Max Garcia, Co-founder High Six
The first industrial revolutions enabled humanity to strive and gain freedom by multiplying its strength, productivity, outreach.
We have been able to catalyze learning, sharing and communicating.
We have gradually been able to dictate where we live, what we eat, what we spend our time on. We gained more freedom… But at what cost?
Constant growth in a finite world simply cannot work when growth means that we are tapping into fossil resources.
Global warming, land domestication, clean water crisis… our impact on the world since WWII has been such that we have entered a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. Our behavior and exponential growth have been at the expense of the world we live in.
Today, we must act to reverse the curve and work towards a more circular, sustainable model.
A new path was set at the Paris agreement (COP 21) in 2015, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 3,3% every year until 2030.
Every year that passes with no action is making this path steeper.
If we don’t act now to alleviate our impact on the planet, we will be constrained to do it. And this will be much less fun!
What does construction have to do with it?
The construction industry was responsible for approximately 40% of the global CO2 emissions in 2018. It accounts for 50% (approximately 400M tons) of natural resource extraction worldwide. It totals 16% of global freshwater consumption and 25% of global waste.
Did you know that the majority of timber waste in construction comes from concrete sites?
Counter-intuitively, the waste is less due to the material than the methodology employed.
Timber as a material adapts well to prefabrication techniques due to its versatility, easy handling, low-tech processing, and high customization opportunities.
With prefabrication, we can considerably add value to the product offering, with pre-assembled structures, pre-insulated and water-tight floor slabs, or even fully functional building envelope elements. These can come together at varying levels of prefabrication depending on the project features (from a kit of parts to ready-to-commission volumetric modules).
While this value creation process is carried out in a safer, controlled manufacturing environment where there is no impact from rain/snow or the cycles of daylight, we can also control waste with a much better yield.
Today, the timber construction ecosystem is diverse, robust, and expanding while creating environmental and social impact with healthier, more sustainable infrastructure.
Decades of sustainable forest management and timber engineering have created an opportunity to push the boundaries of what engineered timber can do: higher-rise, larger-scale, improved architectural flexibility, more predictable performance, accuracy, and durability.
However, its potential is not yet fully unlocked.
Construction projects are developed and managed with fragmentation that eliminates most of the channels for collaboration. Goals and incentives differ between the stakeholders of the value chain which – unwillingly – carry out their work in an isolated fashion. The interfaces between building components (wall to foundation, MEP integration, etc.) and between scopes of work are confusing by design and left to solve on site.
The unfortunate consequence of this is information asymmetry between decision-makers and technology providers affects the ideation, integration, and validation of design. It limits the ability to express architectural creativity as well as benefitting from value engineering towards the end-product performance. The traditional, late-stage tender process involves a transfer of technical responsibility at the procurement phase which does not allow for enough technical definition (let alone a design freeze) in due time.
High Six was founded to offer a fresh methodology to these long-standing challenges.
The tension between planning and doing has to be resolved.
The loss of value mentioned is avoidable by adjusting the construction procurement process as well as soliciting the right expertise upstream to unlock optimizations, integrate return on experience, and help to improve project predictability.
For us, it is fundamental to introduce better technical definitions in projects with our consortium of design-build partners to better inform and strengthen decision-making.
Enabling adaptability within this process involves employing a platform approach and a focus on continuous improvement by not considering projects as one-off prototypes but as products that are flexible in form and function.
“It’s not rocket science!?”
We should take inspiration and learn from other industries, but with a grain of salt.
Engineered-to-order products that result from a multitude of design choices and local regulatory constraints (i.e. buildings) should use a different production strategy than the more engineering-driven industries such as aerospace or automotive.
The parallel that we identify with these industries lies with the system engineering approach that considers buildings as integrated systems made of technical sub-systems: superstructure, services, envelope. In this approach, complexity is designed out via augmented collaboration (BIM synthesis) and simplified interfaces (modular design).
We think that it is possible to further leverage the potential of timber construction.
The most sustainable development is the valorization of the infrastructure that exists already. However, given the expanding demographics and large movements of the population, it is clear that a tremendous volume of new construction is required. It is critical that all new constructions are defined with strong resiliency and low carbon objectives at the outset and developed to a lean, effective process.
Industrialization has been powering the behaviors that developed the climate crisis. In construction, if carefully managed, it could be a vector of salvation.
In our vision, the future of real estate is bio-sourced, adaptable, and shared.
The last decade was fruitful for the sector in terms of research, innovation, experiential learning, and knowledge transfer.
Our direction is set on the interfaces of friction and an effective use of technology to create equilibrium between productivity, energy efficiency, and architectural beauty. For the new decade, we unite with like-minded organizations such as Ergodomus to build upon this advance towards a more sustainable built environment via the industrialization of low carbon projects.
After having acquired experience on all levels of the construction value chain, from specialist engineering, mass timber supply to modular design-build and general contracting, Aubin, Mathieu and Max founded High Six in 2020 to boost the delivery of low-carbon projects. Contracted by property developers, they are putting their complementary skillset at the service of a novel design-build approach leveraging holistic design management, low carbon, and offsite construction technologies for enhanced environmental credentials, quality, and profitability.