Category Archives: Construction Industry

Whyalla Aged Care Inc: Independent Living Units

 Expression of Interest for Builders

Tenders will be called in February for 16 Independent Living Units at Newton St Whyalla.

The project consists of 16 residential independent Living Units as part of the retirement area. There is one fully accessible designed house with all the others of proportions that will facilitate occupants comfortably with good circulation areas and easy use fitouts.

This is a mixture of 2 and 3 bedroom options based on a five floor plan types. The majority of the houses are hosted together as a duplex style, with a shared party wall joining the garages. There are also a few stand-alone houses within the development. The planning of the site is two rows of eight houses, with one row of direct access off Newton Street. The second row will be accessed via an internal roadway.

Licensed Builders interested in tendering should register in writing with the Architects, including details of similar work undertaken, current commitments and three referees by noon on Friday 18th January 2019.

P.O. Box 3054, Unley, SA  5061 or jfheld@rusyel.com.au

Building Confidence: The Shergold-Weir Report and its Implications for Architects

The Shergold-Weir Report argues for better quality documentation and improved oversight. What do the recommendations mean for architects?

In mid-2017 the Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) asked Professor Peter Shergold and Ms. Bronwyn Weir to undertake an assessment of the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia. The final report ‘Building Confidence’ was recently delivered to the BMF and is available for review here.

The stated goal of the report is to “enhance public trust through effective implementation of building and construction standards that protect the interests of those who own, work, live, or conduct their business in Australian buildings.” The report has a number of recommendations about the whole process of building and maintaining safe and well-constructed buildings, and has special significance in the wake of the Lacrosse and Grenfell Tower fires. It mainly deals with “commercial” rather than domestic scale buildings.

The report also has a number of observations and recommendations, which affect architects in our roles during design, construction and ongoing maintenance of buildings. If implemented it will change many aspects of the construction process, and in doing so it also presents a number of opportunities for architects to re-occupy areas of practice we have lost to other practitioners.

Building confidence and ensuring integrity

“The quality of buildings depends heavily on the competency and integrity of builders. There are many builders that have high standards of competency and integrity. However, the rates of disputes, alleged defects and reports of high levels of illegal phoenix activity are evidence that there are shortcomings in the performance of some builders. These need to be addressed.[p13]

Shergold and Weir are clear that there is insufficient supervision, auditing and expertise in the industry, and too many practitioners willing to take short cuts to save money and time. They also note that there are many conflicts of interest in the way compliance is achieved through private certifiers employed by the client or builder, and an unwillingness for certifiers or the approving authorities to enforce standards during construction. A number of recommendations address those conflicts by better documentation, registration of building practitioners, auditing of those practitioners, and inspections and checking during and after construction.

Registration of building practitioners

While there has been little progress on a true national scheme for registration of architects, our profession is often seen as a model for other building practitioners, where registration and licensing schemes vary widely between states and there is little appetite to harmonise systems or introduce mutual recognition across state borders. It also strongly endorses CPD (not yet a feature of all Architect’s Acts) and subcategories of registration for different building types – something which may be problematic for smaller architectural firms. It recommends strict controls on who can provide performance-based solutions under the NCC and when third-party certification of those solutions is required. Registered practitioners would also be required to have their work audited – so architects’ documentation for building rules consent could be audited by a third party. Building designers would also need to be registered – something which architects have long called for. It also calls for a consistent approach to the registration of builders, specialist subcontractors (especially fire contractors) and engineers.

Quality of documentation

There have been many reports over many years calling for better quality documentation by design professionals.  Shergold and Weir note:

“The adequacy of documentation prepared and approved as part of the building approvals process is often poor. The tendency for inadequate documentation to be prepared and accepted by building surveyors at the building approvals stage has increased, in part because of owners and developers endeavouring to minimise costs on documentation. This issue needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.

… Inadequate documentation can also result in hidden costs or allow builders to cut costs without owners being aware of it.

The integrity of documentation for future use is also compromised when the approval documents do not reflect the as-built building, or when they contain insufficient detail to properly inform building risk and maintenance requirements.” [p28]

Many of the problems noted are blamed on procurement methods, and in particular Design and Construct. The report notes often architects are not retained through the whole construction period.

