

The range of cost factors that should be studied and included in the analysis of alternative choices varies widely, but should include such items as:

  • Construction Costs
  • Comparative Qualities and Aesthetics
  • Impact of Users or Occupants (i.e., power, gas, water, etc.)
  • Ultimate Cost of Utilities (i.e., power, gas, water, etc.)
  • Maintenance (cleaning)
  • Repairs and Replacements
  • Interest on Increased Capital Costs

Benefits of Prefabrication

Fast, efficient project delivery is the ultimate goal for everyone involved in a construction project. Prefabrication, where certain building system components are assembled offsite and then transported to the construction jobsite, is an option for many projects that can save time and money.

  1. More room on the jobsite. When bulky systems are prefabricated in a shop setting and not shipped to the site until it’s time to install them, there isn’t a need for extensive laydown/staging space. This is particularly helpful on congested, urban sites or remodeling projects in occupied spaces.
  2. Lower material cost. Contractors that prefabricate often purchase common materials (like pipe and ductwork) and supplies (such as hardware) in bulk for a discount from suppliers.
  3. Higher quality. Since prefabricated construction occurs in a controlled environment and follows specific standards, the components are built to a uniform quality.
  4. Improved Safety. Prefabrication eliminates the variables of an active jobsite that can affect safety. Factors like noise, temperature and ergonomics are easily controlled in a shop setting.
  5. Less time and money overall. When contractors use prefabrication on a project, they are better able to control the planning, scheduling and craftsmanship of their building systems. This translates to a job that is completed on time and under budget!

Which Project Delivery Method is Right for Your Project?

Each construction project is different, and the project delivery system should be tailored to the individual requirements of that unique project. Selection of a delivery method is typically based upon how your organization operates, internal resources available and their level of expertise or knowledge, funding requirements, and overall schedule for delivery. The chart below shows the organization of each delivery system, plus benefits and challenges. Click on the chart to enlarge it.