Backing Best-Value Awards

I read with interest your article on the Associated Builders and Contractors suing the state of Pennsylvania over their use of "best value" contract awards for projects with a value of over $5 million (ENR 10/24 p. 12).

I’m grateful to work for a trade association whose service to its members includes management education, employee training, the establishment of National Electrical Installation Standards, positive labor relations, legislative issues and the development of a foundation used to fund research and international partnerships to further growth and knowledge within the industry.

If ABC spent more time and money trying to make their members better contractors, then maybe they wouldn’t feel so threatened when their only bastion of safety–the low bid–is challenged by owners who want more value for their construction dollar.

As 2006 president of AIANY and the principal in charge of planning at FXFOWLE ARCHITECTS (formerly Fox & Fowle), I was very pleased to read your editorial, "Emergency Housing Can Be Tough As Steel," and to see that ENR is advocating "out-of-the box" creative solutions to emergency housing (ENR 10/17 p. 104).

The planning studio at FXFOWLE developed the competition-winning concept for the Gloucester Green project referenced in your editorial, which utilized shipping containers as building blocks for redevelopment of a former industrial area of Gloucester, Mass. In 2003, we had determined that there was a surplus of over one million shipping containers in the New York port, alone.

Our approach was to utilize the structural frame of the containers and reface them with a new window wall system. Additionally, we looked at clustering containers and removing the intermediate sheathing so that one could expand upon the narrow container, and develop units with more typical room sizes.

Despite considerable initial interest from developers, we found these projects were very difficult to move forward because of the time associated with implementing new ideas in housing, especially in educating building officials, unions and contractors. We also found many negative connotations associated with reuse of shipping containers for housing. To succeed, this concept first has to gain acceptance as "chic" or as "artist" housing in order to withstand the negative aspects of these previous associations.

We would gladly offer additional information about our Gloucester Green project and hope we could become a resource for a competition that might result from your call to the design community. We look forward to a new future for the housing industry that might result.