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Akio Moriwaki
Akio Moriwaki
As head of global marketing for the AEC Industry at Dassault Systèmes, Mr. Moriwaki launches and promotes groundbreaking Industry Solution Experiences including "Optimized Construction," "Façade Design for Fabrication," and "Civil Design for Fabrication." He is a member of buildingSMART.

Super-Subs and Integrated Project Delivery

May 8th, 2014 by Akio Moriwaki

McGraw Hill Construction, the Lean Construction Institute and Dassault Systèmes teamed up recently to produce an in-depth report on Lean Construction. Below is an excerpt from that report:

Rise of the Super-Sub

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Through advancements in modeling and production technologies, a new tier of trade contractors is emerging.

Dubbed by some as “super-subs,” these firms combine construction with expertise in engineering and operations.

They are deeply leveraging advanced tools to aid in greater collaboration, virtual construction and model-driven prefabrication and modularization.

Integrated Project Delivery

Victor Sanvido, senior vice president of Southland Industries, a firm specializing in mechanical and electrical building systems, says Southland is increasingly integrated in project teams, often getting involved early in projects.

“We recognize that 50% of the [project] cost is established during the program phase, 75% during schematic phase and the rest after that,” he says. “So we need to be involved in the programming and schematic phases to maximize the value of what we can bring to the table.”

As some firms and owners push for more integrated project delivery to improve cost, schedule and quality, the role of these major trade partners has become more critical, says David Mortenson, president of Mortenson Construction.

As part of that approach, Mortenson is increasingly looking for subcontractors that can offer multi-trade prefabrication and modularization solutions on projects.

“The suppliers and subcontractors who adopt integrated delivery and use new manufacturing-based techniques will find their business growth accelerates over the next 5 to 10 years,” he says. “Those who don’t will find their opportunities limited.”

Evolving Relationships With Other Players

Increased collaboration is causing an evolution in the relationship between trade contractors and engineers. Gerald Hartford, principal of Hartford Engineering, says he is working more closely with trade firms on designs and moving away from creating construction documents.

Instead, he passes that level of design on to the contractors’ detailers.

“I’ll do the design and engineering, working closely with my contractors, and go right to their BIM models, which are suitable for their particular fabrication practices,” he says.

Sanvido also recognizes the value of advanced modeling and production techniques executed by trade contractors.

“When we design a facility and we do significant prefabrication and modularization, our safety performance is about 15 times better than the industry average,” he says. “That’s a huge differentiator.” << Click to Tweet

The relationship between these subs and owners is also changing.

Sanvido notes that on about one third of Southland Industries’ projects, the firm is involved in helping owners make the business case for a project or validate their business program.

Beyond Construction

Multi-trade contractors with design/ build and post-construction servicing capabilities can become the central hub of the project lifecycle process.

David Morris, director of virtual construction with Emcor Group, says that as super-subs expand their capabilities, they are able to offer more of a one-stop-shop solution for owners, similar to EPC-style delivery in the industrial market.

For example, if a client wants to completely overhaul a mechanical room, the super-sub may be able to take on all of the work without a general contractor or architect involved.

“The super-sub concept works quite well in that scenario because you don’t need to have an additional tier of involvement by people that don’t have skin in the game,” he says. “Everyone there is performing a vital function.”

Morris sees this as establishing an ongoing relationship with owners, since trade contractors can provide services to owners beyond construction and into the operations and maintenance phase of the building.

Just as general contractors are often retained by large institutional owners for years to address ongoing capital needs, super-subs could be contracted directly to assume these roles.

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Download the full SmartMarket Report, with our compliments.


Dassault Systèms’ Lean Construction 3DEXPERIENCE® Solution
Lean Construction Institute
McGraw Hill Construction

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Categories: AEC, Dassault Systèmes, Industrialized Construction, Lean Construction

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