Archive for the ‘Commercial’ Category

Big Brother: The Marketer

By Katie Barrett

iStock 000011362238XSmall e1365168425723 Big Brother: The MarketerLate last year, Verizon filed a patent application for the creation of a new television technology that will listen to viewing audiences and allow advertisers to serve ads that react to those conversations. The patent, “Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a User”, describes that the system would utilize microphones, 3D imaging, and thermographic cameras to detect what goes on in viewers’ living rooms.

For example, if the TV were to detect a dog barking, the user may be served an ad for dog food. Or, if a couple has a conversation implying they are going out to dinner, they may see a commercial for a restaurant. The system will use words, background noises and even a viewer’s mood to determine what content is relevant.

Is George Orwell’s Big Brother becoming a reality 30 years late? Can society look past potential privacy concerns and let marketers into their intimate conversations? Is there an extension for B2B marketing?

By Building Experts Team
ProductsImage e1354739752193 Decipher Your Customers’ Decisions

Photo courtesy of

You’ve thoroughly researched your target audiences before marketing to them. We’re sure you know them as well as your family (if not better). We recognize how important it is to educate your audience about your specific industry so they can understand the key benefits of your products. But what we don’t always think about is what the most significant factors are in each audience’s consideration set.

The BuildIQ team recently learned some interesting insight into what a few key audiences are looking for when selecting products for their next project. Take a look and let us know what you think.

By Building Experts Team

Body and mind… and architecture. These three vital aspects of the Olympics date back to the ancient Greek era and continue today as the Games return to London for the third time. Beginning with the historic Panathenaic stadium in Athens, Greece, Olympic stadiums have become spectacles of their own as they advance with time and technology.

London’s Olympic past is not without drama and footprints in history. Originally awarded to Rome, the 1908 Olympic Games were reassigned to London in November 1906 after Mt. Vesuvius erupted and devastated Italy’s economy. Despite the extremely short turnaround, London built the first stadium ever designed and built just for the Olympics. The White City Stadium was also the largest in the world at the time, holding a total of 150,000 people, 68,000 seated and 17,000 covered. This also marked the first time in Olympics history that the swimming took place in a specially built pool instead of open water.

London 1908 Olympic Stadium: Past, Present and Future

Fast forward a few decades, and London was once again the site of the international competition in a time of chaos. After a 12-year break due to World War II, London’s Wembley Stadium was called upon to host the Games. The facility went under minor revisions, but nothing too drastic with the short time, depleted economy and damaged city. Its iconic twin towers still drew 82,000 fans, but the attraction was the unity of the games, not the arena.

A lot has changed over the last 64 years, least of which are the trends around the Olympic Stadiums and the competition to have the best or most-talked-about facilities. The 1948 Games were also the first ones shown on home TVs, which, of course, has grown. Funding from TV contracts, and the worldwide attention they bring, has played a large role in the design and construction of the stadiums.

Munich was awarded the 1972 Olympics, and its futuristic, innovative approach to building the arenas had the world talking. The Olympic site was a union of landscape and architecture, and became known as the “Green Olympics.” Years before the need to be sustainable and energy-conscious, Germany was on top of it. All of the facilities were concentrated in one area and were built with the idea of using most of the structures in the future – a trend that continues today. Munich was a site of both design and function as a dramatic, tent-like roof that covered the entire park was a show in itself.

In the years after, the Olympic architecture had its ups and downs, including a financial disaster in Montreal, a highly commercialized Los Angeles model in 1984 and uninspiring designs in Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000). Most of the 36 venues built or upgraded for the 2004 Olympics in Athens are now decaying eyesores, leaving the struggling country in debt. Though not the case in Greece, a majority of the stadiums built in the past 20 years have been repurposed and reused, like the home of the Atlanta Braves, which became Turner Field less than a year after the end of the Olympics.

