Building Boston 2001
But Murray noted that inflation continues to stay low and consumer spending steady to offset a sharp increase in overall unemployment. Federal institutional spending will continue strong for the next year, although many state construction projects are now in trouble.
In Murray's economic forecast, it all adds up to "smart growth in a slower economy" — surprisingly good news that was welcomed by the room full of construction professionals.
Building (Under) Boston
The "build" in Build Boston was certainly in strong evidence all around this city's World Trade Center, site of the annual conference that brought together over 11,000 attendees from 40 different countries.
One of the most popular events was the daily "Big Dig Tour" led by Dan McNichol, author of The Big Dig and The Big Dig at Night. McNichol guided seminar attendees on a bus tour down through the bowels of the excavation and up to revealing bird's eye views of amazing construction features.
The Big Dig, officially known as Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel Project, is being conducted by construction companies Bechtel and Parsons/Brinckerhoff. The project, which will place some of the city's major central thoroughfares underground, boasts many construction "firsts," records, and eye-openers.
One such "first" is the Leonard Sakim Bunker Hill Bridge, the world's widest asymmetrical cable-stayed bridge. It was designed by Christian Menn and named after civil rights activist Leonard P. Sakim. The bridge design endeavors to echo the nearby Bunker Hill monument.
Also noteworthy in the Big Dig are several "jack-tunnels," which are tunnel sections built in an open pit then slid through frozen earth to the desired position.
In preparation for this operation, hundreds of pipes filled with circulating, frigid brine are driven into the ground. This freezes and stabilizes the fill underneath existing railroad tracks so that it does not settle when the soil is dug out, three feet (one meter) at a time, in front of the tunnel section as it is pushed through the earth.
In another novel operation, entire tunnel sections (with foundations for above-ground structures in place) are built in dry-dock conditions in casting basins beside the Fort Point Channel where the tunnel will be located. Once the tunnel modules are built, the basin is flooded and the tunnel modules are floated and towed into the channel over their trench locations. They are then lowered through the water and floated precisely into place.
It is little wonder that the "Big Dig" is more expensive per mile than was the Panama Canal.
Back at the Trade Show
Conference seminars on building management techniques were plentiful. One of the most useful was "Rule of Thumb Project Tracking." Workshop leaders Harry and Peter Labadorf of Labadorf Associates told attendees that they can throw away their complex critical path diagrams and Gantt charts in favor of understanding the basics of a simple "S curve" in tracking the money spent during construction.
The best way to ensure a project being completed on time, they stated, is "to spend the money as quickly and as effectively as possible" particularly during the first 30 percent of the construction project. They presented convincing evidence that this simple technique can be an effective project management tool.
The advent of new building codes and standards led to increasing interest in seminars on the U.S. National CAD standard, on the differences between the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA) code and the Life Safety Code of the NFPA (formerly the National Fire Protection Association), on the new commercial Energy Code, and even on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) impact on playground design. The advent of new post-September 11 concerns led to renewed interest in old subjects such as indoor air quality.
The continuing rush in new technology issues made seminars such as "The Paperless Office" (presented by Ed Wolfstein, AIA, Geoff Langdon, AIA, and Evan H. Shu, FAIA) popular with seminar attendees. While we have a long way to go before we eliminate paper from the office, new digital file standards such as PDF and HTML are shifting the role of paper away from formal archiving and record-keeping to a more temporary role: print it, read it, recycle it.
In addition to its timely seminars and workshops, one reason for the continuing success of the Build Boston conference is the confluence of other attractions: a busy tradeshow floor (over 350 exhibitors) and stimulating associated conferences (Women in Design, the Housing Conference, Health Facility Planning, and InteriorDesign Boston).
Adding to this is the inspirational energy of design exhibits such as those from Unbuilt Architecture Awards, the Boston Society of Architects Honor Awards, and the New England Honor Awards.
But in the wake of the events of September 11, Build Boston for all its energy could not evade the uneasy feelings that have engulfed us. Fortunately, it was also a good place to confront and to be informed about those very issues of concern.
Evan H. Shu, FAIA, is an architect with Shu Associates Inc. in Melrose, Massachusetts. He is a frequent contributor to Architectural Record and publisher and editor of "Cheap Tricks," a monthly newsletter for DataCAD users and computer-using architects.
Build Boston was organized by the Boston Society of Architects, the nation's largest chapter of the American Institute of Architects.