Eight bolts.* That’s how the thermally-broken deck in the above picture is being held up, and this piece of technical mastery was the focus of last week’s Construction Tech Tuesday with Matt Risinger (of “The Build Show”), Steve Baczek, and Jake Bruton. Apart from the installation of the deck, the three also walked us through the design of the home and responded to questions. For builders, tradespersons, and architects, it really showcases the kind of building science that goes into creating a high-performance home. There were several pieces of wisdom that we think everyone in construction (high-performance or otherwise) should take to heart.
Construction Is a Team Sport
Perhaps the most important message that was really hammered home in this episode is that construction is ultimately a team effort, and that things go more smoothly when everyone is on the same page and everyone recognizes that they are on the same team. This doesn’t just mean that the people on the jobsite swinging the hammers all have a sense of camaraderie. It means everyone involved in the project, even the owner, needs to communicate clearly and frequently from the start of the project to its end.
Avoid the “Not My Problem” Waterfall
“I think one of the major failures of what we do,” Steve said of the building industry, “is that some architects or designers will do drawings, and then they pawn it off on the builder. They say, ‘Well, I wash my hands of that; it’s your problem now.’ Then the builder gives it to the HVAC contractor and says, ‘Hey, why don’t you go design the HVAC system and put it in this house.’ Now the HVAC system is on him. Nobody is ever really driving the bus, and nobody’s ever making sure that the HVAC guy and the plumber and the electrician and the steel guy are all in sync.”
I see this as a waterfall of responsibility or the “not my problem” waterfall. This isn’t something that only happens in the building industry problem. It can happen in any kind of organization. Those who work at the more conceptual or abstract level come up with ideas and don’t worry about how feasible they are in physical reality—that’s someone else’s problem.
This leads to three organizational problems. As Steve said, it can often mean that people cease to be on the same page and that their work doesn’t all come together properly. Second, it can also lead to people doing the same job twice. Finally, it assumes that something that works on paper will work in physical reality.
We all know what happens when you assume.
To avoid this issue, Jake recommended having the designer and builder meet with the different subcontractors who will ultimately make the sausage during the design phase. They can tell you if the idea is doable, identify likely challenges, and offer solutions to make the build easier. When you have this kind of team in place, Jake said, “It’s a totally different thing than the architect handing you a set of plans and saying, ‘Hey, good luck!’”
Putting the Motion in Promotion
Social media can feel like a chore, especially when it is something that you do every day for work. However, as Matt pointed out, this project came about because the client was searching for local builders in Columbia, Missouri, came across Jake’s feed on Instagram, and liked what he saw.
Showing off your projects may not attract millions of followers, but it can attract the right follower, so make sure you go through the motion of self-promotion.
Last and certainly not least, this presentation also contained a lot what I’m going to call Baczekisms. I was really amazed at how quotable of a guy Steve is, so I decided to highlight three of my favorites here. If you watch the video and fear one that calls out to you, feel free to comment on Youtube.
- “Best success stories are a team effort.”
- “Build the box, and then attach everything to it.”
- “If you have to come up with crazy ideas, then we have to come up with crazy solutions.
*To be technical: It’s eight J bolts that have been driven about twelve inches into two concrete piers that are reinforced with a rebar cage. Plus two baseplates.
The Construction Tech Tuesday crew talk with Darryl Caunt of Tri-AMM Developments about installing exterior insulation in a home in Kamlops, B.C.
Hugh Whiriskey of Partel joined 120 Passive House practitioners at Passive House Accelerator’s third Passive House Component Spotlight.
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