Perhaps one of the most talked about stadiums in recent history was the “Bird’s Nest,” home of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The steel structure was designed with Chinese mythology in mind, and though heavy, is touted to be “green.” The stadium featured a rainwater collection system, a translucent roof providing essential sunlight for the grass below and a passive ventilation system. The construction proved to not be very environmentally friendly, however, as 6,000 homes were demolished and a few citizens were killed in accidents over the four-year building period.

As we turn our attention to the Opening Ceremony in London tomorrow, it’s nice to know that the new Olympic Park was designed with the environment and future in mind. Olympic Stadium, now holding 80,000, will be transformed into a smaller venue, shrinking to 60,000 seats and the Olympic Park area will become a public park. The velodrome will be turned into a community center, and the Olympic Village dorms will be quickly converted into public housing.

London 2012 Olympic Stadium: Past, Present and Future

In the process of design and construction, half a million trees were planted and 1.4 million tons of dirt was cleansed of arsenic, lead and other toxins. With only 11,000 tons of structural steel, it’s the lightest Olympic Stadium to date, compared to its Beijing predecessor at 42,000 tons. Architects also developed an awning that extends over three-quarters of the seats, which uses less material and also shields the field from wind.

Much like in the past, the carefully structured arena in London complements events and themes of its time. It’s simple, yet intellectually advanced and designed to be reused. Do you see the trend of sustainability continuing for Olympic Stadiums, or will future cities build with an extravagant theme in mind?

By Building Experts Team

According to the Q2 Construction Outlook Report from engineering and construction management consultant, FMI, the building industry is expected to see a small gain of 3 percent growth in 2012, and 7 percent growth in 2013, which is generally positive considering the decline over the past five years.

The building industry as a whole has not seen a steady incline since peaking in 2008 right before the recession hit – the healthcare sector is no exception. As soon as the economy took a nosedive in 2008, healthcare construction literally stopped.

Healthcare What Does the Affordable Healthcare Act Mean for the Industry?

While residential construction appears to be outpacing commercial construction, there are positive signs when it comes to growth in the manufacturing and healthcare sectors.

In fact, the report released by FMI last week goes so far as to say, “Healthcare construction is expected to rise 3 percent in 2012…[and] strengthen to double digits by 2015, achieving record highs around $52.6 billion.”

Could the recent Supreme Court ruling be the reason behind this optimistic outlook? And if so, where is the healthcare architectural landscape headed?

Many industry experts, but not all, think the healthcare industry will see a steady incline if the law continues to be upheld – which could again be impacted by November’s presidential election.

The majority of the architects interviewed by Architectural Record believe their clients should, and will, take the ruling with cautious optimism. For many in the article, it’s a step in the right direction for their clients, but not the cut and dry solution. While the Supreme Court’s decision might be the boost the healthcare building industry desperately needs, there are still a lot of economic variables that could greatly impact growth.

One thing everyone agrees on, the healthcare system is guaranteed to change in the next year – so are the healthcare building practices. The shift away from large-scale hospitals to small out-patient practices is apparent regardless of November’s election.  This shift is being attributed to the advances in technology, insurance practices and continued budget restrictions (which goes beyond the healthcare industry and into the state of the world economy).

In a sister Architectural Record article to the one mentioned above, Martin Valins, a principal at Stantec’s Philadelphia office says, “The first port of call will be primary physicians…the primary health-care building stock will become increasingly important, and huge hospitals will become less prominent.”

So what is the next step?

Proceed with caution. While the construction industry appears to be headed in the right direction, it is best to pursue small-scale projects while everyone waits for the economy to gain stable momentum.

By Building Experts Team

 The Tough Turn to World of ConcreteThe tough really do go to the World of Concrete, and they came rolling into Las Vegas today.  The 2010 World of Concrete (WOC) will showcase 1500 indoor/outdoor exhibitors in more than a half-million gross square feet of exhibit space, not to mention some of the toughest attendees, products and equipment you’ll ever find under one roof, aside from a Monster Truck rally.  Like most tradeshows, you’ll also find demonstrations, competitions and education.

