When a 4.6-acre luxury residential construction project was being built on the site of a former hospital, it was quite an undertaking. It included building 373 apartments, food retailers and parking, and the workers had to be sure not to leave out its avant-garde appeal.


The project involved architects, engineers, the client, and multiple vendors and subcontractors, including electrical contractors. There were seven different site configurations. All contractors used common workflow-planning software, with access permissions given to all privileged parties. The software could be accessed on a desktop, phone or tablet. The GC viewed it as a lean approach to construction and involved integration among all stakeholders, and it credited the approach with saving time and money by fostering better collaboration between the different parties.


The new watchword


Collaboration is the new watchword for any construction project. For ECs, the time is right to join in and cooperate. This can be done with software tools, but human relationships with vendors are also helpful.


A smart contractor should deliver quality work on time and on budget and also be an integrator—much like physical security integrators who offer the value of technology installation and seamless integration with other systems.


Master systems integrators are construction industry service providers that ensure all mechanical, electrical, electronic, information technology and other systems integrate smoothly.


“The growing technology available to control building services, combined with the advancements in IT infrastructure, has allowed for new services for the building to include the use of mobile devices, equipment diagnostics, advanced energy control algorithms, and so much more,” said Scott Cochrane, president and CEO of Cochrane Supply and Engineering, a firm that performs master systems integration. “We can now provide the owner with a path to get all their control systems operating together, within or under budget, meeting IT guidelines by multiple firms in local markets.”


Integration adds value


As ECs collaborate and integrate, their value increases. Such collaboration is already taking place with physical security projects. Security integrators mix various components of complex systems to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, and they collaborate with contractors and vendors to ensure the finished project works seamlessly. For physical security installations, integrators use various technologies to create a security system that performs to specification.


Physical security projects are analogous to many large projects that ECs work on. The internet of things enables users to integrate mechanical systems, IT systems and many others. As everything becomes smarter, that integration and collaboration are more important than ever.


Ty Richmond, president of security systems technology and national accounts, Allied Universal, Santa Ana, Calif., said the ability to integrate is one of the greater challenges entering the enterprise risk model overall. Deploying a holistic physical security system requires a unique skill set and different mindset altogether. Security integrators need to break out of the mode of vendor with one mission and overarching task and become a part of a system.


Richmond said the enterprise customer who owns or manages the overall project must take an aerial view of things, including total cost of ownership with integrated electronic fire and security, remote video monitoring, and other, broader solutions.


“Local, regional and national players have varying degrees of capabilities, but it has to align with where the end-user is at that stage of their lifecycle,” he said.


The Lean Construction Institute (LCI) is an industry consortium dedicated to such alignment with a goal of project efficiency. Founded 20 years ago to improve the construction and design industries through lean approaches, LCI’s member base comprises owners, architect and engineering firms, general contractors and trade contractors.


According to the institute’s website, its role came about as “a response to customer and supply-chain dissatisfaction with the results in the building industry. Construction labor efficiency and productivity has decreased, while all other nonfarming labor efficiency has doubled or more since the 1960s. Currently, 70 percent of projects are over budget and delivered late. The industry still sees about 800 deaths and thousands of injuries per year.”


For ECs who participate in collaborative, lean building and construction, the future is bright, and the opportunity is rich.