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|Moderator||Tommy Craig ’82, Hines|
|Panelists||Jason Alderman, Lendlease|
|Sabrina Kanner, Brookfield Properties|
|Thomas Scarangello, Thornton Tomasetti|
By Elena Richermo ’18 and Eric Schaffer ’18
Tommy Craig ’82 led an engaging discussion on how improvements in the tools and practices being used today are deeply affecting how we design and construct. He talked about how this is already happening, and how tools and practices can continue to improve. He invited three experts in the field, who were each able to provide examples of projects under their leadership which relied on innovative and creative methods of design and/or construction. The panel shared images of past and present projects offering a more dynamic view of what was being discussed, including a very compelling time lapse from Brookfield Properties, of the development of Five Manhattan West.
Thomas Scarangello began by reminding everyone of how important the introduction of computer-aided design software (CAD) was in the 1980s. However, it wasn’t until Building Information Modeling (BIM) was adopted decades later that the transformational promise of CAD was realized. This was a milestone for developing virtual models which went well beyond drawings, with the addition of “smart” objects that enhanced and supported collaboration. Scarangello referenced a study on innovation and productivity by Harvard Business Review, and illustrated in chart form how far behind the construction sector is than other industries such as media, technology and telecom. He purported that the major difference standing between construction productivity and increased productivity among other industries is the lack of innovation. He adamantly expressed the necessity in thinking about real products and partners, focusing on re-tooling, and performance-based design.
Sabrina Kanner spoke in detail about the redesign of the façade at Five Manhattan West to allow for increased daylight and improved visibility. The innovative shape of the façade improved the energy performance of the glass façade and this just happened to also increase the usable square footage in the building. The Manhattan West Platform is an important example of using intelligent construction: a series of concrete decks have been laid over the Amtrak and Long Island Railroad tracks west of Penn Station which was able to be done not only without interrupting the train traffic, but will also allow for future vertical development. Kanner also underlined the importance of using a different thought approach to construction, which results in innovative improvements. In one case, Kanner utilized the Scientific Solutions Group (RCAC) located in Australia as a resource for innovative construction. The team of research scientists “create and develop solutions to advance research discovery and education, and enable greater productivity”. An important theme that Scientific Solutions Group focuses on is in modular construction, and this can have a huge potential impact on the future for affordable housing.
Jason Alderman elaborated on some of the innovative practices Lendlease is currently using in their construction. This included new machinery used to install windows safely on a project in Chicago to new materials tested for resistance to fire in Australia. The International House in Sydney is a great example of a project using innovative materials, as it has been constructed entirely from engineered or cross-laminated timber. Alderman also outlined the future of BIM technology, which he commented, is transitioning more and more from 3D to “7D,” to include not only modelling, but also scheduling, estimating, sustainability and facility management applications. This integration will allow for all of the stakeholders involved in the construction project to work together simultaneously, avoiding much of the back and forth communication.
Audience Q&A then stirred questions on drone window washing systems to new efficiencies in designing and constructing super tall buildings, and parametric modeling which is becoming commonplace, and allowing designers to model out all aspects of construction in the beginning of a project to optimize the entire process.
While the panel was in agreement that there is a real need to keep improving and tools and practices, it was also noted that there is more cooperation across functions than ever before in the industry.
Ultimately, the main takeaway from this provocative discussion was that the industry is at an inflection point for change, nearly all of which is positive and being embraced by key stakeholders. There is an exciting future ahead for the real estate design and construction industry.
Elena Richermo ’18 is originally from Italy and she is the International VP for the Real Estate Association. Elena earned a BS and a MS in Civil Engineering both from Politecnico di Milano, with a focus on Structural Engineering. After graduating, she worked as a management consultant for 3 years, first in Strategy& and then in McKinsey. She was involved in several banking, energy and retail projects, working for some of the most important Italian companies. Elena is attending her MBA in the expedited J-term program and during the fall has interned part-time at Brookland Capital as Assistant Project Manager.
Eric Schaffer ’18 is a New Jersey native focused on real estate investment and development at Columbia as a J-Term student. After graduating from Emory University, Eric worked at Cushman & Wakefield's Shanghai office, where he helped lead the China Investment & Capital Markets division for several years. From 2016, he has run the Outbound business line for Core Capital Asia, a pure-play cross border real estate investment advisory firm.