Keeping Up With Evolving Building Technologies
Finding educated tradespeople will grow increasingly important as building technologies change, we learned from the construction panel at Bisnow's Construction & Development Summit Tuesday at Trump International Hotel and Tower. CohnReznick partner Nelson Gomez, who oversees the firm's Midwest construction practice, moderated, asking panelists about their views on strategic growth areas in the construction industry; how building information modeling has changed the design process and whether the construction industry is keeping up; how innovative funding strategies like the Chicago Infrastructure Trust will translate into industry opportunities; and how architecture, engineering, and construction firms are coping with the challenge of finding and retaining top industry talent. On the weekends, you'll find Nelson cheering on his kids at soccer games.
The Missner Group president Barry Missner, a Dave Matthews Band fan, sees major construction growth in three sectors: industrial (100M SF in national starts predicted by 2018, up from 44M SF in the pit of the recession), healthcare, and food (hopefully no ants marching). End users are showing a greater interest in sustainable design, but in many cases economics trump that desire. Barry says retaining talent was more difficult in '05 and '06 when the younger generation hadn't witnessed a significant recession, but these days the sense of entitlement has shifted into loyalty. Outside of work, you'll find Barry dining at Nightwood or dreaming of a career as right wing for the Hawks.
Pepper Construction SVP Scott Higgins is a Springsteen guy. He says Pepper's now using BIM for the sophisticated building envelope process, and it's helping root out issues earlier and drive collaboration. "You used to have three guys in the field saying 'How are we ever going to make that fit?'" Scott laughs. BIM has also driven quality to a higher level as more parts are assembled offsite, but defining and estimating cost savings remains a challenge. Another major industry challenge will be recruiting talented tradesman as the workforce ages and new designs become ever more challenging and technical, Scott adds.
Pink Floyd fan Mehdi Jalayerian is EVP at ESD. He notes that 40% of the energy Chicago consumes is by buildings, which is why programs like Retrofit Chicago are great, integrated solutions that engage the construction community through public/private partnership and cross-sector collaboration. Over 75% of city buildings were built before 1975. As older office buildings switch uses to hotels or residential, that will shift some of the load to nighttime, leveling off energy use. Retrofitting the older buildings also provides for energy efficiency, the fastest and most economical solution to our climate change problem, Mehdi says. After recruiting on college campuses for 25 years, Mehdi has noticed schools are finally offering specific training around construction platforms, and Millennials (despite the lazy stereotype, as we write this from our couch) want to be challenged in the workplace. Mehdi likes Chicago Chop House and dreams of being a pilot.
Gensler managing principal Lamar Johnson doesn't eat out often, since he has to stay home and watch his teenage kids like a hawk. (Though he thinks New Rebozo is muy bueno.) He says intellectual capital and a strong design element sets firms apart these days, but architecture has definitely suffered and hangs well below '08 levels. His industry's fight for talent is different, the 28-year vet adds, since many young practitioners simply changed professions when work froze up. While state debt remains a major issue and some Gensler clients have opted out of Illinois due to high taxes, the company's backlog is back at pre-recession levels, Lamar tells us. More snaps from our event here.