Say Goodbye to Curtains and Blinds: The Latest in Window Trends

Windows are a critical architectural component of homes and commercial buildings, providing a source of natural lighting and offering the ability to take a look at the outdoor environment. Curtains and blinds have typically been used as both decorative elements and as ways to control the amount of light coming through the windows. However, a new technology is one of the current window trends that makes it possible that curtains and blinds will become obsolete.

window trendsAdjustable Glass

Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have created a type of “tunable” glass that can be adjusted from clear to frosted to completely opaque. Since users can control the transparency of the glass itself, standard curtains and window blinds are not necessary to determining how much light gets through the glass.

The window developed by the team at Harvard can change its level of transparency in less than a second, controlled by a switch, noted technology reporter Chloe Olewitz, writing on the website Digital Trends. Unlike previous tunable windows, this one uses an electrical process rather than an electrochemical reaction.

How the Process Works

In the Harvard window, a sheet of glass or plastic is sandwiched between layers of elastomers on each side. Nanowires in the elastomers normally maintain an even distance between themselves, which allows the window to remain transparent. When an electrical current is applied to the wires, Olewitz reported, they move toward each other, scattering the light coming through the window. This process creates the different levels of opacity in the window.

Removing the electrical charge allows the nanowires to return to their original position, restoring the transparency of the glass.

The Harvard researchers believe that the electrical process will result in less expensive and more widely available applications of tunable windows, Olewitz stated. This could make tunable glass a more common component in smart homes and other technologically advanced structures.

Construction Monitor helps designers, builders, decorators and other professionals stay informed about the latest trends and developments in the construction industry. Contact us today for more information on window trends that have the potential to replace standard curtains and blinds.

Is 3D-Printed Construction Equipment What’s Next?

Of all the new technologies making their way into the construction industry, 3D printing appears to have the greatest potential for making profound changes in the way buildings and other structures are designed and built. Large-scale 3D printing equipment has already been shown to be effective at creating walls, bridges, modules, and even entire buildings. Now the next step for 3D printing in the construction industry appears to be using the technology to create vehicles and construction equipment.

3d printing in the construction industryFully-Functional Equipment

A fully functional excavator, created entirely through 3D printing with steel, is set to be displayed at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada in March, 2017.

The CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show will also feature a demonstration of 3D printing technology during which a second excavator will be created on the showroom floor, noted reporter Scott J, Grunewald, writing on the website

3D printing provides a quick, relatively inexpensive technique for designing and prototyping small-scale objects. The technology has been used successfully in medical and veterinary applications for creating prosthetic limbs or new hip and knee joints. However, this is the first time a working piece of large-scale construction equipment has been created using the process.

The Best Has Yet to Come

“There have been all sorts of wonderful predictions for 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, but for the construction industry the best has yet to come,” stated industry observer and commentator Korky Koroluk in a May 27, 2016 article in the Daily Commercial News.

The printing and demonstrating of the excavator is a joint effort featuring a collaboration between the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), National Fluid Power Association (NFPA), Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), noted a writer on the CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 website.

Looking for the latest information on construction technology and innovations? Construction Monitor helps industry professionals stay on top of the latest developments in construction tools, equipment and techniques. Contact us today for more information on 3D printing in the construction industry and what it could mean to your company in both the short and long term.

NYC Construction Apprenticeship is Bursting with Diversity

The construction apprenticeship programs in New York City are richly diverse, providing consistent opportunities for women and minorities to enter the relatively well-paid construction trades. This is the word from Gary LaBarbera, the president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, writing in a June 10, 2016 letter to the editor in Crain’s New York Business.

apprenticeshipLaBarbera’s letter comes in response to a May 29, 2016 Crain’s opinion-editorial piece from Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, whose observations prompted an assertion that minorities were not well represented in Brooklyn unions and other labor organizations.

Minorities in Construction

Among the 8,000 union apprentices who work in New York City, 65 percent of them are minorities, LaBarbera reported. With more than 5,200 apprentices consistently working in the city, the interests of women and minorities are well represented, according to LaBarbera.

The current state of opportunity for women and minorities in the New York construction is a significant improvement over conditions in the past. A December, 1993 study by the New York City Commission on Human Rights (Building Barriers: Discrimination in New York’s Construction Trades) concluded that women and minorities were severely underrepresented in the skilled construction trades, with minorities making up 19 percent and women only 1 percent of employees.

The report further noted that in apprenticeship programs, some 28 percent of apprentices were minorities and 3.4 percent were women.

Rising Minority Apprenticeship

The current statistics reported by LaBarbera indicate a significant improvement in numbers for apprenticeships.

