Will New Construction Materials Revolutionize the Industry?

Tough, long-lasting construction materials such as concrete and steel have consistently been the standard for the industry. However, newer materials, including many types of composites, are becoming more popular for use in construction projects.

The Next Wave of Construction Materials

construction materialsIn an article on the website Construction Dive, reporter Kim Slowey reports on the increasing use of composites and how they could dramatically change what kinds of materials are used in and the way buildings are constructed.

Composite materials, including fiberglass, structural plastics and carbon fiber, have the potential to revolutionize the construction industry and the way buildings are put together, noted architect Greg Lynn, quoted in Slowey’s article.

Lynn reported that composites and the strong, fast-drying adhesives used to put them together could be used in many applications where steel and concrete have traditionally been used.

Probably the most dramatic application, according to Lynn, would be using composites and adhesives in the construction of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers. Many types of composites are significantly cheaper than traditional building materials. At the same time, composites can provide equal or greater strength while also being lighter and easier to handle.

Composite construction of skyscrapers, Lynn stated in the article, would result in buildings that could better withstand the stresses of an earthquake by reducing building movement. Composite and adhesive construction is also less costly than traditional building methods.

Slowey noted that another type of new sustainable construction material, cross-laminated timber (CLT), is also gaining popularity for use in building high-rise structures.

Potential Drawbacks

Understandably, the use of these materials has not yet become widespread. Overcoming perceptions about composite construction will be a major hurdle for its advocates. For example, tenants may not be eager to occupy space in what they perceive as a “glued together” skyscraper. Anything less than standard concrete and steel may be seen as inferior or unsafe.

Construction Monitor gives today’s construction companies the edge they need with information on the latest industry developments and construction leads. Contact us today for more information on the use of composites and other types of new construction materials and how these materials could change the way projects are planned, built and maintained.

The Living Building: The New Green Building Challenge

With energy-efficient and sustainable construction maintaining a significant place in the current construction industry, new initiatives that support green building continue to emerge. Net-zero buildings, for example—those buildings that create as much energy as they use—have become increasingly popular among energy-conscious and environmentally aware contractors and clients. A new initiative, the Living Building, has the potential to take the concepts of green building even further.

green buildingThe Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge (LBC), promoted by the International Living Future Institute, is a carefully controlled building certification that can be applied to structures that meet extremely strict standards of sustainability, energy efficiency and green construction. The LBC standards are so stringent that fewer than 10 LBC-certified buildings exist as of March 2016, according to reporter Kim Slowey on the Construction Dive website. Another 20 buildings are in the precertification stage.

LBC standards increase the sustainability factor to a level that turns a building into an almost natural part of its surrounding environment. The standard “calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture,” according to the Living Building Challenge website.

A certified building must meet standards in seven distinct areas, known as “petals,” Slowey reported. These comprise Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Both net positive water and energy are required, as is a healthy indoor environment. The standard requires car-free living, access to nature, and careful consideration of the beauty and spirit of a structure.

Although LBC certification is a considerable challenge, meeting it gives environmentally aware builders and occupants the opportunity to take a large-scale, positive step toward confronting what they see as some of the biggest threats to the planet’s future.

LBC certification could also provide practical benefits and economic returns in cities that are aggressively pursuing sustainability and environmentally conscious construction, Slowey noted.

Construction Monitor helps modern construction professionals understand the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Contact us today for more information on green building trends and what living buildings are going to mean for the future of sustainable, energy-efficient construction.

Tips for Hiring and Keeping the Best Construction Employees

When the construction industry expands, the demand for skilled employees naturally goes up. Unfortunately for many companies, there are only so many employees available, especially in some of the more specialized areas of the building trades. As companies face this shortage of qualified employees, they must come up with ways to attract, hire and retain the workers they need. Here are some construction employment tips that can help you navigate these difficult personnel issues.

  • construction employmentTend to the basics: Good salaries, appealing benefits, vacation time, insurance, a safe workplace—all of these are considered basic by many employees. If a company appears to be holding back on these benefits, employees are going to be less willing to work for that company. Experts and specialists are especially likely to avoid working for a company that skimps on the basics.
  • Give employees autonomy: Employees like to be free to make their own decisions and control their daily activities. When you have employees you can trust, or when you hire professionals, give them the freedom and autonomy that makes them happy and energizes them to put forth their best effort. Younger workers, especially, need a degree of autonomy, according to reporter Emily Peiffer in an article on the Construction Dive website.
  • Provide opportunities to learn and improve skills: Make sure your employees have multiple opportunities to learn more about their own trades, along with chances to expand their knowledge into other areas. Give them access to training sessions, formal classes and direct experience or apprenticeships with older workers who have high-level knowledge and skills.
  • Explain why: Help employees attain a greater sense of purpose beyond the simplest one of “building a building.” Give your employees a real sense of why they are working on a particular project and what the building will be used for once it is finished.

