Modular Construction

Modular constructionBy all accounts, construction waste is massive.  This isn’t just waste from new construction, but also what’s coming from remodeling and repurposing buildings.  Whenever a sledge hammer bashes through something or a dumpster receives a perfectly good window, it accrues waste.  Construction waste is filling up landfills at an alarming rate, stealing huge amounts of labor and energy in the process.

Yet the picture isn’t completely hopeless: there are many ways to reduce this waste, and throughout history people have adopted them, often with successful results.  For instance, there are now plenty of opportunities to reuse or repurpose fixtures, and there’s also a strong movement to recycle.  Manty owners and construction pros have been finding ways to reduce the material requirements of buildings.  So long as you plan, all of this can be accomplished.  I recently found an infographic by ModSpace that discusses how building with modular components could be one of the ways to reduce construction waste.  Modular construction is a process by which a building is constructed off-site under controlled plant conditions, and although it’s using the same materials and designing to the same codes and standards as more conventional constructions, it builds facilities in about half the time.  Apart from its obvious implications as a time-saver, modular construction also has been proven to reduce construction waste.

Some 160 million tons of construction & demolition (C&D) debris is produced every year, enough to fill over 4 million fully-loaded semi-trucks and making up 24% of solid waste in the US.  The average amount of C&D waste in non-residential projects is 4.34 lbs/sq. ft., meaning that a 10,000 square-foot building will produce more than 21 tons!  Yet modular construction reduces the amount of waste by 15%, the same as 3 tons per 10,000 square feet of finished office space.  Therefore, saving 24 million tons of waste with modular construction is about the same as 8 massive landfill sites.  At an average landfill tipping fee of $18.43 per ton, modular could save companies and consumers more than $442 million every year.  The evidence reveals that modular construction is a great way to reduce the money and headaches in conventional construction.

Promoting your Construction Business Abroad

Promoting AbroadWhile the early parts of any business are focused on the local, there eventually comes a point when you’ll need a more global focus.  And construction is no exception to this.  It might be easy to only want to focus on projects in your general area, but if you do this you’ll risk losing some great opportunities elsewhere.  I recently came across an article with some ideas for promoting your construction business overseas, listed below:

Create a list of possible destinations: This is the natural first step towards overseas expansion in any business, including construction.  When analyzing possible destinations, be sure to consider all factors, such as cost of construction, profitability, political stability and the availability of a workforce.  Such due diligence will help you recognize the most rewarding places to focus your attention.

Set up new offices in these destinations: Since there is no project being worked on, these offices should administrative.  The staff should be made up of locals that understand the area and anybody with construction experience in that specific location.  In addition, it will let your company familiarize itself the local culture and ensure proper location-sensitive marketing.

Show off construction portfolio: When targeting an overseas market, it’s important to show as much diversity as possible to increase the chances of landing a project.  You won’t want your business to only be associated with transportation when you’ve had plenty of experience in education and housing.  If your company has a diverse set of skills, then it would be a shame to be pigeonholed into a specific field of construction.

Tweak your online presence to have an international focus: Most companies without an international focus have websites highlighting this fact.  The content on such sites tells any visitor that the company is only focused on the local market.  If you’re promoting your business to an overseas market, however, your website should feature international content such as projects completed overseas, include contact info for international clients and even reference events in your target markets abroad.

Video Games and Construction

Golden eye video game

While video games have been easy to dismiss as a novelty, in recent years major technological improvements have helped people recognize their potential beyond their original purpose.  One of the places where the potential of video games is being realized is in the construction industry.  The construction industry has widely adopted such 3D tools as building-information models, and while BIMs are still experienced on a screen or piece of paper, video games have helped to take these models to new levels of immersion.  The first-person shooter games of old have set the scene for virtual-reality design and construction tools.  And many of the children who grew up playing these games are now hacking into these same games to revolutionize the construction industry.

Driven by video-game “engines”, the setup includes a map of the project model, with textures and visual elements that render and update in real time.  Clash detection, which helps construction teams identify potential problems, has already been built into most video game engines.  Skilled gamers and attention to detail are often necessary to make this possible, but the learning curve has been decreasing.  While the time needed to render video games once took two to three days, that’s becoming less and less of a problem, with designers being able to pump out a two-minute animation in just a couple of hours.

The best part about this is how cheap it is.  While the laptop necessary to use this software is about $4,000, that’s the most expensive part.  Video game engines can be downloaded for free; if you want to reach out and grab things while playing the demonstration, you’ll need a VR headset, which are becoming more and more readily available.

