Take Control of the Spring Sprinkler Maintenance

Sprinkler Overspray © Jcpjr | Dreamstime.com

Part of the spring ritual should be checking to make sure water isn't being wasted when the sprinklers are operating. With today's emphasis on water conservation, scenes like these should be things of the past. (Photo © Jcpjr | Dreamstime.com)

I used to own a landscaping company and this time of year was probably the busiest. At the top of the list at most properties was the annual ritual of checking and repairing sprinkler systems. So when I saw Rainbird’s recent press release listing steps to follow in bringing the sprinkler systems back to life, I knew there were some morsels in it that would be reminders to some, and new information for others. Of course, if your system Read More

PPG Simplifies Product Architectural Coating Specifications

Specifiers will have an easier time sorting through PPG’s options for architectural coatings with the launch of its new website. The company says it will help paint professionals easily find the products, information and resources relevant to their needs.

Organized into five professional segments – commercial, new home, multi-family, industrial and residential – ppgpro.com delivers in two clicks or fewer, targeted content such as most popular products, key services and support, color tools and ecological solutions. Read More

Autodesk Deal Expands Balfour Beatty’s BIM Adoption

Building information modeling, or BIM, offers construction an intelligent model–based process for creating and managing building and infrastructure projects faster, more economically, and with less environmental impact, according to a joint press release from Balfour Beatty and Autodesk.

BIM appears to be getting great traction in Europe with the UK government mandating it on all public building projects beginning in 2016. For some time now, Balfour Beatty, an international infrastructure group, has used Autodesk BIM on a number of high profile projects including the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the widening of the M25 outside London, and design and construction for the replacement of Terminal 2 at London Heathrow International Airport. For the new Terminal 2B, the largest ever airside project at Heathrow, using BIM helped Read More

Nonresidential Construction Backlog Drops, Signaling Advantages for Small Construction Firms

2011 Solar Decathlon Middlebury Celebrates

Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) declined 3.2 percent from the previous quarter from 8.1 months to 7.8 months, but is still up 10.9 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2010.

CBI is a forward-looking economic indicator that measures the amount of nonresidential construction work under contract to be completed in the future. Associated Builders and Contractors’ Chief Economist Anirban Basu elaborated:

Overall, the latest CBI numbers indicate a degree of stalling in the recovery of the nation’s nonresidential construction industry, likely due to a combination of the soft patch that developed in the broader economy early last year, a number of seasonal factors and the winding down of federal stimulus projects. But the good news is that given the recent acceleration in economic and employment growth, CBI is positioned to rebound more forcefully during the quarters ahead.

In addition, the most recent data reflect the ongoing expansion in privately funded construction activity as opposed to the contraction of publicly funded construction. The nation’s smaller construction firms are gaining an advantage from this shift, in contrast to the decreased construction activity among the larger firms that had benefitted from earlier federal stimulus projects and military base realignment-related construction.

Regional Highlights

  • Construction backlog expanded in the Northeast from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, but declined in the South and West, and was essentially unchanged in the Middle States.
  • Construction backlog is higher in every region of the nation compared to one year ago.
  • Companies in the South, some of which are located in high-growth states such as Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, reported the lengthiest backlog at 8.9 months, up 14.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010.

Analysis by Basu:

The disparity between regional construction activity is on the rise. One year ago, the difference in backlog between the South region, with the lengthiest backlog, and the West region, with the shortest backlog, was 1.98 months. During the fourth quarter of 2011, this gap rose to 2.81 months, with the South reporting a backlog of 8.92 months and the West at 6.11 months.

The South appears to be the region most positively impacted by rebounding nonresidential construction, largely due to its central importance to the nation’s energy industry. The West continues to deal with many issues, including the impact of weak residential real estate markets and stressed state fiscal conditions, both of which impact the vitality of broader regional economies.

For regional trend data, go here.

Utilitarian Municipal Structures Can Be Functional, Sturdy, Earth-Friendly AND Pretty

Sonoma County transit shelter manufactured by Tolar Manufacturing and designed with the help of Autodesk Product Design Suite (Photo: Business Wire)

Sonoma County transit shelter manufactured by Tolar Manufacturing and designed with the help of Autodesk Product Design Suite (Photo: Business Wire)

Contractors who are building out and improving the country’s metropolitan landscapes don’t have to settle for off-the-shelf transit shelters, street furniture and advertising kiosks. That’s because companies that design and manufacture those fixtures are increasingly turning out custom products that fit the local environment and climate.

One example is Tolar Manufacturing which uses Autodesk Gold Partner KETIV Technologies to design and make more than 500 shelter types within the company’s four main product lines, each designed and engineered to be long-lasting, attractive and environmentally friendly. This includes complying with a wide range of building code requirements across North America and community design requirements from economical transit shelters to high volume bus rapid transit facilities. Tolar client expectations for purpose- driven design range from hurricane-resistant bus shelters for Florida communities to solar-powered transit displays for agencies in California.

