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4 Ways to Create a Safer and More Cost-Effective Building Environment

4 Ways to Create a Safer and More Cost-Effective Building Environment

Considering our present time, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely have a lasting influence on the next era of building and design, shaping how we build at every phase, including design, materials, and building protocols. We may see architects and engineers continue to work remotely, reviewing designs and specifications virtually. Manufacturers may have to space production areas farther apart or even rely on more automation.

Yet, construction sites will continue to require workers in the field. By starting here and innovating to create more responsible project sites, we not only safeguard the health of the workers but can also increase project savings simultaneously. When unitized components are preassembled in a factory, the work zone becomes a safer place because less time and fewer workers are needed on site. Reducing on-site installation and offering a more quality-controlled product leads to significant cost savings as well.

Below are four ways to create both a safer environment and save money.

1. Modular and Off-Site Construction

Any prefabrication or preassembly of building products that can be completed at the factory is ideal to maintain a safer and more organized construction site. The ability to keep materials off-site and minimize the amount of preparation needed upon delivery avoids multi-trade coordination issues and reduces labor costs. A crowded worksite can be a logistical challenge. Decreasing the handling and on-site storage requirements means less space is needed and there is less risk of damaging materials. Quality control is improved through more precise engineering and testing at the manufacturing site.

Time is money. Preassembly allows the manufacturer to work offsite, uninterrupted by external influences. Delivery and installation become more predictable, allowing for shorter lead times and better preparation to meet tight timelines. Products can be assembled simultaneously while other site and foundation work is underway. Plus, excessive delays due to inclement weather can be avoided. Modular construction also allows for greater resiliency in the long run, as damaged areas can be more easily removed, replaced and recycled. Contrary to popular belief, modular does not equate to bland design. Oftentimes, modular systems can be customized to meet truly unique aesthetics.

Newington Power Station. Image Courtesy of Kalwall
Newington Power Station. Image Courtesy of Kalwall

Case Study: Newington Power Station

The challenge: After 40 years, Kalwall panels were due to be replaced at this power-generating station, but the facility did not want to hire a general contractor.

The solution: Kalwall’s project coordinator worked directly with the facility’s ownership. Kalwall panels were delivered to the construction site prefinished on both the exterior and interior. Combined with the modular installation, this meant minimal interruption of building operations. The end result was that Kalwall completed the project on time, on budget, and gave the facility a much needed facelift. Labor costs were minimized by eliminating the need for trades such as: carpenters, drywallers, painters, metalworkers, welders, or electricians.

2. Quick and Easy Installation

Project management is made easier when the worksite flow is manageable and predictable. Streamlining the on-site workflow with quick and easy installation leads to significant savings and safety benefits. Installation can be helped along by taking advantage of building materials with certain qualities:

  • Lightweight Materials: Lightweight offers a clear advantage. One- or two-person teams can carry products, making expensive cranes less necessary and speeding up the entire process. The reduced need for scaffolding and prolonged working at height offers a much safer and more efficient work environment.
  • Strength-to-Weight Ratio: Ideally when using a lightweight material, you don’t want to sacrifice strength. A structural or self-supporting product reduces the need for additional support structure and additional time to install it.
  • Man-Safe: Skylight and roof products that offer fall-through protection eliminate the need for additional safety rails during and after installation.

Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 / Pascall+Watson. Image © Alex Upton
Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 / Pascall+Watson. Image © Alex Upton

Case Study: Heathrow Airport Terminal 4

The challenge: Replace the aging skylights of Terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport with minimal disruption to this busy terminal, while also maintaining the airport’s security protocols.

The solution: A retrofit using 18,836 ft2 (1,750 m2) of Kalwall Skyroof® cladding above the terminal’s International Departure Lounge and check-in desks. A custom moving scaffold allowed the Skyroof to be installed externally with little disruption inside the building and less manpower. The Kalwall 100™ translucent sandwich panels used were also:

  • Fully compliant with the Aviation Security in Airport Development (ASAID) regulations in regard to blast performance.
  • Designed to improve the solar control and insulation for the space below.
  • Lightweight and allowed for existing substrate to be adapted and reused at a considerable savings.

3. Single-Source Stability

Traditionally, general contractors and engineers have preferred a construction partner offering a single-source, turn-key solution, while architects have been more focused on the final product. However, there’s been a move toward more integrated project teams that include architects, engineers, and contractors, as well as owners, facility managers, and specialty consultants. The new goal is to get everyone, in all disciplines, on board with the complete vision of a project.

