Sustainable Building Materials: Keeping Your Jobsite Eco-Friendly

With sustainable construction maintaining its popularity as a viable building approach, more builders and their customers are turning to environmentally friendly construction materials as substitutes for less eco-friendly options. You can use the following list to identify some of the sustainable building materials available to you.

sustainable building materialsInsulation

Fiberboard and spun fiberglass have long been a popular choice for insulation used in residential and commercial construction. Fiberglass blanket insulation is commonly used between joists and beams in walls, floors, and ceilings. More sustainable options include:

  • Wood fiber insulation: Wood fiber insulation provides a high level of heat resistance. It originates from a highly renewable and sustainable source and is not toxic.
  • Cellulose insulation: Cellulose insulation is often made from recycled newspaper or other paper products. As a wood-based material, cellulose is also renewable and safe to use.

Structural Materials

Bricks, concrete, and metal are three very common structural materials used in construction projects. Obtaining and manufacturing these materials can be harmful to the environment while consuming resources that can’t be easily renewed. Alternatives include:

  • Straw bales: Straw bales are thick, heavy blocks of material made from naturally growing straw. These bales can last for many decades if properly maintained. Since straw comes from a natural plant material, it is fully biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
  • Timber: Traditional timber is still a good option for framing a house or other structure. Timber is natural and renewable and provides high versatility for construction applications.

Flooring

Concrete, tile, and wood laminate have been frequent choices for flooring in the past. Sustainable alternatives include:

  • Bamboo: Bamboo flooring comes from a fast-growing grass that can easily be adapted for use as a construction material.
  • Hardwood: Hardwood floors suggest luxury, but they are actually highly sustainable. Hardwood is very tough and versatile while offering natural beauty.

Wondering what’s going to be influencing the construction industry over the next few months? Count on Construction Monitor for insight into the trends that will have an impact on your business. Contact us today for more information on sustainable building materials and the role sustainability will play in tomorrow’s construction industry.

3 of the Best Apps for Your Jobsite

By saving time and reducing error, mobile technology lets construction professionals boost profits while keeping their clients happier. Getting the greatest benefit out of a mobile device requires choosing the right construction apps, and there are a few that stand out above the rest.

construction appsConstruction Manager

Some half-million construction professionals use this app to keep their entire team informed in an accurate and timely manner. The Job Estimator function allows contractors to calculate cost estimates directly on site. The cost of materials, equipment use, and labor is all taken into account.

Using the Daily Report and Maintenance Log functions, workers can easily file all project-related information from the field. The result is a consistent, detailed record of the project’s daily progress that makes it easy to spot any developing problems and prevent delays. The speed and simplicity of record-keeping means less risk of lost paperwork and forgotten details.

PlanGrid

PlanGrid is a project collaboration app that lets everyone on the team share and contribute to the project from any location. Boasting an exceptionally fast blueprint viewer, the app lets team members get down to business instead of hassling with slow-rendering plans.

Markups and notes instantly sync, so users can always access the current set of plans. They’ll receive instant notification when a change is made, allowing them to review and share their input immediately. The app organizes project photos by automatically tagging and archiving them, so all team members can quickly find the photos they need.

Synchroteam

One of the greatest benefits of construction apps is their ability to keep track of everyone working on the project no matter where they are. Using Synchroteam, managers can schedule and dispatch workers with a simple drag-and-drop, and can track current jobs at a glance. Work orders are easy to review for information such as location and equipment required. The app sends notifications for new and rescheduled jobs, reducing the risk of jobs being left undone.

To learn more about how construction apps make contractors’ lives easier, contact us at Construction Monitor.

3 Trends Impacting the Construction Industry in 2016

In the latter part of 2015, construction industry professionals should take some time to look forward at the trends in the construction industry that are likely to affect them in 2016. Being ready for new developments can help builders, company owners, and contractors prepare for opportunities that might arise with little advance warning. Here is a brief outline of three of those trends that could make 2016 a productive year.

  1. Sustainability: Environmental consciousness and trends in the construction industry“green” construction remain a major consideration for many builders and their customers. This trend shows little sign of declining in 2016. Many construction clients are urging (or requiring) builders and contractors to use recycled materials or proven sustainable materials that can be easily renewed. Interest is growing in sustainability factors such as zero-energy homes that produce all the energy used within the home. Energy conservation is also becoming more popular, and in response high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, LED lighting and other efficient lighting equipment, and low-flow plumbing fixtures and water conservation processes will be installed more frequently.
  2. Micro-apartments: The trend of “small living” in micro-apartments, and to a further extent, in tiny homes, is expected to expand in 2016. These very small living spaces provide all the basic amenities but in a dramatically reduced space, sometimes just a few hundred square feet. Micro-apartments offer residents a less expensive dwelling option in high-demand areas, such as downtowns and popular urban sites. Tiny houses, in contrast, provide small individual homes that can easily be moved to places where the residents can live with few restrictions.
  3. New technologies: Technology will continue to advance and, as it does so, it will have an effect on the construction industry. Efficiency will be improved through better communication via smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers. Important data, such as drawings, materials lists, and contracts, will be immediately available through construction management software.

