Cause you’re working
Building a mystery
Holding on and holding it in
Yeah you’re working
Building a mystery
And choosing so carefully
Let me start by admitting a special affinity for Sarah McLachlan, just to get that out of the way. Besides the obvious appeal of her natural beauty, her undulating type of magnetism is generated from a voice filled with feminine sensuality. If you doubt me (and even if you don’t) take four minutes out of your life and listen to the link here of her performance in a coffee shop. I envy artists like her, the way they can express raw emotions and feelings is amazing. Although I could go on about the magic of her music, this song made me think of what the construction industry faces as an everyday experience. Think about the process of building. This is a great analogy. We involve ourself with the process of unraveling a mystery. It frustrates us, aggravates us, and compels us to feel as though we are chained to an existence of supervising problems that are revealed similar to the pealing of an onion: a layer at a time (that usually creates tears).
I have been on jobsites recently where one small unforseen difficulty mushrooms into a major issue requiring more material, time and thought than all the preceding activities combined. Even experienced supervisors can get bogged down attempting to solve these “mysteries” as they occur. The truth of the matter is most of us cannot see in 3D (without our glasses on at least) and flat two dimensional architectural plans do not lend themselves to comprehending such concepts as load paths, angled walls, head height issues, and such until we stumble across them in the field. We are forced to arrive at solutions “on the fly” in the interest of maintaining progress. Unfortunately many of us confuse progress with sound decisions made with purpose and plan. Very few of those “solve them when they present themselves” are the spontaneous correct answer in relation to what is above us or below.
The truss industry has capitalized on developing a “plan” before leaping into the process of building. Occassionaly there are conversations at job sites about how no one knows how to “stick frame” roof and floor systems anymore, how the use of trusses made framers less skilled from lack of application. I don’t necessarily buy into that logic. Truss systems have become a predominant force in construction because of the use of technology to provide consistant, predictable results. I tell my customers if the use of trusses do nothing else to speed up or economize a job (which, by the way, they do) they slow the process down long enough to understand what is being built. When truss designer’s start a job, they work from the top of the structure down to the foundation and develop load paths, deciding where the loads start, travel, and ultimately are contained. MiTek Industries, arguably the world leading supplier of engineered component products, is taking technology to the customer with their new SAPPHIRE viewer program. Now, truss designers and salespeople can share their layouts with the customers without buying expensive AutoCad software. I also recommend downloading the free DWG viewer to have the capacity to handle the universal language of designers, architects, and structural engineers.
My message goes farther than trusses. To totally unravel the “mystery” of custom homes in particular, I reccomend completing what truss systems start by purchasing wall panels below them. Component construction incorporates the entire structure. Architectural plans coordinated with structural plans now now are joined as one. Stud clusters are placed under girder trusses. Correct sizing of beams are used. Timberstrand, LVL, parallams in lieu of 2×10′s, correctly sized for the location, bearing size, and load to foundation tranference. Before the building is started, every phase of construction can be reviewed in relationship to the entire structure design and intention. 3-D cad systems allow you to see potential problems before the occur in the field. Solving problems in the field is reduced drastically. Correct material take-off’s save time and labor. Building inspections are easier because of the documentation process. Everyone involved in the construction industry needs to embrace these techniques. Best of all, we are back to building a cohesive structure rather than a mystery.