Now more than ever, virtual collaboration to ensure all parties are on the same page before construction starts, and during every phase of the process, is key for creating a safe, productive environment for workers. Having a single-source partner means having a member of the team who understands the vision from the very beginning. They can get in and out of a construction site quickly and efficiently, completing their role without the need to involve or overlap different trades. Finally, in a time when the building industry is experiencing worldwide labor shortages, single-source partners ensure the project is done faster and smarter because the labor is already in place.

Hudson County School of Technology. Image Courtesy of Kalwall
Hudson County School of Technology. Image Courtesy of Kalwall

Case Study: Hudson County School of Technology

The challenge: Meet the budget while satisfying the research-based need to introduce natural daylight into the new building, to create a better learning environment for the students and faculty.

The solution: Structures Unlimited, Inc., a leader in large-scale daylighting systems and strategic partner of Kalwall, provided design control, fabrication, delivery, and complete installation of the main Skyroof and a custom shed skylight that greets students at the main entry corridor. The single-source manufacturer in this case provided cost efficiency. While Kalwall panels were also used in the school’s gymnasium and six self-supporting ridge roof skylights over meeting rooms, classrooms and offices, the signature feature of the building was the Skyroof. In addition to the aesthetic benefits, the structure provides:

  • Low maintenance
  • Corrosion- and moisture-resistant aluminum box beams

4. Cleanable Materials

Materials that are resistant to dirt and particle buildup need to be a priority in an era when hygiene is critical. Construction sites are naturally dirty places, so anything that can be done to enhance cleanability will be appreciated by owners, workers, and future occupants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Cleaning is the necessary first step of any disinfection process.”

Hard-to-wash surfaces can be difficult and expensive to maintain. Porous surfaces, such as rugs, upholstery, and untreated wood, fall into this category. There’s also an increased health risk for occupants if materials require the use of harsh chemicals to clean. Building materials that can be easily maintained ensure a healthier environment and save on cleaning expenses. When products first arrive at a construction site, those that are preassembled or modular are less likely to face dirt infiltration.

Homogeneous, non-porous surfaces, such as FRP, resist dirt and debris buildup naturally and are even vandalism-resistant. In instances where sanitation isn’t a priority, such as canopies or roofs, certain materials can also require less cleaning by making debris less visible. Whereas you can see debris accumulate on a transparent surface, some translucent materials will hide it. There are even certifications for cleanable materials: products that are United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Accepted can be used as sanitary walls or ceilings in any building related to food processing, packaging, storing or serving.

New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center (NYPCC) / Bromley Caldari Architects. Image © Mikiko Kikuyama
New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center (NYPCC) / Bromley Caldari Architects. Image © Mikiko Kikuyama

Case Study: New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center (NYPCC)

The challenge: The NYPCC was seeking to provides its clients with an atmosphere that would bring as much natural daylight into the interior of the building as possible. But the Center could not shut down operations for its under-served communities.

The solution: A Kalwall wall system was used extensively, providing full-spectrum light for a calming environment for patients. Natural daylight helps improve mood, mental awareness, and visual clarity, leading to a decrease in eyestrain, headaches, and insomnia. Kalwall’s ability to be installed quickly and easily, in modular units, meant the facility remained in operation throughout construction. Providing a safer environment not just for workers, but existing building occupants as well, was highly valued in this situation.

As a non-profit, the NYPCC also valued the low-maintenance nature of Kalwall translucent daylighting systems, which offer:

  • Self-cleaning surfaces, meaning normal rainfall helps to keep the exterior free of sediment while at the same time retaining its original color during the weathering process.
  • Corrosion-resistant finish against atmospheric pollutants and most chemicals, including acids, alkalis, gases, and water.
  • Vandalism and graffiti resistance.
  • Interior surfaces that are easily sanitized for proper hygiene.

Please visit kalwall.com to view all wall specifications, CAD details, BIM families, and performance charts online. Kalwall also offers continuing education including direct programs that are in-person or virtual, and third-party programs – online and webinars - customized to each client, depending on their necessity.

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Cite: "4 Ways to Create a Safer and More Cost-Effective Building Environment" 15 Oct 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/948145/4-ways-to-create-a-safer-and-more-cost-effective-building-environment> ISSN 0719-8884
John Fry Sports Park Pavilion | Edmonton, AB / The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative. Image © Bruce Edward


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