Construction Monitor provides critical advice for today’s construction professionals, including data on housing starts, construction leads, and suggestions for best practices. Contact us today for more information on trends in construction employment and for ways to hire and keep the employees you need to keep your business viable.

New Report: Construction Material Costs Continue to Slide

Prices for construction materials continued to decrease in the early part of 2016, although industry experts expect those prices to start moving upward in early spring and later.

construction material costsFebruary 2016 marked the eighth consecutive month of material price decreases, according to Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), a major industry trade group.

Construction input prices were down 0.6 percent in February 2016, marking a 3.7 percent decrease since February 2015, the ABC reported. Nonresidential inputs showed a 0.7 percent decrease from January 2016 and a 3.8 percent decline since February 2015, according to the ABC.

The ABC’s findings were reached following an analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index released on March 15, 2016.

Prices slid downward in eight key areas, the ABC noted. These include:

  • Crude petroleum
  • Unprocessed energy material
  • Fabricated structural metal
  • Steel mill products
  • Plumbing fixtures and fittings
  • Nonferrous wire and cable
  • Iron and steel
  • Softwood lumber.

In contrast, only three areas experienced increases in February 2016.

  • Prepared asphalt and tar/roofing and siding products
  • Concrete products
  • Natural gas

Anirban Basu, the ABC’s chief economist, found that global financial issues, such as weakness in the commodity markets, lackluster economic growth in the United States and abroad, and strengthening of the U.S. dollar contributed to the cost declines.

The price decreases are not expected to last throughout the year, however. The ABC expects prices to rebound beginning in March 2016 or later. Upticks in prices are not expected to be substantial, however, noted reporter Emily Peiffer, writing on the Construction Dive website.

Peiffer also reported that declining construction material costs have harmed the U.S. energy sector and the regional and local economies that rely on it. Even a modest increase in prices in March or later is expected to help give those economies a boost, Peiffer noted.

Construction Monitor is the industry’s top source for construction leads and news and information on topics that affect building projects throughout the United States. Contact us today for more information on changes in construction material costs and how you can take best advantage of the recent decreases in material prices.

4 Ways to Turn Construction Leads into Buyers

The complexities and costs involved in construction mean lead generation in the construction business doesn’t always bring you quick sales. To make sales happen, you need to give your leads solid reasons to become buyers.

  1. lead generation in the construction businessWin Their Trust – Any company can claim to be the most reliable or innovative, so without proof, your words mean little to your prospective clients. Instead of talking about your firm, demonstrate your expertise. Prepare a portfolio with photos taken by an architectural photographer. Collect honest testimonials and detailed reviews in an easy-to-read format. Put your prospects in touch with some of your past clients so they can find out for themselves what working with your firm is like.
  2. Keep in Touch – Your prospects need time to review their options. During that time, make the effort to keep your prospects aware of your firm without pressing for a decision. Once you have a lead’s contact information, occasionally call or send an email to check in and see if you can help with anything. Passing along useful information is another way to stay connected.
  3. Stand Out From Your Competitors – Get clear on what makes your firm different from others in your area and highlight those differences to your prospects. Feature them on your website, in your brochures and fact sheets, and in your portfolio. You might emphasis your experience in a certain market, such as home remodeling, your dedication to environmentally sustainable construction or the additional support you provide to help clients define and achieve their goals.
  4. Strengthen Your Online Presence – Provide website content that’s genuinely useful and engaging. Post articles and videos that guide your clients in making decisions and introduce them to recent innovations. Then branch out into social media. A well-developed social media presence is not only an effective method of lead generation in the construction business, but it can also help you convert leads. The way you engage with your followers tells your prospects something about what they can expect working with you.

For more tip on profitable lead generation in the construction business, contact us at Construction Monitor.

New Report: It Costs Twice as Much to Build in NYC

Quality construction materials are never cheap, but in some locations construction material costs will take a bigger bite out of your budget than you might expect. That’s even more likely if you’re planning on building in New York City.

construction material costsAnother Boom Means Growing Costs

The building boom New York City enjoyed before the economic collapse in 2008 saw construction costs rise by as much as 12 percent a year. Over the last few years, the city has entered another building boom. In 2015, there were 53 percent more construction starts than in 2014.