“…architects and engineers have indicated that they may be engaged early in a project to prepare initial documentation but that their engagement then ends. Detailed construction documentation is prepared by others who may not possess the relevant skills. When products specified are substituted, architects, engineers and building surveyors may not be consulted.” [p31]

The report notes that the process for approving changes during construction is flawed, and that as-built documentation is either non-existent or of poor quality. It recommends that comprehensive digital manuals be required and that they should be stored centrally by government to allow access in the future by owners and maintainers of buildings.

Recommendation 16 of the report states that each jurisdiction should provide for a building compliance process that incorporates clear obligations for the approval of amended documentation by the appointed building surveyor throughout a project. It notes:

“Implementation of this recommendation will be challenging. It requires designers, building surveyors and builders to work to properly document design and construction specifications. This is the lynchpin of a best practice building approvals system and considerable effort will be required to effectively bring about systemic change in this area.” [p32]

Shergold and Weir envisage a very different system to that currently in place – but one that ensures the safety and amenity of the users of our buildings.

What does it mean for architects?

Architects must firstly take responsibility for, and publicly commit to, a better quality of documentation. The skill set for producing such documentation has reduced over the past generation, and the downward pressure on fees has seen it lost as a core business of many architectural firms. It is not seen as glamorous, award-winning or valued by clients, builders or end users. Endless reports on the value of good documentation go ignored, especially when fees and scope are negotiated. Footage of the Grenfell and Lacrosse fires should have awakened a new desire by architects to argue for good documentation, procurement and construction practice.

Our profession already has registration and a relatively good system for dealing with complaints from the public – but does it actually want to fight for a role as a leader in construction industry for integrity, competence and high levels of technical skill? Will we welcome the idea of auditing of our work and accepting criticism of poor documentation without blaming clients, builders and fees? These are moral, not just business choices, and lives depend on it.

Judging by past efforts to achieve any national improvement in the construction industry, the three tiers of our wonderful federated system of government will conspire to stuff it up. As architects, we owe it to the public to advocate for a better, safer and more trustworthy industry.  We need all architects to step up alongside us. You’d better start writing to politicians today if you want that vision for the future.

This article was first published on the Association of Consulting Architects Website

The State of Virtual Reality in Architectural Practice – 2017 Part One – Where we are

At Russell and Yelland we have been working with Virtual Reality for a year now. We would like to share some of our experiences and lessons from this journey which we see as the early days of VR.

The term Virtual Reality is an oxymoron; it is the combination of unreal ‘virtual’ and real ‘reality’. Virtual in this context is the computer simulation of what our senses perceive to be the world around us: that is, Reality. From its beginning VR hardware has looked like a bulky, cumbersome set of goggles.    While the technology is evolving it’s appearance has not changed much.

VR is not a new thing but recently there has been renewed interest and big name technology companies are jumping on board.

There are two key factors which recently arrived and made Virtual Reality accessible for architectural firms such as Russell and Yelland. We already had the first piece of the puzzle, the virtual 3D model, because this is part of our regular architectural design workflow.

The recent innovations which have been able to plug into our architectural practice are;

  1. VR hardware, now accessible, user friendly and at a level of quality able to provide an immersive experience.
  2. Real-time rendering software, aka a ‘gaming engine’ that runs in our regular design environment.

A life-like experience where one can move around the environment requires a powerful computer to perform the real-time graphics processing to update the view corresponding to every movement the user makes. The hardware providing the best experience right now is a ‘head tracking virtual reality headset’; the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two products which have created the recent VR sensation. These headsets both launched consumer products in 2016. Both plug into a desktop computer and require additional sensors placed around the user to translate real world movement into the virtual environment. The VR hardware acts as both the screen and the input (keyboard/mouse), movements of the users head are translated to input commands for the virtual environment.

The virtual environment must respond instantaneously to the actions of the viewer to create a convincing reality. Without the recent development of graphics technology and ‘gaming engines’ we would have to wait hours for CAD software to render a single realistic image. While not a super realistic representation, what the gaming engines lack in detail they make up for with speed. Real-time speed. Using our regular design software we are now able to plug-in a gaming engine and see our digital models in a life-like view while; moving through them, working on a design or trying different options.

