Methods of Construction: How We Build Better
By: Michael Barker | June 23, 2020
We talk about our way of building often, but what processes make it so special really? If you are like me (a newbie in construction), you may be a bit lost.. CLT, Mass Timber, BIM… huh – google – help?! While it may sound complex, the way we build actually adds great value to our products in terms of quality, sustainability, comfort and speed. So we set out to simplify it for you. We sat down with one of founders and head builder, Michael Barker, to give you the lay of the land as it pertains to construction at R-Hauz.
What makes the construction process at R-Hauz different than other companies in the residential building market?
A typical urban residential construction process involves hiring a team of designers and engineers to create a site-specific design that is usually a one-off concept that will never be repeated. Once the design is complete, a contractor is hired. The usual outcome in this method is the construction phase filled with disputes over poor drawings, cost overruns and schedule delays.
After seeing these problems countless times, we knew we needed another approach. Therefore we have designed a number of repeatable “products” that can be site-adjusted for different parts of the city. Repeating our designs allows us to learn from our mistakes and gradually get costs and delivery timeframes down while improving quality. Our original designs are created in Building Information Modelling (BIM) software that transforms the designs into 3-D models, which can then be manipulated. These product designs are owned by us and adapted to each site by our design team, as slight differences across sites are to be expected. Our long-term supply-chain strategy allows for the design and construction teams to collaborate more closely, limiting miscommunications and sharing in cost savings as well as reducing project risks.
What is mass timber, why use it, and how does it compare to a concrete high rise?
According to the Mass Timber Institute, “Mass timber is a technological advancement that uses engineered wood products such as Glue Laminated Beams (Glulam), Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), and Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). They are fabricated by binding together large panels and beams under pressure using adhesives such as polyurethane, phenolic, or polymer isocyanate glues. The wood’s grain in each successive layer is stacked in alternating grain orientations for added strength. Mass timber is considered as an alternative to conventional reinforced-steel-concrete construction and is ideal for low-to-medium-rise building structures”.
Why do we use it? Because it’s healthy for it’s dwellers, more sustainable and faster to build with than concrete. Mass timber also causes less noise and disruption during construction. This is the team’s first mass timber building so we expect to discover more differences along the way; but the structure itself will be faster to build and provide a healthier environment to the occupant once completed.
How does prefabrication technology compare to traditional stick building?
Another part of our building strategy is to prefabricate as many building elements as we can off-site for installation on-site. With our wall and floor panels in mass timber, less time is needed to erect our buildings than a typical concrete or steel structure. Other elements like plumbing systems, are also evaluated for off-site prefabrication. We also use prefabricated bathroom pods, delivered whole, with finishing choices provided. Current wisdom on prefabrication benefits are better quality (fewer deficiencies) and faster assembly time on-site, thereby saving both money and time.
Why is this type of construction so rare in Toronto?
Industries take years to change and the construction industry is for the most part, still doing things the same way it has for the past 100 years. In order for changes to be implemented, it must start with building permit approvals and the considerations needed from the architect (fire/noise ratings) followed by the structural and mechanical/electrical engineers. The sheer number of changes and the new thinking required to introduce new ways of building has discouraged companies from implementing these new technologies.
Being a relatively new product (especially in North America) in a market that uses concrete it is harder to find designers and engineers and contractors experienced in mass timber thereby taking even more time and increasing uncertainty. Really it’s a matter of complacency from the current supply chain that makes this newer method so rare.
If it ain’t broke…
Update it! Hopefully you have gained some insight into our construction process. Our laneway suites and mass timber avenue townhomes were designed to fit into the fabric of the city, in your backyards and on the avenues. Still have questions? Let us know below!