What Is Lean Construction & Why You Should Care

What is Lean Construction?

A term coined by the International Group for Lean Construction in 1993, lean construction was designed as a way to improve product delivery in the construction industry. This was in response to a steady decline in productivity, which made it necessary to review construction management. However, the term was made popular by the Toyota Company. According to Forbes, lean construction makes Toyota the most efficient auto manufacturer in the world. This can be contributed to the fact that lean production has been applied to most of their business operations.

Lean construction or production is simply defined as production that takes less time, requires less labor and produces low material waste. It essentially minimizes waste and maximizes value by focusing on customer needs. It’s applied through design, procurement, manufacture and construction.

The integrated technique requires that suppliers, contractors and clients work together to deliver a valuable product. Unlike manufacturing, lean construction is not construction based, its production based. Successful production systems are formed when all functions of the project are integrated.

Why Does it Matter?

The use of lean construction matters because it has many benefits for the companies that implement the techniques. The most obvious benefit is that building capital assets in a more efficient manner causes a ripple effect that impacts the client, the supplier, the contractor, the environment and even future users of the manufacturing facility. Other benefits include:

  • Better workflow
  • Increased output
  • Reduction of production time
  • Constructive utilization of materials
  • Reduces environmental waste

All of these benefits mean manufacturers will be better capable of delivering products of value. Something that will happen because lean construction makes it necessary for project managers to be more attentive to their company’s processes, the people involved in production and the delivery of every service. In the lean production process, collaboration between management and production is emphasized, thus creating an environment for greater products.

This means higher quality products for consumers. Through the use of lean construction, projects are repeatable because of the use of recycled and sourced components. The Construction Pro Net website has also reported that companies who use lean techniques reap these benefits and see significant results.

However, the process means scrutiny of a company’s daily practices and production process. This scrutiny makes it easy to identify the value of current processes and any waste that prevents value from being delivered to the consumer. So, lean construction can actually make a company more profitable and flexible.

Why Should One Care About Lean Construction?

Lean construction basically provides better products for consumers. It’s also a ‘green’ process that minimizes waste during production and construction of cars, homes, buildings and so much more; a contribution that can help create a healthier, yet more efficient environment for all.

Basically, one should care about lean construction because it provides better products at faster rates. Consumers get more of what they love without sacrificing quality, which also means more money for the producers of these products.

How is Lean Construction Affecting the World

Lean construction is affecting many industries, including auto manufacturing, construction, infrastructure and energy generation. Toyota has already proven how efficient the process can be in the production of cars, but auto manufacturing is obviously not the only industry where lean construction is having a big impact. The process is highly effective for the construction of buildings, wind power or energy generation and infrastructure.

In the wind power industry, lean construction can highly reduce the costs of building wind farms, which are so high that they often prevent the construction of more farms. Lean techniques can also create more sources of energy. In infrastructure, the techniques can be used to construct better and lower cost structures all over the world. SIP Structures of all types can also be built at faster rates and lower costs.

 

Study shows where solar industry diversity falls short

solar jobs

Not a newsflash: White guys have it better than women and people of color when it comes to job opportunities and pay. What is noteworthy is the new research from The Solar Foundation in partnership with the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Women’s Empowerment Committee that provides statistically significant evidence of the hurdles that still need to be overcome, even in an industry as seemingly progressive as solar.

The 2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study is the first comprehensive study on diversity of the U.S. solar energy industry. Findings show that racial diversity within the industry has remained relatively stagnant over recent years, and that all people of color, particularly women, are at risk of being left behind as the solar workforce continues its rapid growth trajectory. Of the major findings, only 8 percent of African American respondents reported that they have successfully moved up the career ladder, and 50 percent think they have not been successful in moving up in their careers and feel “stuck” in their current positions.

Men are significantly more likely to earn wages that fall in the highest wage bracket of $75 or more per hour. 36% of white male respondents earn salaries in this wage bracket, compared to 28% of men of color, 21% of white women, and only 4% of women of color.

Among other findings, just over a quarter of solar employers formally track employee demographics and diversity and just over 1 in 10 companies (11.5 percent) has implemented a strategy to increase the representation of veterans at their firms. Meanwhile, 14 percent of companies have a strategy in place to increase female workforce representation, and 7 percent have a strategy in place to increase representation of non-white communities.

As Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, noted during the opening session of Solar Power International, this isn’t just some push for inclusiveness because it’s a nice thing to do (which would be a perfectly fine reason) but also because stats back up a more diverse work place being more successful and productive.

