Today’s Complex Construction Market is Full of Risk

The only con­sis­ten­cy found within today’s con­struc­tion market is change. 

While we all wish that building codes, and therefore code enforce­ment, would become more pre­dictable with each suc­ces­sive version of building code adopted, the reality is that they are becoming more complex. Energy con­ser­va­tion, life safety and local ordi­nances rarely align because they have been developed in isolation from one other. As these codes become pro­gres­sive­ly more demanding, conflict between them becomes extremely difficult to navigate by archi­tects, builders and code officials.

If that was not difficult enough, in the state of Texas each munic­i­pal­i­ty or juris­dic­tion has the authority to adopt and modify building codes. While this does allow them to address specific issues unique to their community, it also adds an addi­tion­al layer of com­plex­i­ty as no two juris­dic­tions are com­plete­ly the same. This means that code enforce­ment during plan review and site inspec­tion varies con­sid­er­ably across juris­dic­tions, and even within indi­vid­ual code enforce­ment officials. 

An example of this is the statewide adoption of the 2015 Inter­na­tion­al Energy Con­ser­va­tion Code (IECC) in 2016, creating several chal­lenges as it was layered on top of each juris­dic­tion. The blanket adoption of the new code created unin­tend­ed con­se­quences in Texas as each juris­dic­tion could interpret it dif­fer­ent­ly, and because it is an energy code, intro­duced a new standard of per­for­mance that simply was not present before. Several energy require­ments were insti­tut­ed that many standard con­struc­tion details failed to pre­vi­ous­ly address. To overcome this lim­i­ta­tion, standard details needed to be changed by archi­tects, evaluated by a code official during plan review, installed by con­trac­tors and their subs for the first time, and then inspected on-site by a final party. Any small slip by anyone in the delivery chain spells disaster to the schedule and to the viability of the building.

This scenario makes building within Texas par­tic­u­lar­ly demanding for all those involved. As designers and con­trac­tors work through­out the state, one detail developed for one juris­dic­tion cannot be used within another without first reviewing the code. Should an inter­pre­ta­tion be needed, seeking responses from over­bur­dened code officials is at best difficult to receive. These chal­lenges mean that there is greater risk to the design and con­struc­tion schedule than ever before. One differing inter­pre­ta­tion can delay a permit by weeks or months, and/​or delay con­struc­tion progress, sequenc­ing, and/​or sched­ul­ing of sub-con­trac­tors. Time is money, and any delay in today’s con­struc­tion market can lead to sky-rocketing costs that no cost estimate can fully take into consideration. 

To mitigate this risk, it is important to look for areas of the building that have the most com­plex­i­ty and simplify them. 

The Complexity of The Envelope

The envelope is likely the most complex area of the building to design and construct. It’s the location where the energy effi­cien­cy, life-safety, and local juris­dic­tion­al require­ments must all be satisfied in one inte­grat­ed whole. Where and how insu­la­tion is added, its inter­ac­tion with the vapor barrier, fire/​wind resis­tance, struc­tur­al integrity and exterior look and feel can create a cacophony of chal­lenges for design and con­struc­tion team to solve. Add in the human element of a code site inspector inter­pret­ing a code require­ment dif­fer­ent­ly, and the risk can never be fully elim­i­nat­ed through good design and con­struc­tion practices; you can do every­thing right and still be wrong. 

An example of this com­plex­i­ty is the energy code require­ment to provide con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion to the outside of the wall inde­pen­dent of the under­ly­ing struc­tur­al system of wood, steel, concrete, or masonry. This means that new details were needed for every wall type, and, for every type of exterior finish material added to the wall. Questions regarding how often the insu­la­tion can be pen­e­trat­ed, by which type of fastener, and to what depth have to be answered by designers, con­trac­tors and code officials on each project, within each and every juris­dic­tion within Texas. And the con­se­quences of a single poor detail, at best is a delay in the schedule, or at worst moisture in the wall, are simply too high to ignore. 

