During the preparations for our new office we have not only tried to be smart in the final design but also smart in how we were going to build it.
A few years ago, when we built our zero-energy-home I noticed how much time, materials, energy and money are wasted in the traditional construction process. Anytime you build a one-off design, using project specific details and materials, assembled by a team of people that have never worked together before and who are supposed to deliver top quality while working outside in wind and rain, you can expect some problems.
In our own business, when we build machines, we do not make money on the first unit of a new design and usually not even on the second and third. And that is despite our best efforts to avoid problems in the design and to find them during prototyping. We only start making money once we have ironed out all design problems, replaced some components and fine-tuned our purchasing and manufacturing process. By contrast in the construction busines many companies never get a chance to apply the lessons learned.
So, for our new office I decided that some things needed to change. First of all we started the process with the same design group, consisting of Rob Wolfs (architect), Ron Hochstenbach (technical consultant), Jos Wagemans (project manager) and myself. The team was enlarged with Robert de Boergraaf for all consultancy and design work on heating, ventilation etc.
Second we set up a program of requirements which included not only the goals "energy-plus-office" and "cradle-to-cradle" but also "industrial production". With this we dictated that we want the construction to be based on a detailed design in 3D and on pre-fabrication of parts in a controlled factory environment, ready for fast assembly on site.
And third, I decided to build without a main contractor. Instead we build under the name of our own company, directly enlisting subcontractors. Jos Wagemans was recruited to project-manage the process on a full-time basis. Having a owner's representative as project manager on site 100% of the time is essential for quality and cost control.
In working with subcontractors we made sure that the boundaries of their work were very clear and that we allowed separate time slots for each to minimise interference. For example, once the concrete basement (below) was ready, the subcontractor cleaned everything up.
Today they handed the site back over to us for transfer to the massive-wood subcontractor from Germany for the next 8 weeks. The first truck with wooden panels from the Schwarzwald arrived today in time for assembly next week.
Only when the massive wood subcontractor wood is gone will we provide access to subcontractors for roofing, façades and windows. And only when the building is completely closed will we provide access for installation of heating, ducting, cabling, etc. The goal is to make sure that every major subcontractor can do his job without interference from others. Obviously it was essential to take that goal into account when designing and planning the building.
Smart Construction is Common Sense.