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Feature article

Finding Certainty in Uncertain Times

Rising prices, supply chain issues, and a fluctuating economy… owners across all markets are facing the same challenges, affecting crucial decisions when it comes to their projects. From material shortages all the way to staggering escalation, the current landscape has been anything but predictable, and it is impacting projects across the country.

The good news is that there are ways to get ahead of it to make informed decisions that result in successful project outcomes. Though no one can predict what the future holds for each variable, JE Dunn is employing tools and offering creative solutions to guide clients every step of the way—providing certainty of results during uncertain times.

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By Stacy Scopano
National Prefabrication &
Manufacturing Director

One strategy to help minimize exposure to inflation is prefabrication. At the project-level, prefabrication can help team extract a lot of uncertainty out of the project. This uncertainty comes from designs that may or may not align with what is available in terms of resources or production teams. At an industry-level, the more work that is conducted offsite addresses key issues – labor and materials. Moving hours off site helps to solve challenges associated with our constrained labor supply, creating more efficiency per labor hour and getting the necessary talent to each and every project site we serve.

When considered holistically, prefabrication helps to align design teams with key trade partners to optimize a project for production. This has two primary benefits: a.) design can become more efficient in terms of how it can be produced and b.) certainty in terms of quantity and availability of products can be gained earlier in the process. It’s these two benefits combined that helps lower the risks associated with pricing escalation in uncertain market conditions.

To further maximize efficiency, JE Dunn recently mobilized a prebuild facility to enable our self-perform activities to directly take advantage of the benefits of moving activity off-site: product standardization and utilization of better equipment and automation, while increasing safety and capacity. This facility complements the broader efforts of prefabrication at JE Dunn that helps align our design and trade partners into a more strategic supply chain solution.

“One way JE Dunn teams are increasing speed, safety, and precision in construction is through our prebuild facilities, where we can incorporate value-added steps into components that get sent to construction sites for installation,” said Senior Superintendent Nick Effenheim. “While this is very

similar to prefabrication, the distinction is in the scope of components prebuild facilities offer. We do create modular assemblies most associated with prefab in our facility, but we also create individual components and component kits for trades people to install in the field. We use the term ‘prebuild’ because it encompasses prefab, giving construction teams a multitude of options, packages, components, etc. to find the best approach for each project.”

JE Dunn’s Prebuild Facility enables project teams to build common components and provides a consistent, safe work environment.

Using both approaches together yields impressive results, which are only amplified in the current landscape. Along with key clients, JE Dunn continues to analyze the quantified project impacts because of prefabrication. We’ve seen schedule compression for key trades in excess of 50%, driving broader project site labor hours and safety rates down by over 20%. It’s this cause-effect promise of prefab that we’ll continue investing in to drive company improvement and benefit the industry at large.


These factors together have helped clients make informed decisions based on current and projected conditions, thereby offering more price certainty and projected outcomes.

Dan Kaufman
East Region President
By Chris Migneron
National Design Director

The evolution of technology and the utilization of 3-D modeling has changed the game in recent years, but it’s the application of Lens® and what it offers that is upping the ante when it comes to collaboration and getting ahead of escalation. Relying on the past with an extensive library of project cost histories allows clients’ design and construction teams to better predict and plan for new projects. With information that changes as quickly as the fluctuating cost of materials, the real-time information offered in Lens allows for continuous adjustments that leverage cost history to make decisions in today’s challenging market.

Lens brings a database of past cost history by project and building type to inform early conceptual cost estimates. It also updates that cost information for the geographic market location and adapts costs for escalation (to current dollar value). That gives us a very accurate — and instant — baseline to then marry up to our market and escalation projections for the budget and schedule.

Lens is tied to the database of our cost histories, but it is still accessible via our Dunn Dashboard to all project stakeholders. Lens View can work directly with the design team’s REVIT model to provide continuous cost updates as design evolution occurs. This instantaeous estimating accelerates the communication around design development and the cost impacts to allow informed project decisions to be made. Our ability to communicate via the same model the design team is using eliminates discrepancies, inaccuracies, and misinterpretation, making it easy to access and utilize Lens as a design tool.

On the Iowa State Student Innovation Center, (shown below) architects from KieranTimberlake regularly reached out to our estimators to help make design decisions on material selection and systems before they went down

the path of documenting design. Lens helped facilitate this target value approach that helped preserve the budget goals for the project while maintaining full design expectations—all while delivering the project with a less than 1% from our cost estimate.

Used in concert with other Target Value Delivery tools, such as Establishing and Validating Value, Set Based Design, and Choosing by Advantage, Lens is informing the design decisions the architect is making to deliver a project design that achieves the owner’s budget goals—even during unstable and uncertain times.

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