In response to the com­plex­i­ty of codes and their enforce­ment, most designers and con­trac­tors have tried to evolve existing envelope details and means and methods of con­struc­tion for wood, steel, concrete and masonry con­struc­tion. However, this evo­lu­tion­ary process has reached the tipping point. There are simply too many devi­a­tions to keep track of, too many varying opinions on the right or wrong way to do things and too much risk to continue down this path. It is time to go back to the drawing board and look for envelope systems that have been designed for today’s needs that can eliminate the risks of using old thinking to solve new problems.

Rethinking the Envelope to Meet the Challenges of Today

To solve the com­plex­i­ty of today’s con­struc­tion market, a simple solution is needed. Each time that you can reduce the number of trades, con­nec­tions, layers, fasteners, materials, and more, you can sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce your risk points. With regards to the envelope, less is more. 

The Bautex Wall System was designed from the onset with this mantra in mind. By creating a simple wall system that incor­po­rates structure, insu­la­tion, and sim­pli­fied assembly, most of the risk points have been addressed before the Bautex Block even leaves the factory. When designers specify Bautex, they remove the burden of deter­min­ing how products and materials from multiple man­u­fac­tur­ers will perform to meet multiple and competing code require­ments. Bautex walls save time, money and headache for those that use it.

Texas Custom Solutions based in Buda, Texas is one con­trac­tor that has seen the effi­cien­cy in working with Bautex.

City require­ments were all met with ease, and the people at Bautex were good to work with,” said Charles Downing with Texas Custom Solutions. 

The Bautex Wall System only has two layers – the insulated concrete block wall and the fluid-applied air and moisture barrier. These very simple layers can be quickly installed in sequence which sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduces con­struc­tion time. When compared to standard wall systems, the Bautex Wall System elim­i­nates between four to six layers of materials. Struc­tur­al members, cavity insu­la­tion, furring, con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion, a vapor barrier, and the attach­ments of each of these layers to each other have all been replaced and inte­grat­ed into one simple system with just two com­po­nents. This inte­grat­ed solution means that there are fewer details to consider, fewer trades involved in the field, and fewer code inter­pre­ta­tions to make. 

It had a learning curve as anything does, but it was easy to work with,” Downing said. 

In addition, the Bautex Wall System is also resistant to the risk of future codes as it was designed to meet more stringent standards than are on the fore­see­able horizon. The Bautex Wall System has been designed to exceed meet the following:

  1. Energy Code: 200 – 250% higher than the currently adopted 2015 IECC in climate zones 2 and 3 
  2. Fire Safety: 4‑hour load bearing wall system with zero flame spread and extremely low smoke development
  3. Windstorm Safety: ICC/​FEMA rated for hur­ri­canes and tornado safe room construction

The end result means that no matter where you build in Texas, there are no juris­dic­tion­al amend­ments that the Bautex Wall System cannot meet. With Bautex, archi­tects can stan­dard­ize their detail library for one simple assembly and con­fi­dent­ly re-use it for multiple projects across multiple building juris­dic­tions without modification. 

And use of Bautex does not limit the designer’s use of finish materials; the Bautex Wall System does not need to be modified to work with different archi­tec­tur­al finishes. Virtually any type of exterior or interior finish, awning or other archi­tec­tur­al appur­te­nances, and shape or form can be created using Bautex, freeing designers and con­trac­tors from lim­i­ta­tions that are present when using standard wall systems.

We’ve learned a few new finish-out ideas since building with Bautex. It’s a very durable product,” said Downing.

Old processes yield average results; new processes yield superior results

Building design and con­struc­tion has become increas­ing­ly more com­pli­cat­ed, putting more work and pressure on those tasks while deliv­er­ing projects on-time and on-budget. Designers, con­trac­tors, and code officials need to take back control of the building process by looking at inte­grat­ed systems that solve the realities of today’s con­struc­tion market. 

The Bautex Wall system is one of the few inno­v­a­tive products that actually sim­pli­fies the con­struc­tion process, yet yields superior per­for­mance, both of which are critical in meeting the needs of building owners. 

So take back control of your schedule, regain design freedom and peace of mind, and deliver on-time and on-budget with the Bautex Wall System.