Sustainability, energy-efficiencies are powering construction projects.

Below is an excerpt from the Oct. 13, 2023, issue of Prairie Business.

Nick Fiecke, senior project manager with Construction Engineers, Fargo, has spent close to 20 years in the industry, starting in high school working with his dad, who was a carpenter. Prior to constructing a building, value engineering is done, where he works with the design team and project owner on what will work best for that particular job. Considerations include whether it’s a precast concrete, traditional metal frame or a pre-engineered metal building. Lighting, heating and cooling, even flooring longevity is taken into account.

“We are creating efficiency and making sure it’s in line with the wants and needs of the client,” Fiecke said. “We weigh those ideas. We want to make sure it’s something they’ll utilize, be happy with and in line with their future planning ideas for the facility.”

Many of the materials used in commercial construction are covered by the energy code, he said, and include weather and air barrier requirements.

Fiecke also does an analysis matrix that includes lead times, installation duration, flexibility for future modification, aesthetics, durability and ongoing maintenance requirements. The project’s budget is also a main driver in how much can be done and still give the expected results.

Some projects, such as schools, are driven by schedules and some, such as jails, are driven by durability. Safety is a priority in all projects.

Retrofitting existing buildings can often be more cost-effective than new construction, and sustainable design advocates encourage that when appropriate, which can increase a building’s resiliency. The embodied energy of an existing building is wasted when it’s allowed to decay or to be demolished.

One of Fiecke’s favorite projects is the UND School of Law addition and remodel. The project tied together the original 1922 building with the 1970s construction of the law library, as well as a new addition.

“I like a challenging project,” he said. “A major renovation is a challenge, and a building from 1922, you can imagine the drawings, handwritten and really detailed. You have to dive in deep, look at how foundations are constructed.”