One of the many reasons this show is so highly regarded is because of the education sessions offered.  They offer over 100 skill-building seminars, with 90-minute and three-hour sessions including 13 targeted tracks such as Leadership & Management, Technology for Construction, Green Building, Safety & Risk Management, Finance & Money Matters and more.

greenintel1 The Tough Turn to World of ConcreteThis year you can listen to IMRE partner and executive vice president Shawn Draper and IMRE sustainability director Christine Costa, aka Green Intel, speak on Thursday at 1:30PM.  Their green building seminar is titled “Understanding Authentic Green Messaging: Products and Practices for the Concrete Industry.”

If you’re unable to attend, follow the show on Twitter.  The official WOC feed is providing updates and news.  You can also find updates from attendees and exhibitors if you search for #worldofconcrete.

We received a few pictures today from the show.  It appears that early traffic is encouraging and apparently the weather is nice.  Clouds loomed over the 2010 International Builders’ Show.  If this is a sign, perhaps there are better things in store for the commercial construction industry.  If you’re going to make it to Las Vegas, share with us the trends you observed and the insight you gathered.

dewalt at woc 300x225 The Tough Turn to World of Concrete

(Not So) Sudden Stimulus Impact

By Building Experts Team

Is the stimulus helping or hurting us?  One thing’s for sure, it’s tough to gauge the return of $787 billion program.  We did some digging around to see what we could find.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, who understandably has been all over this topic recently, writer Sudeep Reddy investigated the stimulus’ impact, or lack there of.  Unfortunately, there isn’t too much to report.  Eight months after the stimulus was signed, Kansas had only received 2 percent of its allotted funds and much of that money went toward cats and dogs – not the building/construction sector.

the week 15589 27 (Not So) Sudden Stimulus Impact

© Walter Weissman/Corbis

So what’s the ROI?  Good question.  The spending and tax cuts provided by the stimulus are proving difficult to measure.  According to Reddy “part of the challenge is that assessments of the impact often rely on imaging how the economy would have fared if the stimulus money were spent differently, or not at all.”  Most of today’s spending projects only end up being useful in the short term.  The programs provide a brief jolt then fizzle out.  The Car Allowance Rebate System is a prime example.  The $3 billion program allowed auto sales to soar in August, but then they crashed in September.  Many people are concerned about the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers that ends this month.  Chances are good we may see a similar slump.

Officials planned for much of the approved stimulus to kick in during 2010.  According to Reddy some of the stimulus was used as a “quick injection to aid struggling states and the unemployed” and the larger projects, such as bridges and parks, are just getting started.  The largest federal contract awarded to date is over $1.4 billion for the Savannah Nuclear Solutions, LLC in Aiken, SC.

But what is the correlation between the stimulus and unemployment?  Although the economy is improving, millions of jobs have been lost since February, despite the passing of the stimulus.  However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Just over a quarter of the stimulus money – $195 billion – is already out the door, so we should be feeling the effects over the next couple of months (or at worse, years).  But with the good comes the bad.  As we were putting this post together we stumbled across a Wall Street Journal analysis that found President’s Obama’s administration overstated the number of jobs created by stimulus money by at least 20,000 of the 640,000 claimed.  Not good.

picture 2 (Not So) Sudden Stimulus Impact

Recipient Reports, Bureau of Labor Statistics

If you’re interested, you can track the Recovery Act here.  There is a lot of useful data available, including an overview of funding, top contracts, progress to date, top states by jobs created and information on the largest awards.

By Building Experts Team

We don’t spend enough time talking about developers, so today we’re giving Edward J. Fritsch and his team at Highwoods Properties, Inc. their own space here at Build Intel.

Featured in the Fall edition of Development Magazine, Highwoods, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, was recently named NAIOP’s 2009 Developer of the Year.  For those of you unfamiliar with NAIOP (NAIOP is a former IMRE client), the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, they are the “leading organization for developers, owners and related professionals in office, industrial and mixed-use real estate.”  Like the association they belong to, Highwoods is a “leader in both real estate and general business communities, proven by its ability to outperform no matter what the real estate cycle,” said Thomas J. Bisacquino, NAIOP president.