Other programs, such as the Edward J. Mallow Initiative for Construction Skills, offer training and apprenticeship opportunities to minorities and women. The organization reports that 87 percent of the referrals it places in apprenticeship programs are African American, Hispanic, and Asian. About 83 percent of those referrals placed in apprenticeships remain in the construction industry and advance through the ranks to attain better positions and improved skills.

Construction Monitor publishes the most up-to-date information on housing starts, construction best practices, and important industry trends. Contact us today for more information on diversity in apprenticeship programs in New York and in other major metropolitan areas around the country.

Telematics in Construction is On the Rise

Technology continues to increase in importance in the construction industry, helping companies maintain efficiency and profitability. Many constructions businesses are finding that the benefits of a telematic system have improved profits while boosting overall on-site performance.

benefits of a telematic systemConstruction telematics combines two areas of technology — telecommunications and informatics — to provide real-time data on the performance of construction vehicles and equipment. Once they are attached to vehicles and machinery, telematics devices use cellular and other telecommunications systems to transmit important information about the vehicle’s performance. Telematic data typically includes information such as:

  • GPS position of the vehicle
  • Fuel consumption
  • Downtime and idle times
  • Developing problems
  • Alerts and warnings

Telematic data can give managers, planners, and other on-site professionals important information about how the equipment is working. With this information, changes can be made that increase performance and efficiency and, in the long run, profits.

For example, telematics can reveal when construction equipment is idling and not working, prompting potential reallocation of resources. Data from brake systems, engines, and other components can indicate overheating or other malfunctions that can often be corrected early enough to prevent a costly major repair. GPS tracking can provide full awareness of the location of a piece of equipment, deterring theft or helping track and recover stolen vehicles.

Better Accuracy

By using the data from a telematics system, construction planners and estimators can offer more accurate bids and cost estimates. Variable costs, such as fuel, can be tracked and managed more easily. The cost of ownership of a specific vehicle can be determined, helping business owners determine if repair or replacement is the more cost-effective option when the vehicle needs maintenance or breaks down.

Earlier, telematics systems were more common on larger pieces of construction equipment, but many companies have come to realize that telematic data can be just as important for smaller vehicles.

Construction Monitor provides owners, managers, and other construction company stakeholders with the latest information on industry developments, technological advances, and best practices. Contact us today for more information on the benefits of a telematic system to better track vehicles and equipment in your company.

Will Specialization Boost Your Bottom Line?

At first glance, specialization can seem like a risky proposition that could cause you to miss out on opportunities. In reality, positioning your firm to stand out from other construction professionals is one of the most effective ways to both attract more clients and increase your profit margins.

construction professionalsA Reputation That Precedes You

Your would-be clients aren’t looking for a “construction firm,” but for a company that can provide the exact service they want. If your firm is strongly positioned as a leader in that area, you’ll be the clear first choice. Keep in mind that it’s far easier to rise as a leader in a defined niche than in a broad market. You’re also more likely to receive referrals from construction professionals who remember your firm’s name in connection with your specialty.

Generally speaking, whatever you do best will become your specialization, but there’s more than one way to approach defining your specialty.

  • Building type: medical facilities, office buildings, custom homes
  • Customer type: entrepreneurs, homeowners, developers
  • Location: urban or rural, neighborhood, topography
  • Contract type: bid or negotiated, design-build or plan-spec

Having more than one specialty extends your reach in the construction market. If you go this route, though, segment your client base and target your marketing to each one.

The Perception of Excellence

Your specialization is evidence you’ve invested time in developing your knowledge and skills. It displays the kind of focus, hard work, and commitment we all admire in a professional. The very fact you’ve made the effort to specialize inspires trust, which in turn helps you win over more clients.

Clients also know that effort pays off. Specialists nearly always provide higher quality with greater efficiency than generalists. They hire foremen and subcontractors with a deep knowledge of their individual areas of focus. They’re experienced at managing the challenges that come with their specialty. When you offer this level of service, you can command premium prices because your clients know you’re worth it.

For more information on specialization for construction professionals, contact Construction Monitor today.

4 Best Construction Apps for iPad

The abundance of construction apps out there means there’s almost certainly one that will benefit you, but it can take time to find the one that works best for you. To make the search easier, start with the apps that already have a solid fan base.

construction appsFieldwire

Fieldwire is designed to let everyone involved in your project share floor plans, photos, and other files straight from the job site. The task management feature lets you organize tasks around plans and trades to optimize efficiency. Inspections are made easier with the issue tracking and inspection checklists. With the universal project search feature, you can find any information you need almost instantly.