Yet gaming tech isn’t just for building projects, and difficult industrial turnarounds and civil projects have been finding ways to use these tools.  Apart from logistics, these games are great for improving safety.  Previously, construction accidents led to serious injury and even death, yet those accidents could be dramatically reduced by fixing problems on the computer screen before they turn into on-site mishaps.

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

Selling Your Idea

Shake handsEven if many consider the construction industry conservative, there’s always room for some fresh ideas.  Original ideas are the reason that businesses can innovate their offerings much quicker, keep providing better services to the customers and grow profitably.  The challenge, therefore, is to sell your idea to your peers and customers.  It’s easy to fall in love with your ideas, feeling that only a fool wouldn’t understand how great an opportunity it is.  In a perfect world, great ideas prevail, yet there are plenty of roadblocks that paint a different picture.

First and foremost, you need to understand your audience.  Depending on how familiar your audience is with the idea, there are four basic sales scenarios: If an idea is new, you need to demonstrate the value of change to a familiar audience, and build trust and encourage to a newer audience.  If an idea is more familiar, you need to defend the value to a familiar audience and show the validity to a newer audience.

Fear is one of the main obstacles to selling any new idea.  People are afraid that a new way of working or doing business will be too disruptive and unpredictable.  Any unclear outcome poses a risk, so you need to understand your audience’s fears.  Common fears are losing control, status or money.  The more stable an industry, the more reluctant people will be to jeopardize things.  Fear can be a major showstopper, yet also serves as one of the strongest motivators out there.

Ideas have three layers: what the idea does, what the customer’s problem is and the vision you’re selling.  If you can understand these, you’ll have a much better chance of gaining acceptance than by simply sticking to facts.  When dealing with businesses, try to figure out their histories, visions and strategies in advance.  Before starting the idea-selling process, be sure to consider your short-term, midterm and long-term goals.  An idea sales process takes time, so planning every step will help you deliver the right message to your audience.

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Useful Construction Products

Construction toolsIt seems like a new useful construction product appears every week.  Whether you’re looking for help to manage your projects, manage your subs or starting a new profitable product line, there’s probably at least one useful construction product out there.  I recently came across an article that features some cool new products, listed below:

CYBERWATCH: Companies are constantly faced with the need to monitor and track the location of their equipment, particularly in remote jobsites.  Keytroller is a designer, manufacturer and supplier of electronic safety and weighing devices, which has recently unveiled the CYBERWATCH SAT, a satellite wireless hour, alarm and location meter designed for remote locations.

Edificia: This startup founded in February of last year is launching its cloud-based project management software geared towards subcontractors in construction.  The company is solving an issue that subcontractors have been facing for years: struggling to find an efficient way to track their employees’ time, especially when employees move from job site to job site.

ICCP: The Institute of Construction Claims Practioners (ICCP) is an international organization that provides recognition to those with experience and qualifications in the claims sector of the construction industry.  It offers individual membership at Associate, Member and Fellow levels based on experience and qualifications.

NoteVault: The leading provider of mobile solutions has launched a new program designed to increase transparency while reducing administration costs of managing subcontractor reports on large, complicated building projects.  Dubbed “One Team. One Report.”, this new program allows construction companies to contribute documentation to any project at no cost to either the contractor or subcontractor.

Schiffer Publishing: This company recently released A Guide to Building Natural Swimming Pools, specifically designed for those interested in creating natural swimming pools.  It covers every stage, from understanding the system to maintenance and everything in-between.

ThermalTech: ThermalTech introduced its patented solar-powered smart fabric.  Made from stainless steel yarn, it’s lightweight and gathers energy from the sun or artificial light to keep the body warm even after the sun has set.  Without the bulk in traditionally associated with warmer clothes, it allows for a lighter work.  They recently launched an Indiegogo campaign for the fabric to raise funds to bring jackets with the technology to market.

Compliance For Contractors

ComplianceIt goes without saying that federal highway contractors have to face plenty of areas of compliance.  They certify many things and interact with an array of government agencies.  And similar to what occurred after the bid-rigging scandals, government scrutiny has increased due to a loss of trust.  Contractors need to ask themselves if they have a corporate compliance program designed to avoid purposeful or accidental law violations.

