The Latest in International Green Building Trends

Thanks in part to both consumer and governmental influence, green building trends are increasingly relevant to today’s construction professionals. Understanding how these trends vary around the world will help you better plan for your company’s future at home and abroad.

green building trendsDriving Factors for Green Growth

In many developed economies, including the US, UK, Germany and Poland, the green building market has already reached a certain level of maturity, but continues to see moderate expansion. Developing economies, including Mexico, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and China have seen a much sharper increase in the percentage of construction projects that will meet green standards.

For most construction firms around the world, the top trigger for undertaking a green building project is client demand. The percentage of firms citing this trigger rose from 35 percent in 2012 to 40 percent in 2015. Increasingly strict environmental regulations are also encouraging investment in green projects.

In both cases, technological advancements support these green building trends. Both Germany and the UK plan to make BIM the standard for the design and management of construction projects, while Brazil and Saudi Arabia are moving in that direction.

Where the Jobs Are

Commercial construction, which includes office buildings, retail stores and hotels, is the top sector for green building worldwide. Some 46 percent of construction contractors expect to work on a green commercial project in the next three years. These projects are likely to be particularly popular in Germany, Poland, China and India. The UK and Australia, on the other hand, expect to see little in the way of new green commercial construction.

Institutional construction, such as schools and other government buildings, is the second strongest sector worldwide. In the US, however, it’s the sector where the highest percentage percentage of green construction projects are expected. 46 percent of US construction firms expect to take on a green institutional project in the next three years.

Retrofitting of existing buildings ranks as the third sector over all, but comes in first in the UK, South Africa and Singapore.

For more information on green building trends, contact Construction Monitor today.

New York City Lifts Ban on Cranes

Following a fatal accident, the use of crawler cranes in New York City was placed under exceptionally strict regulations. These regulations quickly became unpopular with construction contractors and crane companies who found they provided little benefit. Now the regulations are set to be replaced.

crane companiesTragedy Brings Stricter Regulations

On February 5th, 2016, a nearly 600-foot crawler crane collapsed as it was being lowered as a precaution against approaching 25-mile per hour winds. The collapse caused damage for a full city block, ending in several injuries and one death.

In response, the New York Department of Buildings ordered crawler cranes to be shut down and stored whenever winds were forecast to surpass 20 miles per hour or if gusts surpassed 30 miles per hour. Operators were to put the cranes into safety mode then secure them the day before high winds were forecast. Penalties for disregarding these regulations were increased from  $4,800 to $10,000.

Better Crane Regulations Ahead

Wind speeds of 20 miles per hour are a frequent occurrence in New York. So frequent, in fact, construction contractors found themselves shutting down their cranes on a regular basis to comply with the new regulations. These shutdowns caused delays leading to logistical and financial issues. Worse yet, some contractors and crane companies feel the regulations don’t necessarily improve safety.

Mayor Bill de Blasio assembled a task force to review and revise the city’s crane regulations, but the panel was criticized for its lack of crane experts. This task force has recommended returning, in part, to the old regulations which state that cranes must stop operation when winds reach 30 miles per hour or manufacturer’s specified limit.

The task force has also proposed two additional measures. One would require an operator on site unless the crane is designed for winds of 30 miles per hour or higher or it’s in storage mode. The other would prohibit any crawler crane that can’t safely operate in 20-mile per hour winds from use in a public space.

For more information on regulations affecting crane companies and other construction professionals, contact Construction Monitor today.

Are Women Falling Behind in Construction Apprenticeship Positions?

A pervasive stereotype of the construction industry is that it’s a man’s field, where few women are employed and fewer still are welcomed. The unfortunate truth of the matter suggests that this is very much the case: women are significantly underrepresented in construction employment and apprenticeship.

apprenticeshipFalling Behind or Falling Out?

The level of female employment in the construction industry doesn’t specifically show that women are falling behind in employment and apprenticeship positions. Instead, the employment numbers are so low that “falling behind” would almost amount to “falling out.” The daily reality is that women are not making many advancements in the industry, and that female construction employment is not increasing substantially.

This is not the fault of women who are trying to enter the construction trades. In an article in the Washington Post from June 11, 2014, reporter Vickie Elmer noted that construction employment is 97 percent male, a number that has remained unchanged for more than three decades. Elmer based her article on a report from the National Women’s Law Center covering on women’s employment in construction.

When the report was published, women were employed in some 47 percent of all wage and salary jobs in the United States, Elmer noted. In sharp contrast, women accounted for only 2.6 percent of all construction jobs.

Barriers to Employment

The barriers to women’s employment in the industry are significant. On-the-job harassment is a major obstacle that women face in construction. Generalized disrespect or a belief that women are physically unable to handle the rigors of the work is another. Women also face deeply held ideas that the construction industry is simply not a place for women.

In response, many local and national trade organizations are working to provide more opportunities for women in construction, such as the nonprofit Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) and state-level programs such as Minnesota’s Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA).

Construction Monitor provides the most recent and most relevant information on the construction industry. Contact us today for more information on employment and apprenticeship in the construction industry and how your business can expand programs to include more skilled women in the building trades.

