the newsletter of tbd consultants - Spring/Summer 2023

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In this Edition

Constructing Climate Solutions
Quantum Construction
What’s Happening?

Construction Management Specialists

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Los Angeles, CA
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Constructing Climate Solutions

We are already noticing disruptions in weather patterns resulting from changes in the climate and, according to the best well-tested models, this is only a small taste of what is likely to come. Here in California, we have suffered years of drought, then the rain tried playing catchup by dumping everything on us in one go, leading to landslides and some reservoirs overflowing, but the bulk of the water flowed directly out to sea before it had time to fill the depleted underground aquifers. Consequently, we got drenched but much of the state is still in a drought condition. What can the construction industry do in the face of climate change, with the changing effects affecting different regions to varying extents?

With California’s drought situation, plans are belatedly underway to implement measures to divert rainwater runoff to top up the aquifers, but generally the effects of climate change on the construction industry are seen as going in two directions. Firstly, there is the issue of designing sustainable buildings and ensuring that the construction work itself is not contributing more than necessary to the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Secondly, we have the impact that climate change is having on the way that construction work is carried out and the issue of how much that is going to cost.

In our Spring/Summer 2021 newsletter (available from our website) we discussed many of the issues related to reducing the carbon footprint of construction. That included looking at steel and concrete, two very important building materials, both of which contribute significantly to greenhouse gasses. Ways of reducing that impact are available, but more innovation in this field is still desperately needed. Recycling of materials is already a common practice, but more should be possible, and even more useful regarding the climate is the repurposing of existing buildings rather than replacing them.

And it’s not just the construction of a building that has to be considered, but also its effects on the climate caused by its use throughout its lifetime and its ultimate demolition. Consequently, life cycle analysis is needed to fully assess the design against its environmental impact. Life cycle cost analysis can also be used to show building owners how a bit more investment upfront can lead to a lot more savings during the life of the building.

Again, here in California, and particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, last year showed another aspect of the climate change/ construction industry connection. Air conditioning of houses in the Bay Area has been seen as an optional extra because being close to the Bay and the ocean has kept air temperatures nicely moderated. But the heatwaves last year led to strong sales of fans and portable air conditioners, and more permanent AC systems are starting to be retrofitted into houses and other buildings, adding load to an already hard-worked grid. Other areas of the nation have experienced far worse effects from adverse weather. There has been flooding from sea-level rise and more intense storms, along with extremes of hot and cold. Building codes and practices will have to take all of these changes into account.

Moving onto the way climate change is affecting the site practices, construction sites will have to adjust protective measures related to the heat, rain, and winds. It is hard enough to find suitable labor resources already, and excessive weather can make labor even more reticent to work under such conditions, with the strenuous work exacerbating the effects of heat changes. Overtime work may be needed to compensate for excessive heat that makes working outside nonviable for parts of the day, and there is a potential for increases in workers’ compensation claims. Robotics offer a potential for offsetting labor heat problems and the labor shortages in general.

The need to create the safest possible jobsite has always existed, but additional warning systems regarding potential events (using speakers and phone apps) could be required, along with an evacuation plan. Tracking and recording weather for extension of time claims, etc., will become very important. If modular/ prefabrication methods can be used it will reduce the need for onsite labor and move most of it indoors, out of the weather.

Climate change around the world is disrupting populations and we can expect supply chains to be affected as a result. We learned the hard way what problems supply chain disruption results in. The lessons learned from the Covid-19 disruptions could prove to be very valuable. The supply of materials may not be the only issue because extreme weather can affect things like the curing of concrete and compromise other materials.

Construction equipment also has to negotiate extreme weather conditions, and improved fuel efficiency of such plant, avoiding plant sitting idling, and the use of renewable power sources where possible will be needed. Electrical heavy equipment is becoming available. Regarding construction overheads, insurance rates are already rising as weather-related risks increase, and that’s liable to compound. The growing fire risks in California have made it hard for some homeowners to even obtain insurance, leading to the question of whether insurers will cover incidents related to climate change. Changing delivery methods from the traditional design-bid-build option can allow for earlier contractor input - helping to mitigating such risks.

Climate and weather changes will be ongoing and have unanticipated effects, so organizations are going to need to remain adaptable to change. However, there will be potential gain for those companies that succeed in facing the challenges. A viable “green” future isn’t going to appear by itself – we have to build it.


Quantum Construction

Recent developments in quantum computing have demonstrated that the technology is maturing. So, it is time to look at how quantum computers will fit into the construction process.



What’s Happening?

Uncertainty seems to be the dominant feature of markets today, and here we take a look at what's happening and try to find any trends that shine a light on what's ahead.




Design consultant: Katie Levine of Vallance, Inc.