The service triangle.

Though I mentioned this on Friday briefly, yesterday’s massive construction accident brings the concept back to the fore in stark relief.

The service triangle will not be denied. Though the full set of circumstances of yesterday’s crane failure in Manhattan are not yet known, the bits and pieces that are known point to at its most basic level, a denial of how this concept works.

Cheap. Fast. Good.

Pick two.

And what is worrying a lot of people right now is that in the case of the latest skyscraper construction boom in NYC, the wrong two are being chosen. A lot of talk is flying around right now about how not only this building (though this building in particular- apparently several people have expressed concern about this site before this accident to the DOB), but many buildings are simply going up *too fast*. Though one could argue that the Empire State Building only took just shy of 14 months(410 days, if we want to be technical), I will also mention that 14 people died building it, too.

The difference now is that it’s not one massive building being built at one time. It’s 50, 75, 100 massive buildings being built at the same time, in a city where the margin for error on things being dropped or collapsing is near zero. In general, if it falls, it *will* hit something that wasn’t slated for instant demolition. The pressure is on, ever higher, for construction to go faster and faster, because time is money in the construction business, and every day they are not in a position to sell space in a residential building( because let’s face it, there’s no affordable housing being built now-it’s all luxury condos. I’ll stop now before I start ranting about that, too.) If it’s a retail/office space, the longer construction goes on, the longer you have money flying out with nothing coming in. Owners get antsy. Everyone wants it done *now*. In fact, the company that was building the tower where the accident occurred yesterday specifically prides itself on completing projects on very, very tight time schedules:

From the Reliance Construction site itself*:

We have earned a special reputation for our willingness to take on assignments with deadlines considered virtually infeasible”

Guys. Seriously. I think you’ve now gone beyond virtually here.

And whether or not the DOB is a corrupt cesspool of an organization isn’t even the biggest point. They *are*, without question, overloaded and understaffed for the sheer volume of projects they are required to oversee, even if there’s complete honesty on their part in all things (stop laughing, all of you.)

But all of this comes back to the service triangle. No matter what you do, who you are, how much money you have, you only get to *pick two* from the list of three options. This is true for Reliance Construction, it is true for every architectural and design project, and in fact, it is true for *every single thing* in every single service industry, ever.

I am by no means anti-construction. As a designer, I am one of the single most pro-contractor ones I’ve ever met, *EVER*. I don’t have the kind of adversarial relationship with contractors that so many of my colleagues tend to have in this industry. I just think the industry has spread itself too thin. It’s back to that narrowing focus thing again. We have to again, reassess and become more realistic with our goals and expectations. Cause seriously, no one needs to die to build a block of luxury condos.

This event, tragic as it is (by the way, my friend who lives nearby is fine. He’s going to have some problems dropping off his laundry, but in the grand scheme of things this is a minor problem.) serves as a reminder to everyone- designers, architects, engineers, clients… anyone in every service industry and their clients, that you *have to* respect the service triangle. You have to choose wisely, for each and every job and application you have.

Cheap, fast, good.

Pick two. Pick the right two for the right job.

*It would not surprise me if come Monday, this entire section of their site is redone.   I think that the only reason it’s still there is they have a flash site and it’s a Sunday.  They need an actual web developer to fix it.  Sadly for them, I have a screencap.  Everything anyone ever really needed to know about this is on that page.

It’s not all fun and games.

Sobering news for a Saturday night (though it’s technically Sunday morning now)

I saw it first on Curbed, but Gothamist has much more detailed coverage. City officials are calling it one of the worst construction accidents in NYC history. A crane collapsed in midtown on the east side, completely taking out a townhouse and the bar (FuBar) below it. As of now, four people are confirmed dead, with at least two more in very critical condition.

This one is bad, folks. There’s speculation and ass covering going on faster than I can type on all sides. All I can say is I don’t have enough information to even begin to piece this one together yet and that can probably wait until they rescue everyone they can out of there anyway.

For the linkphobic, (though both links are worthwhile, particularly the excellent coverage on Gothamist as events unfolded) here’s two photos. This is what the crane looked like before the collapse (this isn’t photoshopped. This is just life in NYC.) I’d check it out full size. It’s pretty amazing.

crane, before

This was the scene on 51st Street this afternoon. Photo courtesy of mrgeneko:

crane, after.

There’s been such a high rise construction boom going on here in the past few years, it often feels like they’re handing out building permits for skyscrapers like party favors. Even if it was just a freak accident, the sheer number of buildings going up right now raises the odds for something like this pretty substantially. Though I am not in any way against building (most of) the new construction here (I have objections where it crosses over into historic preservation territory- I don’t have a restoration degree for nothing, you know.) even I am totally amazed at just *how many* towers are going up all over the city right now.

It occurs to me I know someone who isn’t too far from this. Shit.