Trend-watchers can count on Construction Monitor to provide the latest and most accurate information on construction industry developments. Contact us today for more information on trends in the construction industry that are likely to have a widespread impact in 2016.

The Paperless Revolution: 3 Reasons to Use Construction Management Software

When computers first began to be widely used as business tools, one of the predicted benefits was that electronic communication would result in the “paperless office.” This prediction hasn’t yet come true, but computers have certainly made it easier to function in some areas without paper. For construction companies, construction management software offers several vital functions and conveniences without the need for physical documents.

  • construction management softwareBetter, more precise management: Electronic project management and record keeping with construction management software makes it significantly easier to deal with large amounts of information. All of the important documents connected to a single project can be managed electronically, giving managers instant access to needed information. Technical and architectural drawings, schematics, plans, materials lists, financial data—all can be made available electronically. Information from separate projects can be accessed or merged with relative ease, allowing important comparisons of factors such as costs, labor, material needs, and outcomes. Electronic access offers a significant improvement over sifting through files, drawings, and reams of paper records for the same data.
  • Increased mobility: Construction management software allows owners, managers, and supervisors the ability to take important information into the field without the inconvenience of hauling around paper records. By using smartphones, laptops, or tablet computers, project management information and data can be accessed immediately on the construction site. This allows decisions to be made quickly and efficiently on the spot, without the need to travel back to an office to consult paper documents.
  • Reduced risk: Any construction project comes with risk, but construction management software allows risk managers and other supervisory personnel the ability to assess and handle risk in a way that can’t be matched with paper records. Instant access to important documents and data, along with specialized risk management software, can give managers the ability to foresee and monitor risk either on site or from the office.

Construction Monitor serves professionals in the construction industry with accurate, up-to-date news, information, and insights. Contact us today for more information on construction management software and how you can use it to make your operation more efficient, more productive, and more profitable.

Warranty Problems for Contractors: 3 Things to Watch

Reputable construction companies strive to provide the best customer service possible, and one of the ways this is accomplished is through home warranties. Warranties typically cover defects in construction and workmanship on construction projects and give customers specific legal rights in terms of how the project turns out. Some states may even require contractors to provide warranties on the structures they build. Here are three potential warranty problems for contractors:

  1. warranty problems for contractorsYou have to decide who covers the warranty: In some cases, a construction company may decide to cover the warranty itself. In others, the company may determine that it is a better idea to purchase a warranty from an independent company or insurer. The decision can involve factors such as your available resources, confidence in your services, the terms and conditions of the original construction contract, and the scope of the warranty. Consult with your financial or legal professional for advice on how to proceed with warranty offers; and ensure that any and all agreements are in writing and are agreed to, with signatures, by your company and the customer.
  2. Warranty repairs and corrections can be costly: Repairing, renovating, or revising a construction project can be costly for you. Even if some of the repairs are financially covered through insurance, bonds, or conditions of the warranty, you can lose money if you have to divert labor and materials to fixing the warranty issue.
  3. Warranty issues can become legal troubles: Warranties should be very specific in what they cover, but the unfortunate fact is that even this does not make you immune from legal action. Dissatisfied or spiteful customers could still make legal trouble for you over a warranty, especially if you refuse to cover something that was not in the warranty but which they think you should fix.

Construction Monitor helps owners and managers in the construction industry stay informed on the latest developments that will affect their business operations and their profits. Contact us today for more information on warranty problems for contractors and on how contractors can prevent potential warranty problems while still providing outstanding customer service.

Staying Relevant in the Digital Age: Challenges Impacting Contractors

Modern technology gives today’s contractors opportunities to streamline their workflows, trim costs, and grow their client lists. While keeping pace with technology in the construction industry isn’t always easy, it’s a must for contractors who want to survive in the current marketplace.

technology in the construction industryWeighing the Costs and Benefits

With so many details and participants involved in every construction project, flawless organization is critical for meeting today’s client expectations. Oversights and miscommunication cause costly errors and delays that make a firm seem less competent than the competition.