On a typical project, Tolar begins by creating 3D models of the proposed shelter using Inventor software. To further communicate design intent to customers, Tolar can create a near-photorealistic image of the model in Showcase software, and then superimpose it over an actual streetscape from the customer’s town, enabling customers to see exactly what Tolar’s product will look like when installed in the community.

Next, the Inventor manufacturing models are used to fabricate the multiple components that make up the shelter. These models provide clear, concise and comprehensive communications, resulting in fewer errors on the shop floor.

Additionally, Tolar uses Vault software to centrally store and manage its digital data, making it easier for the company to access and reuse drawings of specific parts for multiple projects rather than having to start each time from scratch — significantly reducing project turnaround time. Tolar also uses Inventor Publisher software to create installation instructions for customers.

Autodesk named Tolar its Inventor of the Month for January 2012 for how it used Autodesk software to create custom products matching the needs of municipalities throughout North America.

BuilderMT Reports Growth and New Innovations

Logan Homes (a Coastal Carolina builder) announced that by using BuilderMT workflow solutions it was able to achieve 10 – 12 percent, per-home margins across 150 starts averaging $300,000 per sale, according to a press release from BuilderMT.

Apparently Logan isn’t the only builder choosing BuilderMT since the company announced it “recently added builders responsible for another 3,000 starts in the U.S. and Canada.” The company claims more than 850 BuilderMT systems sold to date and more than 400 BuilderMT systems still in active operation. Still, it continues to introduce innovations and upgrades, recently offering its successful Trade Portal, a Web-enabled Bid Management solution, a Mobile Scheduling module, and now – new to IBS 2012 – a Superintendent Portal, Multi-Family Scheduling and BIM capabilities that tie CAD house plans directly to sales, estimating and purchasing functions within BuilderMT’s applications.

In-a-nutshell, BuilderMT provides highly-customizable workflow and building-process-management software that works in tandem with leading accounting systems and other wireless and jobsite productivity tools, such as CRM and warranty management.

How One AEC Company Decided to Tame PDFs

MMM Group Limited, a Canadian program management, planning, engineering and geomatics firm selected Bluebeam PDF Revu as its enterprise-wide PDF solution to replace Adobe® Acrobat®. The company will deploy Revu CAD, Revu Standard and Revu eXtreme™ to meet the needs of nearly 2,000 users. According to Mark Bryant, the company’s CIO, the move was based on the need for a solution that met the unique needs of architecture, engineering and construction, and that had a high level of flexibility.

MMM Group selected Revu for its intuitive interface and industry-targeted features that support digital workflows in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. The range of features in Revu Standard, CAD and eXtreme meet the needs of both our technical and administrative users, enabling us to standardize on one solution across our organization.

According to Bluebeam, PDF Revu lets users create, markup and edit PDF drawings and other design documents using customizable, industry-standard markups and measurements. Revu also provides advanced features for automatically comparing drawings, tracking markups, calculating materials costs and collaborating in real time with Bluebeam Studio. Together, these features enable project teams to create efficient, paperless processes for workflows including design reviews, bids, estimates, submittals and punch lists. Sasha Reed, the company’s director of account services, sums it up this way.

With its industry-standard features, Bluebeam PDF Revu is a must-have solution for electronically communicating and collaborating on building and infrastructure projects. We’re thrilled that MMM Group has joined the group of design, engineering and construction firms who are making the switch to Bluebeam for more effective electronic workflows.

About Bluebeam Software, Inc.Bluebeam Software invents, develops, and commercializes PDF software intelligently designed to meet the needs of design, engineering and business professionals. Bluebeam produces high-quality, easy-to-use products that allow professionals to improve communication and collaboration immediately with virtually no learning curve. For more information visit Bluebeam Software at www.bluebeam.com.

Fuel Saving Strategies

History so far has shown that if there is anything you an depend upon it is that costs of things will always go up. Lately it seems fuel is leading the charge and of course that affects almost everything since fuel is so deeply imbedded in the economics of supply and demand.

Normally prices of fuel inch up over a period of time and so everyone has a chance to adjust and gradually get used to the necessary changes, not the least of which is the increase in costs of goods and in doing business. The rapid increases are causing many in construction to re-think how they do business.

According to various news reports here are some of the ways contractors are adjusting for the higher costs of both gasoline and diesel.

  • Eating the additional costs on jobs already under contract and passing them on in all new contracts;
  • For contractors with service fleets many are adding fuel surcharges shown on the invoices while others are increasing their service and/or hourly rates;
  • Requiring carpooling for superintendents and lead carpenters traveling to job sites;
  • Paying closer attention to regular vehicle and equipment maintenance;
  • Eliminating idling;
  • Replacing gasoline vehicles with diesel vehicles;
  • Converting diesel vehicles to vegetable oil vehicles;
  • Marketing closer to the home office;
  • Eliminating free estimates that are further away than a specific distance from the home office;
  • Combining material runs from a number of job sites.

What’s missing here? Examining why people are driving and if the trips are even necessary, where they are driving to and if the destinations are really part of the job and identifying other ways to accomplish things that don’t require driving.

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