The graphic output required to present an immersive VR experience is beyond anything we require regular video to provide and it all comes down to the frame rate. Typically a video can look seamless at 24 frames per second but when you introduce head tracking (the ability for the viewpoint of the scene to move in relation to the users movements) the frame rate demand skyrockets. A typical video feed at 24 frames per second, strobes as you turn your head, leaving gaps of darkness in the path of your glance. This is referred to as ‘latency’, not only does latency disrupt the immersion of the scene it is also a cause of motion sickness. The output recommended for a realistic experience with a motion tracking VR headset is 90 frames per second (FPS) and that is per eye, as there is a unique image sent to each eye. Comparing that to the movie industry standard of 24, a quality VR experience is asking the PC to output a total of 180 FPS which is 7.5 times more images than a movie presents its viewers with. Even The Hobbit movie which created fanfare with its “High Frame Rate” of 48 FPS is not even a third of this frequency. With that perspective it is not surprising you need a very powerful PC to produce this graphic output.

Such a setup is not very portable, though we did take the whole kit to Brompton Primary School for a media event (as pictured), it is not something you would want to assemble every meeting. At a minimum it required; 5 power outlets, the desktop PC, the PC monitor, two independent sensors plugged in and on tripods and the headset link box. We also set up a projector so the students not wearing the headset could see what was happening in the virtual environment.

With all of the setup, bulk and cables between everything including from the users headset to the PC we have still found the experience and comprehension of a design to be unequalled by any other presentation method. There have also been a spectrum of ways we can share these experiences with varying dependence on technology.

Stay tuned for part two to hear what else we have been up to!

Step up, don’t step back…

Is stepping up to the small stuff also the path to improving the profession’s wider role in society?

In recent weeks I’ve heard some horror stories of projects going wrong. I don’t know all the details (and thankfully they are not our own projects) but there seems to be a common thread in many of them of architects simply not stepping up.

At the same time I’ve been reading about the architect’s role in society. Indy Johar, for example, states that for architects to have relevance “we must realign to focus  on all citizens and all their needs; not the construction and real estate industry  who are only a means for making our environment”.  He talks about both social and spatial justice to allow all citizens to flourish.

How are these connected? Is it because, in both cases, architects don’t step up?

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From Project Team Integration to the Architect’s Trojan Horse…

Peter Barda, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Construction Industry Forum, has visited our office several times recently to conduct pilot Project Team Integration workshops for one of our projects.  This is based on the ACIF/APCC guide “A Framework for the Adoption of Project Team Integration and Building” using the “Project Team Integration Workbook”.

This allows all team members to discuss, in a very different way, how they might work as an integrated team, with great benefits to the whole project.

While with us, Peter gave our staff some off-the-cuff thoughts about the profession. He’s expanded those ideas in this month’s article for the Association of Consulting Architects: BIM – the Architects’ Trojan Horse.

It’s not all complimentary about our profession – but well worth a read!

3D Coordination

 

Galilee Catholic School Administration Building - cloud based model
Galilee Catholic School Administration Building – cloud based model

There has been much discussion recently about the role of an Architect , and as a profession we are aiming to explain to the community  what an Architect does., Having recently completed my registration studies, this topic has been of particular interest to me. Registration has opened my eyes to exactly how important it is for the Architect, as the lead consultant of the design team, to communicate and coordinate with all members of the project team through all stages of the project.

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The Gap Between Authority and Expertise

I recently wrote an article reflecting on the importance of the educated government client and architects that have a sophisticated understanding of the client organisation.

7 - Unnamed

Reviewing draft documents on Project Team Integration and the BIM process in government procurement, soon to be published by ACIF and APCC, it struck me once again how important the educated client and the mature approach to risk are in successful projects. In writing Deskilling and Reskilling Architects, I had been thinking about how architects might survive and flourish in this new world of construction. Perhaps the two are connected?

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Where is the value in BIM?

There is a great deal of commentary about the apparent value of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Much discussion revolves around costs associated technology, hardware, licensing, and how this cost is recovered. Are these costs the real impact on value?

To address this question I want to talk about bike helmets.

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Creating a Construction Happiness Index

DSC_0053a

We recently had an ACA meeting between directors of architectural firms and building contractors. We talked about the usual things – upcoming work, contracts, and pressure on prices and fees. There was one topic, however that had not been raised before: mental health in the construction industry. A builder mentioned it in relation to issues they had seen amongst their staff and subcontractors.

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