This rate of growth is having a similar effect on construction costs as the previous boom. While current prices aren’t quite as high as they were then, costs have risen by far more than the national average.

The New York City Building Congress reports construction costs have grown by around 5 percent in all parts of the city. That’s nearly double the national average rate of 2.5 to 3 percent increase.

Where the Money’s Going

Construction costs aren’t expected to rise as high as they did during the pre-2008 boom primarily due to labor costs. An increase in nonunion labor on New York City building projects means more workers are available at lower rates.

Construction material costs and other expenses may not rise evenly across all sectors. Although the residential sector is still flourishing, the high-end luxury residential market is cooling off somewhat. Costs are more likely to rise in the commercial and industrial sectors, which are set to grow over the next few years. Development and modernization of the city’s healthcare and educational facilities further fuels demand for construction work and the increasing costs. Government facilities, however, won’t have a major influence on the market.

Brooklyn, in particular, is benefiting from the boom. As the city’s third largest business district, it’s less developed than Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The fresh opportunities Brooklyn offers is attracting an increasing number of developers.

To learn more about where construction material costs could be headed, contact us at Construction Monitor.

Economists Forecast Another Good Year for Housing

When the housing market improves, construction employment picks up along with it. In terms of both new homes built and new hires, 2016 is shaping up to be even better than last year.

construction employmentSingle Family Homes Driving the Market

In February, housing starts rose 5.2 percent to their highest point in five months. For the year as a whole, housing starts are expected to increase by 12 percent. Spending on residential construction has also seen steady growth from 2011 and is expected to grow throughout 2016.

Despite the slump the single-family home market has been in recently, the outlook for this market is especially promising this year. The market grew by 7.2 percent in February and experts suggest the growth rate of the single-family home market will begin catching up with the multifamily market. Improvements in the job market are a major factor in this recovery.

The multi-family home market is still expanding, but at a slower pace. For 2016, a 5 percent increase is expected. Falling apartment vacancy rates show demand for rental units is still growing. Even so, experts predict this market’s recovery is nearly complete and the rate of growth will slow in the near future.

On the down side, applications for building permits fell by 3.1 percent in February. This is following a slight dip in December and no change in January. Because fewer applications for building permits signals less construction work in the future, this could mean a slowdown is ahead.

More Jobs for Skilled Workers

The outlook for the construction employment job market also bright. 71 percent of construction firms plan to take on new workers this year, according to a survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America. Of those, 8 percent plan to increase their headcount by 26 percent or more.

The majority of firms reported difficulty finding skilled tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters and drywall workers. This leads to delays that can stretch on for weeks if not months, slowing the industry as a whole.

For more in-depth information on construction employment, and the latest on construction leads, contact us at Construction Monitor.

New “Smart Helmet” from Intel Promises to Make Construction Sites Safer

Your construction site safety depends in no small part on the safety equipment you choose. With advanced equipment like the new Daqri Smart Helmet, you’ll not only improve safety on your site, but also enjoy greater efficiency.

construction site safetyCritical Data in Plain View

One of the most powerful wearable augmented reality devices on the market, the Daqri Smart Helmet provides you with a “4D” reconstruction of your surroundings.

The helmet combines an array of navigation cameras and sensors that work together to capture 360-degree views and display both real-time and stored information relevant to your environment. Navigational guidance, live equipment data, and other valuable data are overlaid directly into your field of vision.

Powering the Smart Helmet is the 6th generation Intel Core m7 processor. Intel RealSense technology allows the camera to respond to movement in three dimensions like you do. Daqri’s Intellitrack, a computer vision and navigation program, collects, processes, and displays the information.

More Information Means Fewer Accidents

While most augmented reality helmets are built for entertainment purposes, the rugged and lightweight Smart Helmet was developed specifically to meet the needs of workers in industrial settings such as construction sites.

The heads-up display lets you keep your eyes on your surroundings, rather than down at a screen. For additional construction site safety, the helmet is equipped with a blue anti-reflective, scratch-resistant visor.

Navigational technology guides you safely through the construction zone, alerting you to potential hazards and advising you on the need for safety equipment, such as hearing protection.

Through the Smart Helmet, you’ll have instant access to job instructions and safety guidelines, reducing the need to rely on memory. The Smart Helmet’s Remote Expert application lets you connect with experienced specialists in real-time to receive knowledgeable assistance with nearly any task. This kind of guidance helps you cut down on errors and accidents while boosting efficiency.

When several workers wear the Smart Helmet, each benefits from the combined data, improving the whole team’s ability to spot hazards and head off accidents throughout the facility.

For more on modern construction site safety and the latest on construction leads, contact us at Construction Monitor.