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Architects look to supply chain for input

By: Angie DeRosa

July 30, 2013

DENVER — Architects want a better relationship with each part of the building and construction supply chain, especially as lean practices move heavily into the commercial construction industry.

As the American Institute of Architects endorses a concept known as Integrated Project Delivery, architects especially are re-evaluating their roles and how the chain works.

Through IPD, key participants such as builders, contractors, suppliers and architects begin working together from the conceptualization of a project through completion. It is a vertically integrated project team that would also design a life-cycle vision. The key participants are bound together as equals, according to AIA, with a shared financial risk and reward based on the project’s outcome.

“Building suppliers become more critical,” said Jeffrey Murray, a design principal and director with IDC Architects, an international architectural firm, during a presentation at Pittsburgh-based Bayer MaterialScience LLC’s booth at the AIA’s annual convention, held June 19-22 in Denver.

“The value that suppliers provide on the research side is critical. We’re not scientists. We bring a different perspective as architects. How do we get suppliers involved early? Oftentimes, it’s difficult. There is a lack of loyalty when it comes to bid time.”

So Supplier A theoretically could provide a critical role during the research phase but then lose out on the project to Supplier B during the bidding process. That risk is daunting.

Still, Murray said there is a benefit for a given supplier getting involved early and may bode well for it during the bidding process.

“If they understand the project [and the issues], they have an advantage,” he said.

Like other markets, the commercial construction industry is pressured to save time and money so lean practices are being implemented and technologies such as 3-D printing or additive manufacturing are being used more often.

“We’re in one of the most exciting times for making buildings,” he said. “We’re engaging this idea of how a facility will impact business one way or the other. What we’re designing are experiences.”

Suppliers like Renson Inc. of El Segundo, Calif., are focused on making their creations more energy efficient and on building healthier spaces. The firm, owned by Renson Ventilation NV of Waregem, Belgium, was showcasing vinyl technologies including a new Tilt-and-Turn window that features a seven-chamber thermal structure. When it comes to energy efficiency, Renson officials are combining the window with Renson’s Invisivent Evo window regulator. Renson hails it as the most discreet, self-regulating and acoustic over-frame ventilator with maximum respect for the architecture.

The company has designed its own corporate headquarters and other office buildings with its “healthy building concept,” which aims at healthy, comfortable and low-energy indoor environments in line with the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol, the company said.

There is a resulting increase in productivity, lower energy bills and fewer sick days for the people living or working in the building, according to Renson.