CNET’s Best Smart Home Devices

With more and more homeowners choosing smart home technology for their residential spaces, these devices continue to become more sophisticated even as they become more common. CNET, a leading technology website, recently named some of the year’s best smart home devices, including devices that represent home security trends, energy efficiency, and homeowner convenience.

home security trendsBest Smart Thermostat

CNET reviewer Ry Crist gave high marks to the Nest Learning Thermostat, a smart and elegant thermostat that increases homeowner control over indoor comfort levels. The Nest thermostat, while fully programmable, is designed to “learn” your indoor temperature preferences, eventually providing the comfort you prefer automatically.

The thermostat can be controlled remotely through smartphone and computer apps.  It is also equipped with motion sensors that can automatically reduce HVAC system operation if there has been no activity in the home.

Best Smart Lock

The August Smart Lock commanded CNET’s attention. Crist noted that the lock is intended as a retrofit, and as such is easy to install and has the capability of working with existing deadbolt locks. The lock also provides good levels of user management that make it a top choice among the current crop of smart locks.

Best DIY Home Security Kit

The iSmart Alarm system gives homeowners a diverse suite of security devices that are relatively easy to install. The system offers effective security at a lower price than commercially installed systems. It includes motion sensors, surveillance cameras, and alarms that homeowners can place where they prefer. Intelligent management and monitoring via Smartphone app makes this system even more convenient.

Best Standalone Smart Home Hub Kit

CNET considered the SmartThings Know and Control Your Home kit the best standalone smart home hub. This device provides homeowners with an easy way to take advantage of the many facets of smart home automation.

Construction Monitor provides up-to-date information on trends and developments in the residential construction industry, including housing stats and the most recent smart home technologies. Contact Us today for more information on home security trends and the latest devices that can increase safety, convenience, and energy efficiency.

Using Big Data for Better Productivity and Profitability

Access to large volumes of data can give you the kind of bird’s-eye view you need to steer your business in the right direction. The more you know about how big data affects construction businesses, the better you can harness this resource for your firm.

how big data affects construction businessesBoosting Your Productivity

Fast, high-volume data analysis lets you keep track of your vehicles and equipment more accurately and plan the most efficient travel routes for them. This is done by placing sensors on vehicles and equipment, and using technology that processes the data provided along with data on current traffic conditions to determine the fastest driving routes. Your workers will spend less time stuck in traffic, and you’ll save fuel, too.

When you store your data and documents in collaborative software, everyone on your team can work together on the same documents in real time no matter where each team member is. That means less email and phone tag and less time spent running documents to other locations. It also cuts down on time-wasting errors caused by two groups of employees working from two versions of a document.

Improving Your Profitability

With more and better-managed data on your company’s past performance, you can more accurately pinpoint profitable bidding strategies and identify the ideal approach to hiring for every job you win. You’ll not only bring in more jobs, but also decrease your labor costs on each one.

The ability to process big data related to your market lets you more precisely target specific customer bases. You’ll be better able to tailor your services to each, which helps set you apart from your competition. It can even help you spot opportunities you might have otherwise missed.

By analyzing data from previous jobs, you can predict when exceptional costs might pop up so you can budget for them. Knowing ahead of time when you’ll need to replace your power tools or the parts in your heavy equipment also prevents delays caused by unexpected equipment breakdowns.

To find out more about how big data affects construction businesses, contact us at Construction Monitor.

Top Tips for Preventing Construction Site Theft

Preventing construction site theft will not only save you thousands of dollars, but also protect you from delays caused by missing materials and equipment, and the hassle of replacing your losses. The most effective theft-prevention methods are some of the simplest.

preventing construction site theftKnow that everything is a potential target – Copper pipes and lumber aren’t the only items thieves are eyeing. Don’t assume something won’t be stolen just because it isn’t highly valuable or it’s difficult to move. Securing not only power tools and heavy equipment, but also tile, cables and other less expensive material goes a long way toward preventing construction site theft.

Light the premises well – Your after-hours lighting should cast even illumination over the whole area, leaving no shadows for thieves to hide in. To save energy, use low-wattage lighting connected to motion sensors. Even a soft glow draws attention to suspicious activity and a light that suddenly turns on is often enough to scare away a would-be thief.

