Innovating became one of the most satisfying aspects of my work. I don’t think I would have enjoyed my career as much if it had simply consisted of executing construction from plans solely developed by others. By dreaming up innovations on our own projects, and, later, by suggesting for projects done for other owners not only new devices and materials but also new methodologies of construction, I was able to maintain my interest and make each new project an interesting challenge. My most important innovation would be the concept of Construction Management; the idea for this evolved over a period of years, and, accordingly, later decoratings in this blog will trace its development and importance.
The idea of Construction Management lay in the far future when my opportunities to innovate began, with the construction in 1953 of 99 Park Avenue, the office tower just south of Grand Central Station. This building project birthed several specific technical innovations as well as the chartering of the Tishman Research Corporation, which
I had a history of tinkering. For years, wherever I’d lived, I had my own woodworking shop, and had always been interested in creating things in them. Tishman Realty provided me with opportunities to marshal this interest for the benefit of the project, the company, and with the cooperation of the materials manufacturers and the trade sub-contractors for the entire construction field.
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Tishman Realty prided itself on “value engineering,” the adding of value to a design element by making it better in some way longer lasting, easier to install, less costly to install, maintain and/or operate, or otherwise enhancing its functions. To be really useful, any such innovation must perform in ways that integrate smoothly with the efforts of those who actually build and manage the finished project; that utility goal is more readily achieved when the innovations are done for a company, such as ours, involved in every aspect of the project from development and financing through construction and on to leasing the space.
Through Tishman Research Corporation, we were able to induce materials manufacturers to become more innovative by holding out the certainty that if the new product was good enough, Tishman Realty would buy and use it in a real-life, million-square-foot office building. Knowing that the product could be sold in quantity was enough of an enticement for a materials company to make the costly decision to refit a production line so that it could turn out new configurations of flooring or ceiling modules or of exterior panels. Without such a promise of sales in the offing, a manufacturer would be reluctant to invest in revamping its tools and procedures to manufacture a new or radically improved product.
Our substantial office building being constructed at 99 Park Avenue in Manhattan was an ideal laboratory in which to innovate in methods and materials, among other reasons because it was to be a multi-tenanted office building that our company would lease out and maintain. Apartment houses afforded fewer opportunities for inven-
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