A Steel of a Deal
Alternative construction methods lead to significant savings
When Mel Bauer started to build a 24-unit condominium complex in Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., last year, he followed a path worn by thousands of developers before him: He hired an architect to design the project, brought in a general contractor to oversee construction, and braced himself for cost and schedule overruns.
Several months into the project, Mr. Bauer, a partner in Missouri-based Majestic Pointe Development, decided to change course. He adopted a different construction model, one that not only provides an arguably better product, but also dramatic time and cost savings. “I found this team of experts from all across the construction industry that had come together to form an alliance that had basically re-engineered the process of putting together a building,” Mr. Bauer says. “I have continued to be astounded by the speed and quality that came to bear on getting things done.”
Mr. Bauer estimates that the new construction model has reduced the previous construction timeline by 40 percent, enabling him to open model units and begin selling finished condos sooner.
The new building method, developed by a consortium of companies involved in various aspects of construction and termed the “Fast-Frame℠ Delivery System,” was developed as a way of improving value for building owners by reducing time, waste and other cost inefficiencies inherent to the old design-bid-build system.
“The idea is to bring everyone involved into the process – from architects and structural engineers to fabricators, detailers, erectors, steel suppliers and others,” says Steve Murphy, a Gerdau* executive who also serves as marketing director for the Steel Frame Alliance™. “We can (then) streamline the process and everybody wins.”
Fast-Frame℠ methodology fosters better communication among team members, resulting in significantly reduced snags, errors and revisions to the design/building process.
“In the past, at very best, a design involved lots of ambiguity about the actual needs during the construction, including how much steel and what it should look like,” Mr. Murphy says. “By working together on designs, we’re able to produce much more efficient designs and then have everybody ready to do their part when the time comes.”
According to Mr. Bauer, that philosophy translates not only into faster completion, but also a better overall product. “I gave the notice to proceed, and within seven weeks we had the basic construction completed – starting from design all the way through fabrication and detailing of the steel,” he says.“That’s a lot of work done in a short amount of time on a 24-unit complex.”
Actual construction of the project took just under six weeks, including erecting the steel and pouring thick concrete floors. Using steel and concrete construction with stucco outer walls results in a much safer and longer-lasting structure, Mr. Bauer says, and owners can expect greater sound insulation, enhanced energy efficiency and lower insurance costs.
Mr. Murphy says getting Gerdau involved earlier in the supply chain gives the company an opportunity to provide a higher value product to its construction customers, and it’s a way to stand out in the marketplace.
“By using Fast-Frame℠, we know that we can save a developer as much as 10 times what he might save by bidding the steel package in a normal bid/build process,” Mr. Murphy says. “By shifting our focus from being simply the second largest structural steel producer in North America to a partner that adds high value during all phases of the construction cycle, then we point the way to greater market share and higher profitability,” he adds.
Under the Fast-Frame℠ program, the company keeps a large inventory of standard steel parts that can be incorporated early into the design-build process, even on a moment’s notice, resulting in a reduction of production and delivery times, and a more efficient design process. According to Mr. Murphy, Gerdau’s experts often work closely with designers, architects and structural engineers, using advanced computer software and design technology.
“Together, we get a better understanding of things like structural loads, connection design and fabrication steps,” he says.
Mr. Bauer, who already has pre-sold two units, says the advantages of steel and concrete over conventional plywood construction can be an incentive for prospective owners.
“Unlike some condominium developments, where the assessments will start to take into account more and more repairs over the years – rotting wood and sagging floors – we expect our assessments to basically cover mowing the grass and keeping the shrubs trimmed. That’s about it,” he says.
Mr. Bauer’s experience has convinced him to use the Steel Frame Alliance™ for future projects. “So far, I’m astounded with what they do – the timeliness and the product they provide,” he says. “I have a great deal of comfort with this. Using this new method, there are dates for every step of completion and it’s all drafted up and they get it done. Everything runs like a well-oiled machine.”
Mr. Murphy says “everything can hinge on framing in the construction business. We’ve come up with a way to make all of that the easy part and then let everybody involved share in the rewards.”
Sunday, February 22, 2004
Texas Society of Professional Engineers
Advertising Supplement to The Dallas Morning News *Originally published as "TXI Chaparral Steel." The company name was changed in September 2007.