Have material delivered just in time – The sight of valuable material lying around your construction zone attracts attention from those looking for something to steal. The longer you store those materials on site, the more time thieves have to make off with them. Schedule materials to be delivered as needed and keep detailed inventory records so you notice if something goes missing.

Lock up everything – Place materials and tools in heavy-duty sheds secured with a combination of a mortise lock and a high-security hasp with a strong padlock. A simple padlock alone offers little security. Use wheel locks or immobilizers on movable equipment to make it harder to drive them away unauthorized. Secure the site’s perimeter with fencing, high-quality locks and alarms.

Get to know the neighbors – Introduce yourself to neighboring home and business owners and take time for the occasional chat. The better your rapport with them, the more likely they are to look out for your property and alert authorities when necessary. Being neighborly also cuts down on noise and dust complaints.

For more experienced-based tips on preventing construction site theft, contact us at Construction Monitor.

The Rise of Drones on Construction Sites

Remote control flying drones have taken on an additional role in construction in recent years. Drone use in construction has the potential to improve the performance of construction teams and boost overall profitability and efficiency, notes reporter Will Knight in an article on the website of the MIT Technology Review. Even so, drone use in construction also has a controversial side that could lead to objections by workers.

drone use in constructionDrone Use in Construction: The Positives

The types of drones used in construction projects are usually the smaller, boxy drones with three or more propellers. These drones can be flown vertically or horizontally and controlled with considerable precision by a remote operator. The positives that these drones bring to construction sites include:

  • Better project management: Drones can fly over a construction site and take multiple pictures and videos that can then be converted to a three-dimensional picture of the site. This image can be compared to drawings, plans, and expectations to ensure progress is on time, or to identify areas where troubles might occur.
  • Improved efficiency: Drones can be used to monitor the progress of a construction project as well as the day-to-day activities of the workers on the site. With a drone, managers can see how well and effectively employees are working and if there are areas where bottlenecks occur or where efficiency can be improved.
  • Increased safety: Drone video footage can help managers identify safety violations or areas where safety may be a concern.

Drone Use in Construction: The Negatives

Some believe that using drones to monitor construction activities is an invasion of privacy, or at the very least, the imposition of an unacceptable level of surveillance on employees and construction teams. Drone surveillance could be used in an intimidating way to urge employees to work more hours.

Construction Monitor provides industry professionals, managers, and owners with information that helps expand businesses, including coverage of the latest developments in construction technology. Contact us today for more information on the development of drone use in construction and how drones can help you maintain a more efficient and better-organized building project.

Brooklyn Leads the Country in Apartment Construction

An apartment construction boom in the New York borough of Brooklyn is adding thousands of new dwellings to the area’s housing supply, reflecting trends in U.S. apartment construction in metropolitan areas nationwide.

More than 6,000 new apartment units are under construction and are expected to be ready by November, 2016, according to analyst Nick Fitzpatrick, writing in an article on the Forbes website.

U.S. apartment constructionFitzpatrick, a multifamily analyst with Axiometrics, a housing analysis firm specializing in apartments and student housing, notes that just over 2,000 more units are expected to become available in the Brooklyn market in 2017.

The 2016 numbers represent a substantial increase over the 969 apartments that came into the Brooklyn market in 2015, Fitzpatrick reported.

Why Brooklyn?

Fitzpatrick cites “Brooklyn’s hipness and trendiness” as a contributing factor that makes the borough an appealing site for developers. He also identified the expansion of well-paying jobs in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle and throughout Brooklyn as a key economic force behind the substantial expansion.

Average effective rents in Brooklyn, according to data from October 2015, are just above $3,800 per month, Fitzpatrick reported. This indicates an increase of 4.8 percent over the average effective rent in October 2014. Average effective rent is represented by the asking rent price minus concessions.

Occupancy rates throughout Brooklyn’s apartment market remain high. Fitzpatrick noted that existing apartments were 97.4 percent occupied as of October 2015. Demand for new housing continues to increase throughout the borough, serving as another driving force behind the substantial apartment expansion.

Beyond the Borough

Overall, the New York Metro area is experiencing a substantial growth in housing, with Brooklyn representing the largest part. Fitzpatrick reported that the New York area is expected to add more than 24,500 apartments in 2016. This significant growth puts New York at the top of the list of booming metropolitan areas nationwide.