Construction Manager

Enabling consistent and accurate data sharing is what this app does best. It lets you track all critical processes throughout the day and provides you with a complete record of what was accomplished. The Work Estimate Form helps you accurately estimate job completion dates. The Daily Log Construction Form lets all users report their activities so your logs are always up-to-date. If any problems arise, the Maintenance Log makes it easy to report them.

Mobile Field Manager (Viewpoint for Mobile)

One of the newest construction apps from Viewpoint Construction Software, Mobile Field Manager connects to your Viewpoint Construction Software allowing your office staff to communicate with field workers. The app was designed as a convenient, efficient way to replace your paper documentation. With the new Grid Time Entry, you can track time and productivity on a spreadsheet-like grid that shows both workers and equipment.


PlanGrid gives everyone on your team a way to communicate effortlessly in real time. This helps you resolve issues faster and prevents errors and delays. The app is designed to be simple and intuitive so you can focus more on your work. For greater efficiency, PlanGrid automatically inserts hyperlinks into your plans so you never have to hunt for further details. The sheet compare feature lets you layer one sheet over another to spot differences.

For more information how to get the most out of popular construction apps, contact Construction Monitor today.

Choosing the Right Construction Project Management Software

The right construction project management software can reduce errors and delays, cut costs, and improve safety. Not all software packages suit all companies, though. Understanding your needs makes choosing project management software for your construction company a lot easier.

choosing project management software for your construction companyConsider Your Size

First, consider the type of projects your company usually undertakes. Project management software programs that work just fine for small jobs such as renovating homes aren’t necessarily well suited for larger projects such as constructing an office building and hospitals.

Also, consider how many people will use the software at once. Some programs allow a limited number of user profiles. In addition, look for software that’s scalable so that it can accommodate your company’s growth.

Get the Essentials Covered

Most companies will want a cloud-based solution with strong mobile performance that allows workers on the job site to communicate seamlessly in real time with project managers in the office.

For optimal efficiency, look for software that allows integration, which links your project management software with your other systems, such as your BMI, accounting, and email software. Not all solutions offer true integration, but rather rely on data bridges, which only make more work for your IT team. If you can’t use all the software’s features without more help from your IT staff, look for another option.

Know Which Features You Need

The final step in choosing project management software for your construction company is prioritizing the features that are important to you. The primary reason to choose software designed specifically for the construction industry is that it offers features most project management software doesn’t. Among the features to look for are:

  • Communication
  • Document management
  • Scheduling
  • Cost estimation
  • Proposal and bid management
  • Team management
  • Materials and equipment tracking
  • Incident reporting

Beyond these, look for capabilities you and your team would find especially useful. You might want software that can automatically create your schedule based on your estimate or that can track your employee’s training compliance.

For more guidance on choosing project management software for your construction company, contact Construction Monitor today.


4 Steps for Better Residential Construction Bidding

Your skill at bidding on a construction project is a major factor in how much profit your company turns each year. Because bidding is a complex process, there’s always room to improve your skill, and sometimes even minor refinements pay off in big ways.

bidding on a construction projectFamiliarize Yourself with the House

Take time to get thoroughly familiar with the house or renovation project the client wants. For a renovation, make sure you understand what problems the homeowner is trying to solve. Do a walkthrough of the home to get an accurate idea of what’s needed.

Try to obtain working drawings or at least a scope of work. In addition to preventing miscalculations, this preparation also helps you avoid bidding on a construction project that will only turn into a major headache.

Consider All the Costs

Even small renovation projects are complex jobs with many variables. Instead of guessing and fussing with spreadsheets, use professional construction estimating software to create more accurate estimates faster. These programs let you account for all costs, including sitework, subcontractor fees, materials, labor, and requirements for HVAC and plumbing.

Calculate Your Profits

In your excitement to gain a new client, it’s tempting to low-ball and forget about profit. Including your overhead costs and profit margin in every bid ensures that you not only keep your business running, but also have the budget to expand by advertising, hiring help, and investing in new equipment. Keep in mind construction overhead fees can run as high as 54 percent of revenue with profit margins of just 3 percent.

Hand in Your Bid

Sending in your bid by email or post may seem like it would save everyone time, but it’s ultimately less efficient. Instead, meet with your client to present your bid packet in person. This gives you a chance to explain the bid and answer questions, which prevents miscommunication and confusion that could cost you the job. The rapport you build during this meeting also increases your chances of gaining a client.

For more experienced-based tips on bidding on a construction project, contact Construction Monitor today.