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Highwoods Properties

What makes Highwoods one of the most successful developers in the country?  You have to look back to 2005 when Highwoods was well ahead of the curve.  Although the market was booming, Highwoods took a closer look at itself and realized things had to be done differently to thrive over the long haul. This effort led to the development of a 130-page strategic plan that outlined the following key objectives:

  • Retain the company’s best assets in its most desirable submarkets
  • Dispose of all non-core land and buildings at historically high price levels
  • Take the proceeds of those sales and pay down debt to dramatically strengthen the balance sheet
  • Fund a robust development pipeline

The plan was simple: accumulate money when others are buying at higher prices and spend it when others are selling at discounted prices.  As smart as the plan was, it is only part of Highwoods story.  You too should consider the best practices below as you look towards 2010 and beyond.  It doesn’t only apply to commercial real estate developers.  There’s lessons to be learned for everyone in the industry, no matter what role your business or service plays.

  • Using the term “customer.” Highwood does not have a single tenant at any of its properties.  The company refers to them as customers to denote the business and moral responsibility they have to the individual or entity.  Highwoods is dedicated to building a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with their customers.
  • Focus on customer service. Highwoods launched its School of Excellence in 2006 to make sure every employee understands the importance of great customer service and how to implement and exemplify “The Highwoods Standard.”
  • Highwoods breeds creativity and motivation. Every employee is given the tools and latitude for professional growth.  Internal hierarchies that restrict communication are detested and the CEO visits every company office at least once a year for a two-hour working session with employees to discuss the company and its long-term strategic plan.
  • Relationship building. Highwoods has been heavily involved in NAIOP for many years as the association provides a great opportunity for networking with a large number of industry professionals.
  • Supporting the community. Highwoods is engaged in all of the communities in which it works.  The company focuses on programs involving health and welfare and community development.  Associates volunteer their money and time for the good of others.
  • Looking ahead. Highwoods is currently finalizing two buildings for the federal government and is refining master plans of the land it owns to position itself to move quickly when the commercial real estate cycle turns for the better.
By Building Experts Team

As you’ve read throughout this blog on numerous occasions the light may be visible at the end of the tunnel for the residential and real estate markets.  Slowly, but surely, things are beginning to look better.  But what about commercial construction?

According to the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) chief economist Anirban Basu, commercial construction typically lags economic recovery by several months.  In a recent article from Memphis, Tennessee’s Commercial Appeal, Basu said, “We had a very good sense that shovel ready didn’t mean immediately ready,” referring to the stimulus bills’ advocates who claimed the money would be immediately injected into the economy. “Projects needed to be planned and bid out. It takes time before they are converted into contractual obligations.”  Basu also added, “Many segments of commercial real estate remain in very bad shape.  There is a general lack of financing and job losses lead to decreasing office, retail and hotel occupancy rates.  None of that helps construction.  So although many economists are calling the recession over, the commercial real estate industry has many more months — probably years — before it recovers.”

To get an accurate read on the future, the ABC unveiled its Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) just last month. The CBI is a forward-looking measurement tool reflecting the amount of work for commercial and industrial contractors in the months ahead.  In the inaugural report, the nation’s nonresidential construction industry rebounded in May to 6.3 months, up from 6.2 months in April, but still down by roughly 0.8 months since November 2008, when ABC began collecting data.  During the past seven months, nonresidential backlog is down by an average of 24 days.

backlog banner Not So Stimulated Commercial Construction Activity

The rest of 2009 looks bleak according to Building Design & Construction – so prepare yourself.  Things always get worse before they get better.  It’s bad enough over half of Americans think the stimulus as a whole isn’t working.  It’s safe to say Basu may be right.  It won’t be until 2010 at the earliest until we finally see activity pick up within the industry.  For now, plans will remain… well, plans.  Even then, who knows?  Here’s to optimism.