“We know from decades of research that diversity is strongly correlated with financial performance across businesses. In the face of tremendous workforce growth, it is critical to create a solar culture that welcomes, encourages, and advances equity and inclusion. The opportunity cost is too great,” said Kristen Graf, Executive Director of WRISE: Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy. “We need as many diverse ideas, minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and talents as we can get at all levels across the industry. This study has shown clearly that we are falling short, especially with women of color. Now that we have this important starting point, we can and must do better.”

The path forward

The 2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study underscores the importance of diversity for employee well-being, strength of the workforce, and a company’s bottom line. The report also identifies a broad set of recommendations that solar companies can adopt to improve diversity. The action steps for solar companies include creating company-wide diversity pledges, establishing a formal diversity tracking and measurement tool, broadening recruitment efforts, implementing a “blind” job application process, and establishing diversity training programs.

“Just like having a diverse portfolio of energy resources is critical to our nation, so is having a diverse workforce,” said Julia Hamm, Smart Electric Power Alliance President and CEO. “The path towards a clean energy future can be best met when the industry reflects all of the customers it serves. The Solar Foundation’s Solar Industry Diversity Study provides a baseline, and now it’s on the rest of us to attract and retain the best possible ideas and talent by seeking out women and minorities for employment and advancement throughout our organizations.”

Props to the solar industry for producing such a study and holding itself accountable.

— Solar Builder magazine

KACO designs 1,500-volt string inverter, the blueplanet 125 TL3

KACO new energy updated its Pan-American product portfolio at Solar Power International in Las Vegas. The Company’s featured product is the blueplanet 125 TL3, a 1500V string inverter solution designed specifically for KACO new energy’s robust client portfolio of leading utility-scale developers and EPCs.

KACO SPI

“As a compliment to the fully integrated power stations with centralized inverters being built in Texas by KACO for large utility-scale applications the blueplanet 125 TL3 1500V enables the global trend towards decentralized architectures for smaller-scale utility projects,” said Eduardo Casilda, Senior Director of Sales and Business Development for KACO new energy Inc.

“The idea of course being to both lower equipment costs as well as O&M costs while remaining flexible in design, minimizing risks and keeping installation and maintenance simple for projects owners, developers and contractors,” he added.

Another focus of the Company’s exhibit at Solar Power International, is the complete residential, commercial and utility-scale portfolio offered in the Latin American PV market. 2017 is a significant growth year for the Company’s market share in Central and South America, which includes milestones such as supplying Latin America’s largest rooftop installation.

FINAL ROUND: Vote here for the 2017 Solar Builder Project of the Year

This year, KACO new energy also grew its brand in the rapidly expanding Mexican photovoltaic market, with the country’s top distributors now all supplying KACO as a preferred inverter solution.

In July, the Company launched the blueplanet 29.0 TL3 INT LV (“29.0 Series”), an inverter with lower AC output voltage developed for the Company’s rapidly expanding Commercial and Industrial (C&I) sales channels in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Our strategic placement of the Americas manufacturing and service hub in San Antonio, Texas continues to yield positive results and enables us to achieve unmatched flexibility, customization and regionalization of our solutions and operational platform,” said Casilda.

— Solar Builder magazine

Meet Open Utility, a peer-to-peer electricity marketplace gaining steam in Europe

Open Utility

As we rethink how the grid of the future should look and function in this new era of distributed resources, it’s instructive to see what’s going on in other countries. The concept of a peer to peer electricity marketplace is one of those radical ideas we’re hearing more about in Europe. Let’s look at the progress of one such company, UK-based Open Utility, and its Piclo technology.

How the Piclo technology works

Smart meters record how much energy is put onto and taken off the grid. Piclo technology uses this data to match customers with the local generation sources in an optimal and fair way and displays the results to customers and partners via the Piclo website. Open Utility partners handle customer service, provide top-up energy, manage billing and underwrite contracts.

Advantages to customers

Consumers can further enhance their “green”, environmentally friendly lifestyle by choosing to buy local, renewable electricity. Businesses can maximize CSR value from their energy bills, and renewable generators can participate in a local energy market. Leveraging their experience, Open Utility is a leader in the P2P energy sector with the growing adoption of their technology by energy companies in other countries.

“Essent is a digital energy company, offering our customers smart, sustainable solutions and helping them to use energy more efficiently,” says Stella Brenninkmeijer – Director Marketing Development at Essent. “Therefore, we have established a new digital P2P brand “Ellyn” to give our business customers easy and transparent access to solar and windparks and give solar and windparks the opportunity to prioritize to whom they want to sell their electricity.”

