Prefabricated Skyscrapers

Prefabricated_houses

Eleven years after the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Centers, we are still waiting for the new Freedom Tower to go up.

Yes, there were political disputes on what type of building and memorial would be erected, what security features would be included, what the insurance would pay, and so on.

But then there is also just the shear length of time it still takes us to build a building—a skyscraper, but also other smaller and simpler structures too.

Wired Magazine (October 2012) is reporting on a new method for building construction coming out of China.

Unfortunately, China has been known for some time for unsafe building practices—perhaps doing things on the cheap and then paying for it in terms of consequences later.

Yet, this new technique promises to increase safety, as well as speed, while lowering costs.

If you are willing to give up some building pizzazz, then Broad Sustainable Building is perfecting the prefabricated skyscraper—and these have tested “earthquake-proof” for a 9.0 quake, cost only $1,000 per square foot (versus $1,400 normally)—a 40% savings, and a 30 story building can be built in just 15 days!

Now, Broad says that they even want to erect a 220 story mega skyscraper in 6 months—by March 2013.

Here’s how they do it:

  • Identical modules—each section is prebuilt in identical modules in the factor.
  • Preinstalled fixtures—Pipes and ducts are threaded through each module in the factory for AC, hot and cold water, and waste.
  • Standardized truckloads —with two stacked pallets, each pallet has everything needed to erect a section including wall panels, columns, ducts, bolts, and tools.
  • Lego-style assembly—sections are lifted by crane and installed quickly in snap-like fashion, including pipes and wires.
  • Slotted exterior—heavily insulated walls and windows are hoisted by crane and slotted into the exterior of the building.

Aside from a standardized, consistent, high quality building—it is energy efficient, generates less than 1% the construction waste, and is safer to construct.

As with the rest of the industrial age, this is just the first step in mass producing—in this case buildings—and like the Ford Model T, which came in only one color black and evolved to meet consumer tastes and needs, these building will soon come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but at a fraction of the cost and the time to build.

This is enterprise architecture applied to building architecture making use of modular design and construction, standardization, and consolidated engineering, manufacturing, and assembly to develop next generation products.

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

Work Off Of Standards, But Stay Flexible to Change

Modelt

Interesting book review in the Wall Street Journal (18 January 2012) on Standards: Recipes for Reality by Lawrence Busch.

Standards are a fundamental principle of enterprise architecture, and they can mean many things to different people–they can imply what is normal or expected and even what is considered ethical.

Reading and thinking about this book review helped me to summarize in my own mind, the numerous benefits of standards:

Predictability–You get whatever the standard says you get.

Quality–By removing the deviation and defects, you produce a consistently higher quality.

Speed–Taking the decision-making out of the routine production of standardized parts (i.e. we don’t have to “reinvent the wheel each time”), helps us to move the production process along that much faster.

Economy–Standardizing facilitates mass production and economies of scale lowering the cost of goods produced and sold.

Interoperability–Creating standards enables parts from different suppliers to inter-operate and work seamlessly and this has allowed for greater trade and globalization.

Differentiation–Through the standardization of the routine elements, we are able to focus on differentiating other value-add areas for the consumer to appeal to various tastes, styles, and genuine improvements.

While the benefits of standards are many, there are some concerns or risks:

Boring–This is the fear of the Ford Model-T that came in only one color, black–if we standardize too much, then we understate the importance of differentiation and as they say “variety is the spice of life.”

Stagnation–If we over-standardize, then we run the risk of stifling innovation and creativity, because everything has to be just “one way.”

Rigidity–By standardizing and requiring things like 3rd-party certification, we risk becoming so rigid in what we do and produce that we may become inflexible in addressing specific needs or meeting new requirements.

The key then when applying standards is to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks.

This requires maintaining a state of vigilance as to what consumers are looking for and the corollary of what is not important to them or what they are not keen on changing. Moreover, it necessitates using consumer feedback to continuously research and develop improvements to products and services.  Finally, it is important to always be open to introducing changes when you are reasonably confident that the benefits will outweigh the costs of moving away from the accepted standard(s).

While it’s important to work off of a standard, it is critical not to become inflexible to change.

(Source Photo: here)

Designer Bobigner

While Microsoft seemed to lead for many years especially in terms of “business acumen,” in the end,Apple built the “more valuable company”–Jobs was the design extraordinare and his imagination for user-centric product designs like the iPhone, iPad, iMac and more touched people in ways that no “other business leader of our time could possibly match.”

I have found that not everyone overtly appreciates the importance of design–and in fact, some people make fun of it, almost like children chanting “designer bobigner”–whether because they value function over design or they simply don’t have “taste and style” like Steve Jobs complained about his rival.

In either case, I think people who seem or act oblivious to the importance of design are missing the incredible power of those who can develop products with an eye towards beauty, novelty, and functionality combined. A computer is a magnificent thinking machine, but an Apple is generally a work of art.

Think about how people neurotically cover their Apple devices with all sorts of protective cases as if it were a precious jewel instead of a just a phone or computer.

Art is treated as priceless, but a computer is often just a commodity. However, Steve Jobs knew how to combine the functional power of a computer with the design of a master.

While “Big Box” retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco continue to grow and expand, our world seems smaller because of it–their shelves and aisles are stocked high with rows and rows of commodity, look-a-like goods of toothpaste, sweat pants, and TVs; it is easy to forget that those products that are really valuable to us, usually aren’t just good to use, but great to hold, feel, and look at.

In this light, I found two product designs that I thought were pretty cool to share.

The first is the white milk container that says Milk and the other is a box of tea bags, each bag with its own hanger for display and use of the side of a cup. The ideas are so simple, yet somehow so creative and appetizing. Two age-old commodities like milk and tea can be made new and special by how we package and meld with it in our environment.

Like the Chinese concept of feng shui, there are brilliant ways to develop our surroundings that energize and inspire, and great design is a magical element in a commodity world and what was not so long ago dominated by the one color black Ford Model-T.

Thank you Steve Jobs and the many other great design minds out there–keep the special things coming that make us say, “I want one!”

(Source Photos: here)

Milk_packaging Hanger_tea