October 2016 - FastPartitions

Archive for October, 2016

Augmented Reality Transcends Construction Training

improved safety trainings

Not only does it stimulate a fresh rush for the gaming industry, but also virtual reality technology will likely revolutionize safety training in the dangerous world of construction.

One in every five worker deaths happen in the construction industry. Over half of the injuries caused are a result of human error, because there’s never been a safe way to train for ultra-hazardous situations… until now.

The immersive reality presents impressive potential for significant safety improvement. Imagine having the ability to rehearse extremely dangerous situations without any risk. Imagine designing buildings and walking through them… before they’re built.


Swinging cranes, heavy supplies, and loud noises don’t exactly paint a picture of safety. In addition to the obvious dangers, there are invisible threats such as handling electricity or maneuvering hazardous materials. Every project site presents an extremely high-risk environment. Until now, there have never been effective ways to bring down that huge rate of human error.

While construction industries are crucial to economic growth, there remains an excessive amount of inefficiency. For laborers with a 45-year career, there’s a 1-in-200 chance of death. Recent OSHA studies provide a breakdown of top causes for the looming death rate. The following are known as the “Fatal Four” in construction:

One in ten construction workers are injured each year. Several injury statistics are quite surprising. For example, while falls comprise the top 40% of construction injury, standard fall protection is also the most violated of OSHA rules. If death rates weren’t scary enough, workers who stay in for over 40 years have a 75% chance of incurring a disabling injury.

Working in construction is deadly, and most occupational incidents result from human error. A startling 60% of all incidents happen within a new recruit’s first year. This statistic screams of needed reform in construction training. Safety can be improved and human error largely eradicated with safer methods of situation rehearsals.


An intervention has been needed to combat the alarming lack of industry safety. The invent of virtual reality is that solution. It gives field workers the opportunity to practice complex and risky operations without fear of destruction. Electrical hazard cognition is a primary example because it’s invisible. Electricity raining has always been a struggle, evident in the high electrocution rates.

With the immersive technology users can see, hear and interact within an alternate environment. In this way trainees have the ability to practice highly-dangerous situations with zero risk. Virtual reality allows object manipulation, engagement with artificial intelligence along with perceptual and behavioral assessments, all within the safe and forgiving alternate reality.

Construction learning programs can be designed to help trainees recognize complex situations while building knowledge and skills of correct procedures. Developing training programs include modules for safety and hazard lectures, hazard identification games and student assessment evaluations. As VR designs advance, engineers’ ability to predict and provide rehearsal for dangerous scenarios will grow.

Similar to computer gaming, the sophisticated software recreates environments with multiple theatre modes, which can be used for training scenarios. Users enjoy movement through space and interactive environments. There are 180-degree iDomes for individual training and 360-degree modes for group scenarios.


Virtual reality will significantly lift training barriers. It presents high hopes for a more efficient industry.  Experts predict the technology will become as common in construction as hammers and nails. Construction workers can enjoy perfect safety as they develop structural skills in VR training. Throughout the year, experts predict the technology will explode throughout with countless new uses and adaptions.

Companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft are constantly exploring new ways to fully utilize it. Emerging headsets, interactive hand controllers and movement sensors will revolutionize the entire construction process. Designers, contractors and contractors will be able to make better decisions, earlier on.


4 Key Areas For Commercial Bathroom Design

four key areas, functionality

With the numerous crucial details of developing a new business, designing an appealing commercial bathroom often gets overlooked. However, ensuring a thoroughly comfortable customer experience goes a long way in cultivating brand trust and loyalty. That experience starts with taking care of guests’ most basic needs: the restroom.

Whether it’s a mall, school, hospital or other commercial business, be sure to utilize safe, effective planning and know that it will shape visitor opinions. When evaluating the appeal and functionality of a commercial restroom, narrow your attention to four primary categories: sinks, flooring, lighting and accessories.


Out of everything in the bathroom, sinks are the most used and perform the greatest variety of tasks. Choosing the right sink can be really fun. There are numerous artistic designs that will lend a modern tone to any commercial restroom. Don’t be afraid to get creative with deeper square and oval shapes.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association provides a few steps to help in choosing the right sink. First assess how many sinks will be needed. This will help you decide the best overall layout. You can choose whether you want a dominant sink, varying sizes or a row of equal-capacity sinks. After you’ve selected the number and layout, it’s time to select the right material. Materials such as stainless steel, porcelain, gentle composite and natural stone each have pros and cons to consider. For example, stainless steel is durable and easy-to clean but scratches easily and shows water marks.

