John Wheaton is a professional engineer, LEED AP, and the co-founder of Wheaton & Sprague Engineering, which helps clients find solutions for the entire building envelope, including the exterior curtainwall, cladding, and roofing. As a local influencer, we wanted to hear his thoughts on the construction industry’s latest trends.
Q. Why do you think building connectivity is important?
A. Building connectivity can be interpreted in two ways. First, as it relates to people, we all need advocacy, collaboration, information sharing, and alignment.
As it relates to buildings, they need to be connected to the needs of people and organizations and their systems need to be connected and integrated one to the other.
Q. What do you believe are some of the biggest construction trends of 2017? Why?
A. For wall systems…higher performing wall systems thermally, structurally, bigger, broader glass, more vision area, insulation strategies, thermal isolation. There’s also more collaboration, design-assist and building information modeling.
Q. What are some of the current needs in the field?
A. For proper coordination of trades, and continuity of air and water barriers between systems.
Q. What are some of your biggest pain points? How can those be relieved?
A. Communication from clients and to clients, coordinating all the technical requirements while maintaining schedule. Weekly meetings, daily huddles, design-review meetings, and working in a shared reality with the client.
Q. What are your thoughts on Building Envelope Commissioning (BEC) and how it can help improve the performance of the enclosure?
A. I think commissioning, which we and others were doing before it was labeled as such, is very important in translating what was designed to what is installed and then to validate how what is installed is integrated and balanced with mechanical systems, light, ventilation, air and water resistance, and more.
Every project of any worth and scale should have a building envelope consultant to make sure the delegated design is translated to the reality of the building.
Too many seals, transitions, anchors, copings, insulation areas and other items can be missed or not interpreted correctly in the field.
Q. With recent trends and codes promoting envelope (enclosure) commissioning, have you seen a trend in the industry to adopt or resist envelope commissioning?
A. Adopting more and more, however, it is shocking to see some projects of scale and major impact having no BEC present.
Many design professionals think they’ve “got this covered” when in fact it’s quite complicated and takes specialty knowledge as a delegated design professional with specific expertise in exterior wall work.
Q. What is your perspective on mock ups and how they can assist the commissioning process?
A. For custom systems, mock-ups should be required… Mock ups always discover something unexpected between design, engineering, fabrication, and installation. And who wouldn’t want to validate that on a small scale before translating it to a much larger scale on the side of a building?
Q. How do you think companies can be more environmentally sustainable?
A. I think it’s an attitude. It lies in everything from how we recycle, to how active we are physically, and then the types of products and services we choose to offer; how well they are aligned with sustainability goals and requirements.
Q. What can companies do to make buildings more energy efficient?
A. It starts at the top and would have to involve everyone in the design and construction community. Codes need to set the bar.
Owners need to be willing to specify high performance buildings from an energy perspective. Technologies and products have developed to provide things such as warm edge spacers, isobar thermal breaks, better insulation, and more effective HVAC systems.
Solar panels, sunshades (vertically and horizontally), daylighting, electrochromic glass and other energy conscious products and systems can be deployed. Commissioning can also help with provide a level of care that can better assure performance.
Q. What are your thoughts on some of the new technology innovations and their impact on the construction industry?
A. 3-D prototyping has been happening for some time and provides a good opportunity to present designs as full or partial scale for people to see prior to making a larger investment... I believe 3-D printing, robotics, drones, virtual reality, and building information modeling will continue to be applied more and more to buildings and building products and help shape design and construction over time.
New categories are always being developed…the best one is yet to come.