In Today’s Rising Tide of Construction, How to Avoid Getting Beached

| February 24, 2016

by John C. Cannistraro Jr.

With a pipeline of $7 billion worth of projects currently scheduled to break ground, yielding 14 million sf of new development, there is no question that Boston is riding the wave of a

John Cannistraro

John Cannistraro

construction boom. This work is more diverse than ever, including a reimagined TD Garden, luxury apartments and hotels, office skyscrapers, hospital and university expansions, and perhaps the first casino, which may be a destination in and of itself. With a spotlight on Boston from investors all over the world, why is this the perfect opening for our industry to shine?

Times of plenty offer opportune moments to cultivate self-reflection, as that same tide will eventually recede and one must prepare for that inevitability. At Cannistraro, we are growing a culture of continuous improvement at every level throughout the company. Our commitment to perpetually questioning how and why we do things a particular way has driven us to start at the beginning: How do we conduct the preconstruction process? When analyzing multiple projects in various phases of design in an environment of impending deadlines, an all-inclusive price is often short-changed. The old adage that “haste makes waste” is never truer than when bidding jobs.

StretchnFlex-NovartisThere is no question that project delivery methods using early collaboration ensure optimal plans and thereby break trail in Lean construction. Unlike the past, which was driven by two-dimensional drawings, today, the three-dimensional model requires that all steps of the schematic design and construction documents be developed concurrently. This process expedites delivery of coordinated drawings prior to the commencement of construction. Why have we historically accepted the promise of an inefficient construction process that discouraged discourse when discourse and collaboration have been shown to eliminate waste? Whereas Lean construction requires an upfront strategic investment in planning with all trade contractors at the table, its benefits are quickly measurable by an exponentially more efficient building process coupled with quantifiable cost savings. After all, for this fantastic building cycle to continue, we all need to sharpen our pencils.

When properly implemented, a Lean construction approach, project planning, prefabrication and modularization clearly maximizes outcomes for everyone. The key to Lean practice is simple: early on-boarding, creative thinking, and open channels of communication within and between teams throughout the life of the project. At present, with construction trades and management staff approaching 100% employment, it is necessary, now more than ever, to realize inefficiencies in order to accommodate increasing project capacity. With the cost of construction steadily rising, innovation is the only hedge to inflation.

As we strive to work productively for clients and each other, keep in mind that some day this wave will crash, and we need to be able to do more with less right now.

John Cannistraro Jr. is president of J.C. Cannistraro in Watertown, Mass.

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