Construction management software lets contractors bring order to even the most complex projects, helping them deliver a better product faster. Due to the upfront and ongoing costs involved, however, some firms may be reluctant to make the switch from a paper-based management system.

Those who do often find the benefits outweigh the costs. Important documents are stored securely, so they won’t go missing or be destroyed by accident. Employees have immediate access to the information they need. Both these factors prevent unnecessary delays. Management software also improves cost control by providing contractors with up-to-the-minute information that can be used to head off cost overruns.

Managing the Learning Curve

Advanced communication technology has increased the speed at which we do business. Clients, subcontractors, and other business partners have come to expect fast responses and the option for remote collaboration. One way construction firms can meet these demands is by equipping managers with tablet computers and other mobile devices.

Taking advantage of this kind of technology in the construction industry means investing both money and time in training, as well as ensuring employees actually use the devices and software available. While that may cause some initial delays and confusion, the payoff is a leaner, more cost-effective process.

With cloud-based BIM software, everyone involved in the project can easily contribute and share without the need for drawn-out email conversations and in-person meetings.
Mobile devices and apps let managers instantly file information from on-site inspections, improving safety and code compliance.

To stay up to date on technology in the construction industry, contact us at Construction Monitor.

 

The Impact of Technology on Construction Site Management

Recent technological innovations make construction site management more productive and less stressful. GCs only stand to benefit as the use of technology in the construction industry develops.

construction technologyAccurate Tracking Improves Efficiency and Safety

Construction projects involve numerous moving parts that all need to be in place on schedule for work to progress smoothly. Misplaced tools and equipment not only slow work down, they’re also at risk for theft and pose a safety hazard. Tool-tracking barcode technology allows every tool to be printed with a barcode so it can be quickly scanned out for use at the start of the day and scanned in again at the end.

Telematics technology goes a step further by monitoring machines in real time. This technology lets management know exactly where each tracked machine is, whether or not it’s in use, and if it’s in need of service. Streamlined resource allocation and reduced theft are two of this technology’s positive effects. In addition, the data collected can be used to cut idle time that wastes fuel and causes early equipment wear.

Tracking technology has made an impact on workers’ health and safety, too. Wearable smart sensors prevent accidents that happen when a worker ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sensors that monitor body temperature reduce the risk of heat exhaustion.

Mobile Technology Allows Greater Agility

Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile technology in the construction industry mean new information is filed immediately, instead of at the end of the workday. A foremen at a construction site can collect information and instantly upload it to the company’s cloud-based document management system. This gives management a chance to spot emerging problems and address them before they get out of hand.

The document management system allows real-time collaboration between the GC, subcontractors, suppliers, and architects, complete with the ability to share blueprints, project specifications, and photos. Faster, clearer communication lets managers quickly calculate the resources needed for each project. When resource lead time is reduced, projects can kick off sooner.

To keep up on current technology in the construction industry, contact us at Construction Monitor.

Unemployment in Construction Continues to Decline

The outlook for construction workers is bright as unemployment in construction falls to its lowest point in nearly seven years. Contractors, however, face a number of challenges posed by the abundance of new job openings.

unemployment in constructionMore Firms Hiring Skilled Laborers

The unemployment rate among construction laborers stood at 7 percent in September, according to recent findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a drop of 0.7 percent from August. While it’s a ways off from the low of 6.2 percent in November 2007, it’s still appreciably lower than the 8.5 percent unemployment rate of September 2013.

Positions opened up in all areas of construction, but specialty trade contractors saw the most gains with 8,800 more jobs available than in August. Among the most in-demand workers are carpenters, concrete workers, sheet metal installers, and glaziers. In addition, some 6,200 jobs were added in building construction.

Gains in heavy-civil engineering construction jobs lagged behind with just 500 new positions opening. The employment outlook for nonresidential building construction workers remained at its August level, an improvement from the recent past when this segment lost jobs.

Competition for Good Workers May Grow

While lower unemployment in construction is an overall good sign for the industry, it also makes finding qualified workers harder. More than 80 percent of firms have trouble filling positions and that number is increasing, according to information from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). The result is more resources directed toward recruitment as well as delays when positions aren’t filled on schedule. The Southeast and Gulf states have been particularly affected by the labor shortage.

To compound the problem, fewer future workers are entering construction-related trades and those who are aren’t always getting the training they need. Many contractors have found new graduates from craft training programs aren’t qualified to perform the jobs available.

An October 2014 survey conducted by the AGC found contractors are looking to attract and retain employees by increasing pay, improving benefits packages, and offering the opportunity to earn performance bonuses.

For the latest data on unemployment in construction, contact Construction Monitor.