Monday, January 28, 2013

Antifragile Commercial Real Estate

A recent WSJ article highlights the concerns associated with development within shale oil and gas plays. Many Shale Oil and Gas Economies are resource-constrained (in both labor and materials) because of rapid growth but also because of the fear that the boom may go bust. Oil prices are extremely volatile. There is reasonable reluctance by investors and local governments to ‘go long’, to make the necessary and expensive long term infrastructure investments for permanent development given the large risks that demand suddenly falls off or disappears completely.

In Nassim Nicholas Taleb's latest book, “Antifragile”, Taleb describes how some entities actually thrive in an inevitably uncertain and volatile world filled with black swan events.

The 'if-it-does-not-kill-you-it-makes-you-stronger' concept is critical to commercial real estate particularly in the expanding US oil patch.

How does commercial real estate withstand sudden market shifts and shocks? Destabilizing trends? How quickly can CRE adapt and change? To be, in other words, “Antifragile”?

Modular construction technology is ideally suited to the potential fragility of the shale oil and gas economy.

Below are a few "antifragile" practices, baked into the processes of modular building leaders GroundFORCE Building Systems and Lake | Flato, that are useful in dealing with the dynamic market conditions of shale oil demand.

Modular's Moment
Flexible and durable mobile building solutions are a hedge against oil patch’s unpredictable and shifting economics.

Lake|Flato has perfected a building system that is true ‘flex’ space. The buildings look site-built but the design and engineering of the modules means that they can be moved again, if needed. Modular design allows the building to be added to or subtracted from or, as in the case of a hybrid structures, combined with site built structure(s). And because the modules can be moved and re-used, there is significant residual value to the structures.

Smart modular building technology embraces the change and the evolution of structures and communities as the needs of the worker evolve. High quality modules are engineered for generations of use at this or the next logical site. It is not throwaway real estate. The modular units are reusable pieces that can be reconfigured in new and creative ways as the oilfield matures and moves on. Waste is minimized. Flexibility maximized.

'Intelligent' Concrete

GroundFORCE, for example, has developed an engineering solution that consists of a building structure constructed in the factory on a cast concrete slab that then can be transported by truck, handled and delivered without using a crane or any other type of lifting equipment. The foundation and building system are integrated day one. 

The residential buildings GroundFORCE constructs have their entire walls (inside and out) complete, roof complete (if it is a single section unit and almost complete if two sections), plumbing installed, electrical installed, HVAC installed, and appliances installed. 

GroundFORCE‘s intelligent system enables them to handle, hold and transport a completed structure or module in compression. The GroundFORCE transportation system consists of compressive struts that grab the unit at the front and back tightly holding the module in place through hydraulic cabling and suspending it over the road. There is no trailer underneath the slab. No craning of modules. As the unit is transported down the highway and bounces along, the system creates compression with the computer-driven hydraulics that offset the transport stresses, maintaining equal pressure on the floor of the slab. 

At the site each module is placed on drilled piers. The delivery truck simply drives over building site and lowers the module in place. Once the modules are set, the utilities are connected. 

The patented foundation system means that the onsite foundation requirements are minimized and the building process is much more economical and efficient.


The Physics of  Adaptable Environmental Design
Lake | Flato’s buildings and site developments are designed to shelter against the extreme environments; to shield, for example, against an unforgiving summer sun.  The principle at work is to let natural elements and forces work in concert with the structures rather than battling against them. Passive solar structures direct breezes where they are needed. Buildings are sited to moderate temperature and interiors are kept cool or warm, efficiently and inexpensively. Nature does its work through the physics of sun, breeze, insulation and shade.

The Modular Mantra: Less Waste

Modular is manufactured off-site where resource constraints may be less acute. The factory can be 750 miles from the site and still be an economical alternative. 

Modular delivers in shorter time frames than site-built structures thereby reducing construction waste and cost-related risks.

(R)Evolutionary Building Systems All

When combined these smart building systems are a marriage of design and technology. GroundFORCE Building Systems’ proprietary, cutting edge modular building technology together with Lake | Flato's environmental architecture create unique and adaptable residential communities developed in places experiencing rapid and sometimes chaotic growth in oftentimes extreme climate conditions. Design and technology that is crafted to adapt and thrive in fluid, evolving oil economies and challenging physical environments.