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According to FMI, U.S. construction spending for all sectors is projected to increase incrementally to $1.46 trillion in 2022. One of the key building trends driving this growth is the development of mixed-use buildings.

Rapid growth and lack of space in urban areas has reinvigorated the need for mixed-use buildings, which combine residences, offices and shops into single, high-rise buildings. Mixed-use buildings not only maximize precious space, but also provide city-dwellers with neighborhoods that integrate work, home, shopping and open outdoor space. Their appeal will only continue to grow as people become more focused on reducing car emissions and increasing sustainability, while enjoying greater convenience and work-life balance.

Despite the benefits, construction in mixed-use buildings can pose a number of challenges for workers and the public alike. For new builds, it’s critical that contractors complete the project within the contractual timeframe to enable building owners to begin leasing the space by their deadlines. Because of that, any delays in the schedule can be costly. 

At the same time that project teams have to focus on completing projects on time, they must also comply with local regulations, minimizing risk and ensuring the safety of workers and the general public.

Best Practices for Elevating Visibility and Safety in a Chaotic Environment

To address the challenges that mixed-use site construction can entail for everyone involved, "internet of things"-driven technologies are being deployed to automate manual safety processes, reduce risk and improve efficiency. Consider the following best practices and how technology can support them:

  • Focus on visibility. Understanding where workers are located across different areas, units or floors is a challenge—especially given that a mixed-use building can span dozens of floors. Advanced technologies, such as internet of things-driven networks, are bringing a whole new level of visibility, security and control to the mixed-use building jobsite. These networks enable contractors to leverage real-time data to allocate the workforce more effectively on a daily basis and understand where more workers are needed or where work can be conducted more efficiently, before schedules are impacted. 
  • Secure site access. Wearable sensors can be used as worker badges to enter and exit a site. They can contain information on each worker’s certifications and credentials. To secure site access, these internet of things-based sensors can be integrated with jobsite entry turnstiles to help contractors automate the check-in process and ensure that no unauthorized workers or bystanders gain access. 
  • Demarcate points of interest. In addition, wearables can communicate with beacons placed in specific points of interest, including off-limit zones, enabling site supervisors to see in real time if a worker is near one of these locations. This extends a site’s security practices and provides contractors with peace of mind knowing that workers are only entering authorized areas. For example, when specific floors are finished and ready to be turned over, building owners want assurance that no one is accessing those areas and the completed units are secure and protected from any potential damage.
  • Minimize accidents with equipment. Contractors can further mitigate risk and promote worker safety by placing internet of things sensors on equipment, such as forklifts, that can communicate with workers’ devices to help ensure that only those with the proper training and credentials are using them.
  •  Keep workers safe. Wearable sensors can be used to improve worker safety. By alerting safety personnel in real time to falls, these devices can get help to the scene faster and potentially reduce or limit the severity of injuries. 
Meeting City Compliance Measures

Mixed-use buildings in many cities must meet strict compliance to local regulations, such as prevailing wage laws, which vary state by state, and local labor laws. In 2020, expect to see more cities follow the lead of New York City, which has recently established Local Law 196, making safety training on the jobsite a key requirement. Under this law, workers must receive 40-55 hours of safety training, including fall prevention; and builders must be in full compliance by Sept. 1, 2020. Having a solution that allows contractors to manage these safety certifications is one way they can ensure compliance, and avoid a costly violation, which can incur upwards of a $15,000 fine. 

Better Forecasting Future Projects

Armed with the data generated from internet of things-based networks, contractors can develop better estimates when bidding on future mixed-use projects. They can forecast headcount and resource requirements by trade and project, and better understand how long it takes each trade to complete its work on a single floor. In addition, these data-driven insights can help uncover ways for continuous improvement to accelerate project timelines, improve safety and reduce the impact of construction projects on building occupants. 

Mixed-use building projects will be on the rise this year, but thanks to advanced technologies and best practices—such as securing site access, setting boundaries on points of interest and boosting visibility—many of the challenges can be reduced. While there’s no getting around the time, effort and resources needed to build large, multi-use buildings, new data-driven solutions are keeping projects on track, safe and secure, while helping contractors to meet critical deadlines. 


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