$20 billion price tag

That’s the number pegged to inefficiencies in the building industry supply chain, cited by Ted Hathaway, CEO of Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, in his opening remarks at the Columbia Building Intelligence Project (C-BIP) International Think Tank in New York City on Feb. 18. 

The fourth in a series of Think Tanks sponsored by the Santa Monica-headquartered company focused on technology’s role in how architects design and collaborate with others in an era of complex global imperatives such as sustainability.  The New York City venue provided panelists with many urban reference points.  The city’s buildings account for 75 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions; and 85 percent of the buildings that will exist in 2030 are already built. These numbers are significant when you consider the PlaNYC mandate to reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 30 percent.   

It’s hard to wrap the mind around how this reduction will be achieved, let alone numbers like $20 billion worth of inefficiencies and global carbon footprinting.   So I could relate when Think Tank panelist Robert Fox, partner, Cook + Fox, described some of the features that earned the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park the first commercial high-rise LEED Platinum designation.  

As every office manager knows, the #1 complaint of workers across the land is “my office is too hot,” preceded or followed by, “my office is too cold.”   Thanks to individual thermostat controls, fresh air filters and daylighting/biophilia floor plans, Manhattan’s BOA Tower staff can focus on other things, like managing billions of dollars as the world’s oxygen runs out.    

I could also relate to Sean C. Ahearn’s “solar map” of a million New York City building rooftops,  recalling my own apartment coop board’s resistance to building an eco-friendly rooftop garden.    Why not install solar panels to cut our energy bills?  Ahearn, professor and director at the Center for Analysis and Research of Spatial Information, Hunter College – CUNY N.Y., and his team used digital image analysis technology to generate the amount of solar insolation for every square meter of New York City.  The DOE-funded goal: to determine the size and type of solar unit that could be placed on the roofs of 1 million buildings across the city, and how much a building owner could save in electricity costs from the energy generated by such a solar unit.  “We are also thinking of expanding this to the sides of buildings,” noted Ahearn, after I told him glassblog and Glass Magazine subscribers focus on glass and metal for the sides and insides of buildings.

Once expanded to the sides of buildings, could a glass fabricator or glazing contractor put the results of solar mapping to profitable use?   That’s assuming he or she has access to the architect and building owner.  “A lot of contractors don’t want us talking to architects,” said panelist William Zahner, president and CEO, Zahner Inc.,  a Kansas City metal engineering and fabrication company, in response to a question about the potential for decreasing fabrication costs by sharing more “building intelligence” up front. 

“The traditional construction process of design, bid, build precludes supplier collaboration at the concept/design stage, adds Hathaway.  “When projects facilitate earlier collaboration (and trust) the design process is more efficient, which very often leads to enhanced intelligence about the design and construction of buildings.  Also, conflict can be mitigated because potential problems are resolved before construction has commenced.” (See "Power of Perception.")

Sounds like a prescription for whittling down that $20 billion inefficiency price tag. 

--By Nicole Harris, publisher


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