Once you’ve selected the best sink material for your needs, it’s time to choose sink accessories. Consider artistic faucets and mirrors. Check out design trends for modern styles. For example, researchers found that at an 80% usage rate, polished chrome is the fastest growing selection for bathroom faucets.


Tiled-floors are the most common for commercial restrooms as well as the easiest to clean. However, there’s still a great variety to choose from as far as color, size and design. You want to create a unique and gorgeous feel, and flooring is a huge part of that. Pebble tile flooring is becoming more popular. Not only is the material elegant, but it’s also quite affordable. Remember to ensure that the slip-resistant surfaces meet any state or local codes which may apply.


Choosing the right lighting system can really set the tone and create the right vibe. In addition to the structure style, it’s also important to choose a good level of illumination Remember adjustable lighting is always an option, which could be used to set an evening or daytime mood. While dimmer lighting may add an up-scale aura, remember to ensure adequate lighting in appropriate areas for task completion.


The additional smaller elements can be used to enhance functionality and to improve the aesthetic appeal in any industry restroom. When considering the accessories, think intricate flushing systems, hand dryer varieties and toilet paper holders. While you’ll want to create a design flow among the restroom elements, mixing and matching can lend elegance as well. Using a variety of accessories, you can add some pizzazz to an otherwise boring commercial bathroom.

Why Construction Costs Continue To Increase

labor and material costs

If you live in a big city such as Nashville, Chicago or NYC, you’ve probably noticed buildings sprouting up everywhere you turn. Commercial construction shows an 8.2 percent annual increase forecast. With all the progress, the construction industry is booming and management scientists have amped up the operational research. However, project prices continue to rise.

Trends show a cost increase, rising approximately two times the growth rate of the GDP in recent years. Labor availability, resource prices and rising interest rates are just a few of the problems currently causing expensive constructions.

  1. Labor Costs & Availability

Rising labor costs due to a lack of skilled trade workers present one of the biggest challenges, in a phenomenon currently referred to as the “Skills Gap.” The social pressure to earn a four-year degree combined with the negative stigmas of the blue collar worker have created a void. This lack of skilled workers has resulted in rising labor costs with a predicted 4.5 percent increase.

As discussed in depth by Mike Rowe, executive producer and host of TV’s Dirty Jobs, 5.8 million skilled trade jobs prove the need for these workers. Common myths about blue collar jobs include:

The negative stigmas attached to dirty work are causing a serious problem. Blue collar jobs are not considered aspirational, yet salary statistics for entry-level industry positions paint a different picture. While general construction laborers make an average of $35,750 each year, those who specialize in a specific trade make at least $10,000 more. For example, some average skilled worker salaries include:

Additionally, in a position such as welding, you could earn six figures with as little as nine months of training. Military support welders can earn up to $200,000 annually in the Middle East. With the spread of such data, perhaps the negative impressions of blue collar jobs will be debunked.

  1. Material Costs

At the top of the list, rising steel prices present a problematic factor driving construction costs. Economists predict a steady rise in pricing through 2019 due to increased demand in emerging markets and a decrease in supply from bankrupted Chinese mills. The predicted increase will severely impact the pricing of essential construction products. Almost every division will be impacted as construction and industrial product prices are jumping.

Moving into 2017, five key steel-related products will experience significant price increases: security wire fencing (4.5%), nails (3.8%), elevators (3.8%), demolition machinery and equipment (3.6%) and forklifts (3.2%). Not only will this increase directly impact material costs, but also construction will be indirectly impacted as the increases effect the costs of equipment used on jobsites from the most basic of hammers to bulldozers and tower cranes.

In addition to the steel supply crises, the Bureau Labor Statistics-reported jumps in prices for aluminum (11%), cement (6%) and gypsum products (5%). Several manufacturers will feel the effects in working to keep competitive prices. This includes rebar, roofing trusses, commercial doors, sprinkler piping, electrical panels, bathroom stalls and more.

Not only are material costs rising, but also building codes and fire department regulations now require more materials for projects. For example, contractors are required to install more sprinkler systems, special electrical breakers, backflow regulators and pumps.  While these new rules and technologies have improved overall quality and life-span of buildings, initial costs have increased as a result.

