School Construction Photo

School Construction Photo
A job site photo of a school under construction


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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Rethinking the Cost of Time

Building design and construction have been governed in modern history by our modern perception of time as a cost based commodity. Both design and construction are assumed to have greater competitive value if production time is minimized. The first cost is generally lower if it takes less time to design and build a project. We can generally recognize a disconnect between first cost and long term cost when we consider building products (e.g., cheap windows vs. expensive windows), where lowest first cost may lead to higher long term costs in energy usage, maintenance, and replacement. Yet, as a profession and an industry, we have not been able or willing to pursue the long term value of time invested in design and construction, such that more available time (if well managed) results in more integrated attention to systems and details that enhance long term building performance and optimize long term operating costs. This issue is most notable in our continuing willingness to commit to abbreviated time periods for design and construction. We talk about the value of high performance buildings in terms of energy efficiency and healthful environments, yet the market continues to demand speed over performance due largely to the long established premise that "time is money" - a premise that is reinforced by the owner who wants the building quicker and by the designer and contractor who must bid low to get the job and then minimize time in order to avoid loss. When minimizing time is the highest priority, long term performance does not enjoy equal consideration. Owners, designers, and contractors need to rethink the cost (and focus) of design and construction time as they relate to long term building performance. We have come to recognize long term risks associated with fast food; fast construction deserves similar consideration.

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