Can Smart Vests Make Job Sites Safer?

While you might view technology in the construction industry primarily from an efficiency standpoint, some of today’s technology also offers major health and safety benefits. Among these is a smart vest developed to alert wearers to the signs of heat illness before their health suffers.

technology in the construction industryHeat Illness: An Increasingly Common Threat

Unusually high summer temperatures have become more frequent across the country and with them, the risk of heat-related illnesses also rises. This growing threat prompted the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to launch their annual Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers.

Construction workers are at high risk for heat illness due to the physical labor, protective clothing, and heat-generating equipment involved in the work. Providing your workers with plenty of water, shade and rest time doesn’t eliminate the risk. Workers don’t always realize when their discomfort has reached dangerous levels.

Heat stress causes excessive thirst, weakness, clumsiness, dizziness and nausea. A worker may write these symptoms off as normal fatigue and fail to seek help until they’ve suffered more serious health consequences. In severe cases, the worker may collapse before reaching help.

A new smart vest developed by Ruwini Edirisinghe, a researcher with RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, prevents this situation by alerting the wearer to danger. The vest is thought to be the first of this kind of technology in the construction industry.

How the Smart Vest Protects Your Workers

The smart vest looks like an ordinary yellow safety vest. Built into the fabric are sensors that collect data on the temperature of the working environment, as well as the worker’s body temperature and heart rate. The sensors send the data wirelessly in real time to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. If the app detects any abnormalities, it immediately alerts both the wearer and the site supervisor.

The early warning lets the worker stop and rest before suffering any adverse health effects. Because the supervisor is also alerted, there’s little chance the worker will simply ignore the warning.

To learn more about how technology in the construction industry can benefit you, visit the construction leads experts at Construction Monitor.

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.

Avoid Complications with These Documenting Tips for Contractors

Running any business, particularly a construction business, is difficult and complex. This complexity requires owners and managers to maintain clear, accurate, and thorough records.  Documentation of meetings, agreements, expenses, and other important factors can help keep the business running smoothly while also reducing disagreements and disputes. Here are some useful documenting tips for contractors.

Establish the habit of documenting all transactions, interactions, events, and other elements of your day-to-day business activities.  Although this sounds like it could become tedious and time-consuming, it will actually save time in the end by ensuring that important information is recorded and available when needed.

Proper documentation may include anything from making brief notes after a conversation with a project manager to executing complex contracts that are signed by all participants and stakeholders. You should also:

  • documenting tips for contractorsKeep notes covering discussions and meetings with clients, customers, suppliers, employees, and managers.
  • Maintain receipts, order forms, and other documents from suppliers and subcontractors.
  • Make detailed notes about all disputes or disagreements, changes to plans, or other interactions that could cause legal, financial, or procedural issues.
  • Record information about delays or other problems, the reasons for the delays, and what is being done to resolve them.

Remember, having a written contract is not just a matter of proper documentation: a contract, when properly executed and signed by all affected parties, provides critical legal and financial protection for all parties involved. Have a qualified attorney prepare the contract and ensure that the client’s attorneys, managers, and owners review it. Contracts should set out details such as project milestones, due dates, financial information and responsibilities and expectations from both sides. Have the contract signed by the proper representatives on both sides. Customer and contractor should address any later additions or changes in an addendum that is also reviewed and signed.

Construction Monitor helps today’s construction professionals take charge of their business with important information such as data on housing starts and reportage on the latest best practices in the industry. Contact us today for more documenting tips for contractors and suggestions for maintaining your important records.

5 Easy Ways to Generate More Construction Leads from Your Website

A contractor website can be either an invaluable tool or a waste of money depending on how it’s designed. To turn yours into a profit-maker, try a few time-tested contractor marketing tips for better lead generation.

contractor marketing tips for better lead generationDisplay top-quality photos: Providing clear photos of your work is one of the best ways to show prospective clients exactly what you’re capable of. A few snapshots won’t cut it. Hire an architectural photographer to take indoor and outdoor shots of your projects in various stages. Display them on your website in a portfolio that’s attractive, clearly labelled, and easy to browse.

Include your website in your leave-behind: When you visit a prospective client, leave a folder containing your brochure, images of your work, and some testimonials. Along with this, include information on why prospects should stop by your website. Focus on what’s in it for them, such as the helpful tips, how-to videos or valuable data they’ll find at your site.

Present important information first: Think about what information a prospective client wants when visiting your site and give that information priority positioning. They’ll want to know what services you offer, what you specialize in, and what your portfolio looks like. A press release about your new Chief Procurement Officer, however, shouldn’t be taking up space on your homepage.

Include a clear call to action (CTA): Know exactly what you want your website visitors to do and make sure your site is designed to lead visitors toward that action. A confused visitor will click away fast. Use a strong call-to-action that encourages the visitor to call or text you, or to fill out your contact form immediately. Include your contact information on every page.

Offer a newsletter: Not every prospective client will contact you on their first visit to your site. Getting visitors signed up to a mailing list gives you more chances to connect with them and win them over. Every month or two, send out a newsletter that offers real value to your prospects.

To get more contractor marketing tips for better lead generation, contact us at Construction Monitor.