  1. Interest Rates

Since the Federal Reserve stopped purchasing long-term bonds, they unanimously voted to raise short-term interest rates for the first time since June 2006.  The increased rates are predicted to continue increasing throughout 2016. Fed officials predict the long-run increase at 3.5 percent. These increased interest rates will raise borrowing costs, which would slow construction financial recovery.

Stay Informed

Project managers and other stakeholders should stay updated on the latest technology, development news and construction blogs. Several industry innovators and game-changers regularly publish their ideas. Take advantage of the free knowledge and start reading.

Gaining relevant industry information helps with better decision-making. Enhanced knowledge enables you to cultivate expert power and leadership perspective, which leads to a higher salary. Some additional means of staying current include: face-to-face networking, trade shows and conferences, mentors, social media and other online forums. Take initiative to improve your value, effectiveness and the construction industry as a whole.


Bridge Housing Affordability Gap with Urban Design


With national economic growth, construction crews are banging and buzzing as they piece together future high rises. Despite economic growth, affordability has significantly decreased for several U.S. metro cities such as Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles. Middle class renters are increasingly squeezed out, banished to suburban life and long commutes.

Cities like Vancouver have found ways to build sleek, space-efficient towers to increase available housing. Innovative developers should consider designing taller high rises with less core space to increase efficiency and middle-income access.


In the Los Angeles metro area, over 60% of renters spend 30% of their income on housing and over 30% now pay more than 50% of earnings on rent. LA has become the second least affordable of the 11 metro cities surveyed. Dallas homeowners earning $50,000 to $150,000 have recently experienced a 12% increase in property taxes on homes ($100,000 to $250,000 range) for 2016. Rising property taxes paired with fixed incomes of middle-class homeowners creates an “affordability gap.”

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies in 2015 reported “Homeownership at 20-Year Lows.” They’ve had to either stretch their housing budget or seek housing in poorer areas outside the city. The lack of middle class affordability has become a national crisis, damaging economic vitality and requiring serious presidential attention.


To facilitate great urbanization project managers must think in terms of growth, creating the right framework. City planners and project manners need to coordinate for big picture success and future preparedness. Here are four key areas where small-scale successes could lead to significant overall improvements.


If built in convenient locations near public-transit and everyday services and activities, micro-apartments can provide a significantly cheaper option for downtown living. Housing with 150-400 square feet are considered micro-units. According to the AAA, these residents could be saving $8,946 annually without needing a car. Not only is this housing situation more affordable, but also it creates more community sense with the shared amenities.

While this type of living may more attractive to more of a “niche” market, it does create more affordable living space downtown. There are current developments designed for Nashville by the Nashville Civic Design Center. In doing so, Nashville’s urbanization will begin to resemble some of the more metro cities such as Chicago and New York.

Chicago and New York City have attracted innovative developers who are making headway in affordability, catering to young singles. Helmut Jahn, famous Chicago architect, designed single-occupancy housing that’s not only beautiful and affordable but also environmentally-friend with energy-saving features and devices.

The Chicago Tribune refers to his Margot and Harold Schiff Residence building as “Chicago’s great green hope.” The New York Times recognized Jahn for his single-occupancy design where residents pay less than $160 a month. The Long and narrow with a curved class roof, the building resembles a train.


With slender and compact high-rises, the Vancouver skyline presents an excellent example of cost reduction through design efficiency. Developers created practical and affordable high-rises primarily through smaller floor plates and tighter core space.

The small floor plates increase the separation between buildings, allowing extra city space for more towers. Additionally, the repetition of floor layouts for each level exponentially magnifies the space and cost savings.

The tighter core layouts include only the bare necessitates for safety. Using fire-rated trash shoots and recycling, scissor stairs and direct elevator to corridor entrances, they eliminated unnecessary hall space. See layout comparisons, which illustrate the significant spatial advantages.

U.S. towers are more expensive and bulky because of building codes and fire department regulations which require additional core space. For example, the city of Los Angeles requires two staircase vestibules, a separate trash and recycling room as well as extra lobby space. The codes are meant to increase safety by controlling the spread of fire and smoke.

On a brighter note, architectural firms such as Humphreys & Partners have already incorporated similar strategies within code requirements. For example, the Humphreys’ Grant Park residential high-rise design in Minneapolis has increased rentable space through eliminating corridors and better placement of parking spaces, elevators and common areas. Further signature designs include improvements such as direct garage access (Big House®) and private elevator lobbies (Home Rise®), highlighting the percentage of space efficiency.


