Silicon Valley's Challenges, Costs And Trends
When it comes to building in Silicon Valley, the area has its challenges, including the high cost of skilled labor and the cost of living. At our Silicon Valley: Hot Projects event at Santa Clara Square, our moderator, RMKB partner John Dooling, asked panelists about meeting those challenges.
Clark Pacific president Don Clark said prefabrication helps offset those costs. His company prefabricates in areas that need the work. He mentioned creating a pre-insulated panel with the insulation and windows already installed or a precast ceiling. Building Information Modeling (BIM) allows new innovation to take place in prefabrication, he said.
McCarthy Builders VP Rodney Riddle said his company also does a lot of off-site fabrication with formwork in West Sacramento, but there's still a need for skilled labor on-site to put that formwork into place. To compete for good labor and retain workers, he said it is important to provide a safe, fun workplace. Rodney agreed BIM is taking construction to a new level, helping to create models that make sure structures go up correctly the first time and do so quickly and efficiently.
Iron Construction COO Claudia Folzman said there is a lot of burnout from subcontractors with people working six or seven days a week. When she recently put a job out to bid, she learned that the tile guy was booked for the next year (due to all the multifamily construction).
On BIM, Claudia mentioned wrapping up a $750k job for a transmitter tower for KQED. Using BIM cost $25k, but the time saved on the schedule by dealing with obstacles on paper rather than out in the field more than made up for the cost, she said.
PAE Consulting Engineers principal Christian Agulles said the biggest change for his firm has been the greater emphasis placed on engineering early on, particularly in light of standards such as Title 24. “We've gone from sitting in the back of the room and speaking when spoken to, to a situation where we're front and center,” he said.
Christian said the Bay Area is on fire, but that fire will eventually burn out. The question is whether it will be a soft landing or a hard one. He tries to focus on how to prepare while increasing his firm's role in leading analysis and using the computing power now available to better plan buildings.
There was much discussion at the event of trends and fads as they relate to creative office space. Claudia called the efforts for the past four or five years to get rid of offices and move to open space an experiment that is not working for a lot of people.
One-size-fits-all doesn't work, she said. Instead, she's seeking more flexible usage for people working in teams that also provides barriers—whether a physical wall or something soft—to create more opportunities for head-down time or quiet time. “This is the best place to be right now if you're in construction,” she said. “I love all the new materials and new technology. It's very rare that you see that plain-vanilla TI anymore.”
HKS associate principal Tom Sprinkle said five years ago, space was shrinking to 100 SF to 155 SF/person. That led to productivity problems and raised the need for quiet times to think or talk on the phone. “I think there will be a shift away from packing people in,” he said.
Tom said office development is getting more amenitized. If designed well, a building has the flexibility to handle different amenities (so bocce ball may be replaced by something else in the same space). There's also the need to know when an amenity might be better served by the surrounding community. He mentions companies providing lunch in San Francisco when employees prefer to eat at local restaurants. It's a thing of the past to drive to work, sit at a desk and go home, he said, and offices need to be designed with that in mind.