Beyond the Low Bid: How to Win More Jobs

Low-ball bids might win you a few jobs, but they’re not great for your bottom line and underbidding isn’t a viable long-term strategy. For sustainable growth, invest in the more profitable approaches to bidding on a construction project.

bidding on a construction projectLay a Solid Foundation

Specialized expertise helps you stand out in a crowded market and attract your ideal customers. Your specialty might be high-end custom homes, eco-friendly conmaterials, reliable design-build services or any other in-demand area of knowledge. Decide what your firm does best and build your reputation around it.

Stay up to date with developments in the construction industry. This includes both equipment and materials, as well as business management technology. You’ll be better able to compete with other firms and show your clients you can adapt and grow in order to deliver the best product possible.

Once you’re clear on your firm’s specialty and capabilities, take some time to create a marketing plan. Set specific goals for sales and profits, and define your market areas and the methods you’ll use to reach them.

Refine Your Focus

Much of your chance of success when bidding on a construction project depends on your reputation in the industry and with your prospective client. To strengthen your position while staying within your budget, focus on proven marketing techniques.

  • Get involved in industry associations and community organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, development programs, and social enterprises. Aim to connect with potential clients in person every week.
  • Ask your current loyal clients to refer work to you. Provide a referral form that allows the client to fill you in on details beyond the referral’s name and number.
  • Maintain a mailing list of your repeat clients and referral partners and mail something at least bi-monthly.
  • Polish your presentation skills to come across better in your project interviews. Learn how to present the information your clients want in a clear and engaging manner. That includes knowing how to organize information, use visuals, and incorporate persuasive stories.

To get more tips for successfully bidding on a construction project, contact us at Construction Monitor.

 

Improving Communication Between GCs and Subcontractors

The success of construction contractors in Cedar City depends heavily on our local partners, especially subcontractors. To do their jobs well, subcontractors need an open and reliable line of communication with the GC. There are many ways to foster productive communication like this.

construction contractors in Cedar CityGet Off to a Good Start

Create a cheat sheet for your subcontractors to follow when submitting a bid. Outline everything you want to see in the scope sheet that will come with the subcontractor’s bid. This should include the subcontractor’s name and contact information, bond rate, base and alternate bid amounts, and divisions or specifications.

Carefully review each scope sheet before you delve into the rest of the documents. Subcontractor proposals are based on their own interpretations of what work is included and what isn’t, so there’s a risk of comparing apples to oranges. One bid may be cheaper only because it excludes so much.

Hold a pre-construction conference with everyone involved in the project, including the owner, architects, and all subcontractors. Make sure everyone understands the design intent, and is clear on the budget, scheduling, and their individual responsibilities.

During the Project

Successful construction contractors in Cedar City are those who ensure a constant flow of updates among employees and partners in management positions who, in turn, inform their subordinates.

Nip developing issues in the bud by addressing them head-on as soon as they appear. Drawn-out email exchanges waste time and short text messages can cause confusion, making problems even worse. Impersonal exchanges are also more likely to turn into a battle of wills. A phone call or quick in-person meeting will usually resolve the problem more efficiently.

Maintain transparency. It may be tempting to conceal cash-flow problems, but if you’re not paying your subcontractors on time, they’re likely to assume the worst. If things aren’t going as planned, sit down with your subcontractors, explain the situation, and offer a solution. Your show of good will sets the foundation for a win-win compromise.

For more tips on how construction contractors in Cedar City can succeed, contact us at Construction Monitor.

Pros & Cons of Using a BIM Model for your Next Project

Building information modeling, or BIM, is an effective technique for conceiving, planning, and designing structures of any size and complexity. As you decide whether a BIM system is right for you and how BIM and general construction go together, keep in mind the following pros and cons of BIM modeling.

BIM and general constructionAdvantages of BIM

  • Better planning and design: Using BIM, you can visualize a completed building and all its components and systems before the first shovelful of dirt is moved on the construction site. This information allows better planning and design that takes best advantage of available space and resources.
  • Fewer reworks: BIM allows you to see potential problem areas and fix them before the error is committed in the physical world. This reduces the need for costly rework and revision.
  • Savings on materials: BIM systems track and monitor resources and provide detailed information on needs even before construction begins. You are less likely to order more than needed and can replenish supplies only when necessary.
  • Support for prefabrication: BIM allows you and your partners to more easily prefabricate components of the project offsite, which saves time and money.

Disadvantages of BIM

  • Incompatibility with partners: BIM is not yet universally used among construction professionals. There is always the possibility that one of your partners or subcontractors may not use BIM and may not be able to use your models.
  • Legal issues: The legal ramifications of using BIM software have not yet been extensively tested, let alone settled.
  • Cost of software: BIM software requires a substantial investment in new technology. The advantages usually make the investment worthwhile, but only if the software is used to its full capacity.
  • Lack of experts: The relative newness of BIM means that there are limited numbers of experts working in the field. Your software purchase may require an additional investment in training and education.

Construction Monitor helps companies in the industry stay informed about how new technology will affect all phases of the construction process. Contact us today for more information on how BIM and general construction will continue to be a valuable and effective combination.