The process of building the structures off-site and then transporting the complete products is called prefabrication. With the design of more compact apartments, this process would greatly streamline and cheapen the project. In Austin developers have taking this new approach to affordability. Most notably, Jeff Wilson, co-owner of Kasita and “Proessor Dumpster,” is designing apartments that are ultra-compact with only 208 square feet, which will cost tenants roughly $600 monthly.


Due to potential free market space value, land-use regulations have made consumer housing increasingly expensive in U.S. metro cities. One such restriction specifies a minimum-lot size required for building. However, with efficient designs for slimmer buildings, perhaps this rule could be readjusted.

California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office suggests denser apartment buildings as a primary solution to reduce housing, which remains the highest in the nation. With desirable climate leading to pricey land, every square foot counts.

Just as each building needs a blueprint for its development, land-use planning requires a well-developed master plan for sustainable development. Cities designed for walkability see the best results for healthy, happy residents.


For more effectiveness, project managers need to enlarge their perspective and coordinate with city planners to solve big picture problems. Seeing the big picture of integrated downtown living for will help developers create more accessibility.

Creating more successful cities requires intelligently developed forethought. Effective project managers use enlarged perspective and continued coordination. With increased planning and communication, big picture solutions can more easily be implemented.

The Best Eco-Friendly Materials To Create Sustainable Buildings

eco-friendly materials, build green

Every year the global population increases, and innovative building designs need to grow along with it. With exciting innovations like 3D virtual reality and self-driving technologies surfacing in the construction industry, developers can focus on a new priority: sustainability.

With eco-friendly materials, places can be built to last through generations. Not only can builders aid in the earth’s healthfulness by using sustainable resources, but also they can improve quality of our built environments. As the economy booms, building owners, architects, engineers and contractors can use reusable materials to build sustainable cities and preserve the natural environment. 


  1. Steel

From residential to light commercial uses, steel comes at the top for innovative and sustainable designs. In addition to being having high flexibility, strength and durability, there are several other qualities that make steel ideal for construction projects.

Throughout North America, steel ranks at the top with over 58 million tons recycled. It’s followed by paper, aluminum, glass and plastic. According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel has the ability to be continuously reused without losing durability or strength. Using recycled steel saves 80% of CO2 emissions, and steel costs three to four times less to produce than aluminum.

  1. Wood

Going back to nature, wood is one of the most basic and innovative building materials. Architects are beginning to understand the potential of using wood in designing skyscrapers. The CF Moller Scandinavian firm built a 34-story tower in Stockholm, which currently stands as the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper.

Building with wood is cheap, easy and sustainable. There are no waste products, and it binds CO2, which helps to reduce the over-production in many construction projects. Additionally, wood increases safety because 15% of its mass is water, which combats fires better than steel or concrete.

  1. Sustainable Concrete

Almost every building uses concrete in some way. Concrete produces 7 to 10 percent of CO2 emissions, which isn’t helping the current state of air pollution. However, by mixing in recycled materials, builders can utilize a more sustainable type of concrete to help reduce the negative environmental impact of the valuable resource. By mixing in crushed glass, wood chips or slag, the percentage of CO2 emissions are greatly lowered.

  1. Mushrooms / Mycelium

Most commonly known as mushroom roots, this healthy material has more recently been utilized by top companies as a naturally recycled material. Because of the lack of active consumer recycling, companies like Idea and Dell are utilizing the mushroom resource in packaging. If left out in the back yard, mycelium will easily degrade in less than a month.

Not only is it cheaper, but also mycelium is easy to produce in many different shapes. Once the organic resource is reshaped, it can be dehydrated to stop the natural growth. The variety of uses and eco-friendly nature of mycelium make it a perfect sustainable material to use in several construction roles.

  1. Paper

Superior to the common chemical foam alternate, the paper base makes an ideal sustainable substitute in building insulation. Made with recycled newspapers and cardboard, this material is insect resistant. Like wood, it’s also safer. When natural materials like borax, boric acid and calcium carbonate are added, it becomes fire-retardant. Not only does it help to preserve the natural environment, but also paper-based insulation will fill every crack for a nearly draft-free space.


Consumers should demand more developer use of sustainable materials, and builders should strive to produce the healthiest buildings possible. Whether you’re designing a new home or laying out blueprints to construct a fresh business, choosing better materials will promote longevity. Enhance the durability of your building and show the kindness to the environment by utilizing nature’s best resources.