Construction Monitor provides the most recent data on housing stats and building trends to construction companies, contractors, suppliers, and other industry participants. Contact us today for more information on the latest in U.S. apartment construction and for additional details on the Brooklyn and New York Metro markets.

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.

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.

Helpful Subcontractor Management Tips for Your Projects

The scope of many larger construction projects often means that you will need to hire subcontractors to get the job done. Even smaller projects can require a subcontractor if you need specialized skills that your current employees don’t possess.

subcontractor
Source: iStock.com/Kuzma

The following suggestions can help you determine how to manage subcontractors in construction to ensure the best outcome for you, the subcontractor, and the project.

  • Get a written contract: All of the terms of the agreement between you and the subcontractor should be recorded in a written contract signed by you and an authorized representative of the subcontractor. The document should clearly state all the roles and responsibilities of the subcontractor and what is expected that the subcontractor will do on the job. Include details on how the subcontractor should handle issues such as changes requested by the client dealing with unexpected problems. Other details can also be included, such as payment terms, information on penalties, and additional terms and conditions. Review the contract every year and make any needed changes or additions.
  • Make sure your subcontractor is qualified and protected: Check the insurance and bonding status of your contractor to ensure your partner is financially responsible. Look into licensing and certification status to make certain the subcontractor is qualified to do the work and is authorized to operate in your state or city.
  • Ensure your subcontractor follows your customer service standards: Make it clear that your subcontractor must adhere to your customer service standards when communicating with clients. If the subcontractor can’t handle a client’s issue, make sure there is a clearly identified contact within your company who can help.
  • Pay properly and promptly: Pay your subcontractor promptly and within the terms of the contract. Much like other small businesses, your subcontractor will be counting on timely cash flow to pay the employees and keep the company operating. Honor all terms regarding performance incentives or bonuses.

Construction Monitor is the industry’s trusted source for the most recent data on building permits, housing starts, and current trends. Contact us today for more information on how to manage subcontractors in construction projects.

Paternon, New Jersey Contractors Protest the Handling of Building Permits

Construction workers and contractors in a New Jersey town clashed with police and municipal authorities in an April protest against delays and denials in building permit processing in New Jersey.

building permit
Source: iStock.com/Branislav

The protests occurred in Paterson in response to what the protestors considered extreme slowness in processing and issuing building permits for new projects, reported Ed Rumley in an article in the Paterson Press that appeared on NorthJersey.com.

The delays in building permit approval have severely damaged construction workers’ and contractors’ ability to make a living, the protesters claimed. Denials of some building permits have also significantly affected the livelihood of workers in the Paterson area, according to the protestors.

Many of the protestors’ objections center on a relatively new inspector, hired about nine months prior, who they accuse of being too rigid and unwilling to compromise, Rumley reported.

The protests eventually led to a confrontation with the local police, who told the demonstrators to disperse since they didn’t have the required permits for the gathering. Tensions increased at that point, Rumley reported, but were defused after Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres arrived and spoke with the protestors.

The exchanges between the protestors and authorities sometimes became heated, but the protests broke up without incident.

Torres acknowledged that the building permit process has been taking too long. He promised the protestors that he would be making changes to the way the building permit process works, according to Rumley’s article. Torres indicated that system-wide changes were needed and that plans were underway to make the long-term shifts in process and policy that would make it easier to get building permits approved.

Torres’s solutions include a reorganization of Paterson’s community improvement division, which handles building permits.

Construction Monitor helps industry professionals stay up to day on trends and developments in the construction trade throughout the country. Contact us today for more information on the current controversies surrounding building permit processing in New Jersey and how this situation may affect construction projects in and around that state.

The Fastest Growing U.S. Cities of 2015 — Where Construction Is Booming

fastest growing U.S. citiesConstruction trends in 2014 and early 2015 indicate that the industry is continuing to expand after taking a significant hit from the U.S. economic recession of 2007 to 2009. Commercial, residential and industrial construction are showing significant increases, while investments in infrastructure are prompting growth in several regions. Industry analysts continue to expect significant growth in the construction sector throughout 2015 and beyond. The following are some of the fastest growing U.S. cities where construction is increasing and industry-related firms could see significant growth in revenue.
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