by Chad Wisler, Managing Principal at Vanderweil Engineers in Boston, MA
What a year! – The Sox win another World Series (naturally…), we continued to see strong growth and the development of many landmark projects both locally and regionally. The Seaport District and NorthPoint continue to realize their respective master plans, and the planned expansion at the BCEC, Fenway, and the new Copley Place Tower will enhance the Boston skyline. This coupled with the interesting push-pull between established downtown professional space, and the Seaport District and Fort Point Channel area; has made the decision making process for new as well as established corporate firms an interesting challenge on where to position themselves over the next 5-10 years.
As with most things in life, the challenges that we discussed last year remain ever so true in the upcoming year. It is important as leaders in our firms, who strive to be profitable and position ourselves for sustained growth during this economic turn, to remain focused on listening, leading, and innovation. One of the major aspects of these three (3) components is how we (Architect, Engineer, Contractor, Owner/Rep) collaborate together on projects. It is amazing how some projects go ‘smoothly’ and have a collectively ‘positive’ vibe… and the where others which just don’t. This is most often associated with how ‘collaborative’ the team assembled really is… not just at the kick-off meeting and ‘team building exercises’, but when issues arise.…such as budget, schedule, programmatic changes, staff changes, and/or start-up issues.
Collaboration. So… guess what? It’s going to be forced on us more and more moving into 2014 (which is a great thing). This is going to be driven more by LEED v4.0, new Energy Code (and associated revision to the Stretch Energy Code), as well as the ever challenging project budgets and schedules. What this means is that major project decisions need to be made at the very onset of a project led by experienced/collaborative team members. Decisions can either be made through identifying the question/issue or they will happen by ‘default’. In the past this ‘default’ approach has often sufficed. However, to demonstrate Code-compliant design, fulfilling specific targeted points within LEED® as well as corporate mandated greenhouse gas emissions / CO2 metrics, the ‘project’ approach must be determined at the earliest project phases.
One of the exciting collaborate drivers for 2014 (well… for an engineer) is that the requirements for energy optimization are moving past what we can be obtained ‘independently’ through the mechanical /HVAC system on a building and are now ‘fostering’ the Collaboration across the project team in a more holistic approach to meet the project goals. How many times have you gone through a LEED checklist meeting and when EA Credit 1 (Optimize Energy Performance) and everyone looked at the mechanical engineer and/or assigned a specific ‘number of points’ to him/her? Fortunately… those times are changing and will change most definitely in 2014. Of primary interest for us all are the collaborative strategies for building massing, orientation, and facade/fenestration design must account for energy/solar controls as well as budget and aesthetics. Notice that I didn’t say, “Architectural design of the skin…. or Energy Consultant for Solar Controls…”
So how should we collaborate? The project team selection is the foundation – not just by firm, but by individual. Acknowledge and respect one another, and value each other’s input and perspective – irrespective of their discipline. Most often the consultants can bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to projects for owners and architects; often because they work with so many different owners, and architects, and project types. Foster a positive attitude – not just words on a website, quals package, or glass conference wall, but in reality. Let’s work at it.