picture 11 Not So Stimulated Commercial Construction Activity

Evolution of Facility Management

By Building Experts Team

Buildings are transforming before our eyes.  What was hip yesterday is a thing of the past today.  With all the talk of green building, it’s important facility managers keep up to date with the latest technologies and trends in the industry.  It’s the role of the facility manager to coordinate and oversee the safe, secure, and environmentally sound operations and maintenance of a building in a cost effective manner, improving performance and creating a productive workplace.  Below are a few of the more recent noteworthy trends in building management and maintenance:


It continues to grow in importance, and for many facility managers, it should be the number one priority at the moment.  Energy conservation remains the best method of stretching our world’s limited resources.  Understanding building certifications and rating systems, such as LEED and ENERGY STAR, is virtually a prerequisite for the job now.  The educational component of sustainability is continual.  If green practices and products are implemented, there is no better way to be cost effective.

brengel 300 Evolution of Facility Management

Emergency Readiness
Since 9/11 emergency planning has become a focus in every industry.  Facility management is no different.  Acts of terrorism, natural disasters, pandemics, workplace violence and data protection are a few of the issues that arise.  All facility managers should have their buildings prepared for the worse. Vulnerabilities, protection strategies, training and response plans must all be developed and utilized.

Emerging Technologies
mutaflex 2 300x187 Evolution of Facility ManagementTechnology is making our lives easier.  Automation is a prime example.  Reducing the need of human intervention will allow facility managers to focus on other aspects of management (i.e. sustainability, emergency readiness, etc.).  For example, an automated seating system will allow managers to use a single space as a conference room, theater, cinema, auditorium and banquet hall.  The versatility can help improve probability and reduce dormant space.

Social Media
Because it’s free, effective and virtually everyone has at least dipped their toe in the water.  Facility Management Journal (sorry, we cannot provide a link, login is required) even featured an article in its May/June issue informing readers how to connect online the right way.  Social media channels offer an innovative and efficient communications platform.  The use of these tools will enhance customer service capabilities, and perception.

Where buildings go, so must their facility managers.  Technology and sustainability will change even more in a year’s time.  Stay on top of the trends and continue to educate yourself.  If you choose not to, you’ll be left in the dust looking for a new job, regretting you don’t know how to tweet.

By Building Experts Team
080730citiesmandeleed Mandating Green Building Development

Lawrence Anderson

Cities and states are now cracking down on how real estate can be developed (sounds like one of those seat belt commercials).  Effective July 1, Baltimore City introduced a new law in effect requiring any new building development, either free-standing, retrofits or additions, must be certified LEED-Silver as recognized by the United States Green Building Council. We live and work in Baltimore and have a Green Building practice, so you can imagine how psyched we are.

Baltimore joins states like Ohio and Hawaii, who both recently passed building laws, enacting similar codes.  In addition, Toronto established a green roofing by-law in May.  According to, “the move received overwhelming support, and consists of a green construction standard and a mandatory requirement for green roofs on all classes of new buildings.”

We know what USGBC is doing to advance green building, but what does this new law mean for the future of commercial building?  Are these new green laws going to slow urban growth?  Some may say yes, but looking at the bigger picture, this is an opportunity for developers to aid in the development of environmentally conscious cities – a new beginning.

As stated on Green Building Law Update, “as cities, states and federal agencies are mandating LEED certification, you simultaneously have the USGBC ‘raising the bar’ for green buildings by bi-annually updating the LEED rating system to include even more stringent requirements for certification.  The USGBC’s goal is not for every building in the country to be LEED certified.  Instead, the USGBC wants ‘to bring in even greener and greener buildings.’”

Which strengthens the question; what effect will these new building requirements have on development?  As legislation continues in cities and states across the country, it will be interesting to see trends in building and how fast businesses are to adapt. Lets start placing odds on the next city to follow suit…

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