FINAL ROUND: Vote here for the 2017 Solar Builder Project of the Year

Growth of the P2P market

In the UK, the company partnered with Good Energy to launch Selectricity in 2016, which uses Open Utility’s Piclo technology to allow UK businesses to buy renewable power directly from hundreds of independent generators. In June of 2017, Open Utility announced that ERG, a leading Italian renewable electricity generator and supplier, had selected to trial the company’s Piclo Platform to enable Italian businesses to benefit from buying local renewable energy.

Commenting on the expansion to Italy, James Johnston, CEO of Open Utility said: “Peer-to-peer energy matching and specifically our Piclo Platform, are emerging as an important pillar of the global transition to decentralized energy. So we are very pleased to trial our solution in Italy in partnership with ERG . This agreement is a significant milestone for Open Utility – securing our 2nd utility client and bringing P2P energy to Italy for the first time.”

Most recently, Open Energy announced a trial contract with Netherlands-based Essent, part of the Innogy Group.

Commenting on the new partnership in the Netherlands, James Johnston, CEO of Open Utility said: “In highly competitive energy markets like the Netherlands, transparency and choice are the key to success. We are excited to bring this proposition to the Dutch market together with Essent, through our Piclo P2P Energy Marketplace. This partnership with Essent strengthens our position as a leader in P2P energy with a proven platform that is flexible and can be applied in various global markets.”

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Ameren Missouri to boost wind, solar energy investment by $1 billion

Ameren missouri

Ameren Missouri, a subsidiary of Ameren Corporation, updated its renewable energy commitment with most of the focus going to wind, to the tune of at least 700 MW of wind generation by 2020, representing an investment of approximately $1 billion. But in addition, the company also plans to add 100 MW of solar generation over the next 10 years, with 50 megawatts expected to come online by 2025.

“This is Ameren Missouri’s largest-ever commitment to clean, renewable energy,” said Michael Moehn, president of Ameren Missouri. “We are committed to bringing our customers innovative solutions that are both cost-effective and environmentally responsible while maintaining the reliability our customers expect.”

The 100 MW of solar generation over the next 10 years is expected to be developed in multiple phases. Planning is underway on two projects. Earlier this year, Ameren Missouri announced plans to build a solar generation facility at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. That facility is expected to be complete in 2018. A separate project creates partnerships with business customers to locate an Ameren Missouri-owned solar generation facility on their property.

“These innovative solar programs have great promise,” Arora said. “Moving generation assets closer to where the energy is needed most is one of the ways we’re making the grid smarter, stronger and more resilient.”
The new wind generation is expected to be located in Missouri and neighboring states using American-made turbines. The source, location and cost of the new wind generation is still under negotiation with several developers.

FINAL ROUND: Vote here for the 2017 Solar Builder Project of the Year

Other plans include:

• Managing the largest, most comprehensive energy efficiency program in Missouri’s history. The plan consists of a comprehensive portfolio of programs for business and residential customers. The energy savings goal for the current three-year plan is 570,000 megawatt-hours, equivalent to the energy used by nearly 45,000 homes, and representing a carbon-emissions reduction equivalent to taking 115,000 cars off the street. These programs give residents and businesses tools to save money and help make costs more predictable.

• Retiring over half of Ameren Missouri’s coal-fired generating capacity. This includes retiring the Meramec Energy Center in south St. Louis County by the end of 2022.

• Addressing the need to transition to a smart energy grid that can support more renewable energy, universal and private solar and customers’ desire for more timely information. In the next two decades, the energy grid will be the lifeline for cleaner energy connecting hundreds, if not thousands, of small and regional renewable energy generators to the grid in real time while maintaining the energy reliability demanded by customers.

Ameren Missouri’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a 20-year outlook that supports cleaner energy in Missouri, was filed today with the Missouri Public Service Commission, and is consistent with Missouri’s Renewable Energy Standard. The IRP, which is filed every three years, examines electric customers’ projected long-term energy needs and describes Ameren Missouri’s preferred approach to meeting those needs in a cost-effective fashion that maintains system reliability.

“The IRP is developed with the input of a wide variety of stakeholders and is consistent with Ameren’s goal of transitioning its energy generation in a responsible fashion to ensure reliability while keeping customer rates affordable,” Arora said.

In order to add these resources to its generation portfolio, Ameren Missouri is required to seek certificates of convenience and necessity from the Missouri Public Service Commission for projects located in Missouri and to obtain interconnection agreements so that it can use transmission services of the appropriate Regional Transmission Authority.

— Solar Builder magazine

The Top US Cities for LEED-Certified Construction – Builder Magazine


Builder Magazine

The Top US Cities for LEED-Certified Construction
Builder Magazine
In the 20+ years since the U.S. Green Building Council first developed its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the nation's LEED-certified construction volume has grown to comprise about 40% of green construction's …

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