In the aftermath of defense contractor scandals, in 1991 the US Sentencing Commission issued sentencing guidelines for corporations.  For a corporate compliance program to be effective, guidelines provide that it must at least include these following elements:

  • Reasonable compliance standards
  • Effective oversight of program
  • Due care in delegating authority
  • Communication to employees
  • Enforcement of program
  • Consistent enforcement
  • Periodic review of program

What are some potential issues facing highway contractors?  I came across an article that listed ten major ones:

  • False claims
  • Antitrust
  • EEO
  • OSHA/safety and health
  • DOT
  • DBE
  • Environmental
  • Procurement and government contracting
  • Finance and tax
  • Labor/employment

Each of these areas is guided by specific statutory law, or by guidelines published by regulatory agencies.  It’s important to understand the law and regulations for each of these areas, and to develop a code of conduct for each one.  It’s important to keep current, as these regulations change frequently.  The key for a company to abide by its compliance program is the structure or organization.  The highest management level needs to propose the standards for them to have legitimacy within the corporation, and a high-level person needs to be responsible for overseeing compliance.

There are many different examples of the structure, without any strict rules determining how the program needs to be set up.  Some firms will have whole committees, while others will just have a compliance officer.  Any compliance officers or committees should be formally designated by the highest level of management.  And to carry out their duties, these individuals need to have and understand a manual outlining how to carry out the program.  If a problem ever does arise, the government agency is likely to look at the relationship of the contractor’s efforts to comply and how the problem came about.  In this context, paper compliance programs could actually be worse than not having a compliance program at all.  The contractor needs to take compliance seriously and train their employees well, otherwise they won’t know or understand what needs to be done.

There needs to be accountability as well.  Contractors obviously hope that they won’t have any problems, but it’s important to prepare if they come up.  One way to avoid complications is to use the compliance program in their decision-making.  In addition, any violations of law or ethics need to be identified, investigated and addressed.

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How To Prevent Construction Theft

While construction lawyers can do plenty of great work to make Burglarthings go smoothly, they can’t solve every problem.  It’s no secret that the proper use, storage and upkeep of your equipment and resources plays a huge part of every construction project.  A work site is an easy target for construction equipment theft, and stolen equipment is seldom recovered.  It’s no secret that the loss of machinery can add up, in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars.  However, there are several steps that you can take to reduce the theft of construction equipment.  Here are five great tips to help you take proper precautions, based off an article I found on the blog constructioninformer.com:

Site security: The most essential step is a secure work site both during and after working hours.  Have the proper locks in place, as well as durable chain-link fencing and even barbed wire.  Setting up an alarm system can also help reduce the theft of construction equipment.  With well-placed signage that clearly denote your security precautions, you can help deter most potential thieves.

Keep the site well-lit: Locks, alarms and fences aren’t nearly as effective without proper security lighting.  It’s an easy, low-cost investment that will serve as the best theft deterrent.

Know your inventory: Keep accurate and up-to-date records of every piece of equipment you have on-hand at the work site.  While this might seem tedious, the detailed information you have on your vehicles will increase the odds of recovery in case something is stolen.

Be aware of the latest technologies: The market of today has many technological advantages.  Keyless ignition that requires a personal identification number to start and real-time tracking your equipment inventory are just a couple ideas.  Such precautions are especially useful for any work vehicles that are left on-site or are in transit.  It’s also important to know what’s currently out there if you are considering purchasing any used pieces of equipment.

Understand the risks: You need to be aware of what environments you’ll be working in, and what assets during your construction project will be at the highest risk.  The rates of theft and abuse vary depending on where you are, but if you search crime reports, you’ll be able to better understand and mitigate as much risk as possible.

How Contractors Can Have a Profitable 2016

Construction siteThere are no surefire ways to success, without a doubt; fortunes are fickle.  Yet following some steps is a surefire way to improve your odds of success.  If you have a commercial general contracting business, here are some tips for having a great and profitable 2016, based off of an article I found on the blog of a North Carolina-based construction law firm:

Know who you’re doing business with: A single bad project can end up spoiling the success of ten successful ones.  Before you agree to do a project, do your research on your potential partners.  Stay away from those who insist on oppressive contract terms, have a history of problem jobs or don’t seem to be fully competent.

Buy out subcontracts thoughtfully: Being careful about who you’re doing business with is just one part of the puzzle; you also need to be careful about selecting your subcontracts.  First-tier subcontractors who offer a nice advantage might not be the best team players in the long run.  The key is to find that fine balance between price and dependability.

Cultivate a culture of safety: A reputation for operating a safe job site will make your company that much more attractive to the best owners, keep your workers’ compensation mod rate in-check and decrease the chances that you’ll spend time and money defending against claims.

Secure your payment rights: This differs from state-to-state.  If you’re not sure how this works, then call a construction attorney immediately.

Rely on your lawyer: Construction attorneys do a lot more than resolve claims.  They also draft and review contracts and construction forms, providing counseling throughout the construction phase of a project.