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Embracing New Technologies to Address Systemic Challenges

By William P. Silva, Director of Preconstruction, Swinerton

Embracing New Technologies to Address Systemic ChallengesWilliam P. Silva, Director of Preconstruction, Swinerton

Since our inception in 1888, Swinerton has been building peace of mind for 132 years. Innovation and leadership in technology is a long-standing tradition for Swinerton. From fire-resistant brick, used to reconstruct wood buildings after the disastrous 1889 Bakersfield fire, to pioneering steel-reinforced concrete construction to replace buildings destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, to being a demonstrated thought leader in mass timber construction in the United States. Swinerton has survived and thrived because of our willingness to adapt and we have always had a keen awareness of transformative building trends. Our belief is that building green is building smart. We built one of the first green roofs in the nation in 1971, and achieved LEED Gold certification in USGBC’s pilot program for our corporate headquarters. We also received international recognition for construction of over 5 Gigawatts of renewable energy sources, and achieved net zero energy for our Swinerton Renewable Energy’s main office. Being a recognized thought leader in mass timber construction is a natural continuation of a passion that is a core part of our DNA.

Now, Dry Construction, Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA), and Industrialized Construction (IC) are terminology that represents a transformation that Swinerton is embracing to help transform our industry and address systemic challenges. 

It provides a final product that is greater than just one project or one building – it is a scalable blueprint to develop additional and different solutions for projects not just in the future, but now in the present. We know that there is a huge value in developing processes and systems that can be scaled up and down as needed, and replicated successfully in different contexts to support the ever-evolving needs of our client’s employees and their work, providing a consistency that reflects their values, mission, and unique corporate identity and environments.

Developing an efficiently-sequenced plan and process is crucial to the success of any mass timber project maximizing the use of prefabricated components

Prefabrication and mass timber structural systems go hand-in-hand. Mass timber’s prefabbed wood elements play a huge role in the sustainability and efficiency that these types of structural systems can achieve: it reduces waste and allows for greater, more precise quality control. It also enables the faster assembly that advanced mass timber structures are known for, so that construction is safer, quieter, and quicker without the adverse impacts that construction can have on the communities in which projects are built, including fewer trucks, vehicles, and people on site. In a COVID environment, being able to reduce on-site construction personnel will also mitigate associated risks through improved physical distancing without cost increases and schedule delays.

Swinerton believes that mass timber technology and prefabrication are the future, and we are passionate, capable partners to our clients with a singular goal to develop a design process that supports this outcome. Developing an efficiently-sequenced plan and process is crucial to the success of any mass timber project maximizing the use of prefabricated components. 

And, while there is no one-size-fits-all universal approach, our experience informs our belief that a Design-Build delivery will offer the best process to incorporate mass timber and modular construction to their fullest potential.

Scalability and repeatability are ideally suited to take advantage of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) and Industrialized Construction (IC) concepts. Our team works closely with our clients and their designers, internal vendors, consultants, and project stakeholders to identify and prototype assemblies that are well suited for centralized procurement and off-site prefabrication.

• Building structure (mass timber) and envelope systems
• Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems
• Interior office fronts, wall partition assemblies, and envelope wall panels
• Restroom & shower stacks, plumbing walls
• Modular elevators, egress, and communicating stairs
• Food | Production Kitchen, Serveries & Micro Kitchens
• Fitness & Wellness areas
• Conference rooms, audio-visual, and technology approaches

The right balance needs to be achieved on weighing the benefits and liabilities of centrally procuring assemblies and deploying across the country, versus locally through the fragmented conventional supply chain. Considerations include ease of on-site assembly, transportation & logistics, repeatability, cost and schedule, and reduction in on-site workforce.

As we increasingly incorporate these thought processes, we continue to experience significant schedule savings, often on the order of a 20percent reduction in scheduled duration. This is especially true with the Mass Timber solution, where we vertically integrate the entire supply chain, including the structure, MEPF systems, and above mentioned-assemblies.

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