Don’t study it, do it

DSCN5978 - Version 2The image to the left is a wheel. This particular wheel is from a Roman wine wagon and is 2,000 years old. While the wheel has been in use for 8,000 years, Nova Scotia keeps trying to reinvent it.

The latest attempt at reinvention was a two-year study to discover the failings with three new buildings to house seniors. The study found these new units failed to meet the needs of senior residents. This isn’t a wildly new field. Communities and countries around the world have been addressing these needs for decades. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is 25 years old. Around the world, everything from castles to cruise ships have been adapted to host physically challenged individuals. So why can’t provincial developers adjust their designs to fit residents’ needs? And why does it take Nova Scotia two years to conclude the housing isn’t adequate? A group of seniors, less-abled individuals, their caregivers, seniors advocates, numerous local physiotherapists or architects could have done it in two hours.

These are not the first buildings constructed for seniors or physically challenged individuals. The designs and ideas exist and are readily available. And even if they were the first buildings local developers built, the technology exists to quickly incorporate changes into their cookie-cutter designs. If done before reaching the construction site any alterations would be negligible. And that isn’t a significant factor because the province provides a $25,000 per unit subsidy.

So why can’t developers get it right the first time and why does it take two years to reach that conclusion? This institutional lethargy is another example of why this province is so heavily indebted.

As it happens, I recently heard someone in the provincial construction industry speak about Building Information Modeling (BIM). He said that prior to the adaptation of BIM 57 percent of construction costs were wasted! BIM put increased focus on pre-construction design, providing a 3-D computer image of the building which can highlight design flaws that otherwise might be missed on a standard blueprint. Flaws caught in the design stage are solved quickly and inexpensively rather than on-site, where delays, depending on the size of the project, can cost thousands of dollars an hour or day, as well as setting back project completion.

According to this industry rep BIM drives costs down and profits up. So why wouldn’t developers take a little time to get it right? Why do we continue to subsidize people who fail to perform? And why do we throw so much money on needlessly long studies? Moreover, where lives, well-being and health are involved, where is the urgency? Stop wasting time with the reinvention.

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5 Responses to Don’t study it, do it

  1. Canada says:

    Just to give you my take on BIM seeing as I work in rebar industry. I just got back from conference where we were getting training to implement 3D BIM modeling into my job. As it stands right now usually I can’t even get the CAD files to start rebar drawings. Instead I have to rely on their PDF or printed copies to create my drawings. It makes no sense to have to re-draw from scratch everything that is already created. Even though we use computers it is much the same as it always has been in construction. Sometimes I can get the CAD drawings but not often. I have been told that I can pay to get files by some. However when I am getting paid by the ton to detail rebar at a rate of 40 to 50 dollars per tonne cost becomes the overriding issue. I’m not going to work for nothing. Also the contract drawings (engineers) on the whole are getting worse not better as the years go by and tend to be relying evermore on typical details and weasel words to cover their behinds. If that isn’t bad enough the foundations of buildings are usually the most incomplete part of drawing package.

    So I laugh when I’m told about BIM. It would take a great deal more time for me to do drawings and companies are reluctant to pay and engineers are unwilling to give. Even though I am using the latest industry software my job has not changed a whole lot in a 100 years. Sad.

    • Thanks for your input. What you are telling us is that the quality and professionalism of developers, professionals, construction trades and materials are on a steady decline. No wonder no capital project ever comes in on time or on budget.

      For 20 years taxpayers have paid top dollar for substandard performance. Remember the Truro hospital was two years behind schedule and $84 million over budget. Prior to that we built the so-called “sick hospital” in Halifax, where kitchen exhaust fans were placed next to air intake fans. Lives were ruined. That hospital’s labs were built without consultation of the technicians who would work in them, so before they could be used the taxpayer forked out $1 million for an immediate correction. The hospital in Yarmouth was built with doorways too narrow to accommodate hospital beds, so that was another $300,000 fix. And this new two-year study found contractors still not installing doorways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

      Speaking of wheelchairs, did this study only consider space requirements of traditional, non-motorized, push chairs or the greater space requirements of motorized chairs? Eight years ago buildings in the US started enlarging their wheelchair ramps and installing deeper elevators and bigger bathrooms to accommodate motorized chairs and scooters. Why do we always have to follow? Why can’t we lead or at least keep up?

      • Canada says:

        Steady decline might be words too strong for me. My big problem is that with all the advances in the construction industry in last 30 years in regards the use of CAD we should have advanced beyond the old way of doing things. When I say the old way I mean that once upon a time the contract drawings were issued in paper form to contractors and subs. It still is basically the case. I do see some CAD drawings sent to help me get my drawings done but for most part Engineers and Architects issue drawings and everyone else has to recreate the project to incorporate the details required to complete their part of project. It doesn’t make sense. Also its time consuming and prone like you say to problems and flaws in design. I didn’t work on hospital in Truro but I did hear there were problems. Just to give you an example of how problems can occur. I worked on a building where the main columns supporting building were laid out and poured and they didn’t realize until first floor layout was done that a column sat right in front of a door.

        There is some move in last couple of years to move towards BIM but if one looks at how CAD has been embraced by industry in last 25 to 30 years there is still some questions in my mind at how widespread it will be accepted. For me I am reluctant to move towards this because it will require more time for me to complete rebar drawings. There is hardly enough money in it at 40/tonne for me to do it, If I have to do 3D model then it will take more time and most customers don’t want to pay.

        Just my rant.

        Remember though without rebar no concrete gets poured.


      • I appreciate your insights. The column in front of the door doesn’t surprise me. The BIM example we were shown showed a heating duct that originally would have gone through an ‘I’ beam. Had it not been picked up via BIM and corrected in the office, it would have meant a work stoppage while engineers were called in, consulted, a solution arrived at and materials ordered.

        $40 a ton for rebar seems awfully inexpensive. Gawd, what kind, if any, profit can you have at that rate! You’d make more money supplying plywood. The problem is that those who do the work have to shave every penny, while the “theorists” get to take years to think about the obvious. Good luck.

      • Canada says:

        Hey just want to add because I think I have muddied the water that my rate is only for the drawings not the rebar itself. Cheers

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