Beating the Cold with Job Site Heaters

Windchill chart and OSHA advice on cold weather workBy Katherine Lewis

While most office workers are turning up the thermostats on their heating systems this time of the year, that’s a luxury most construction workers don’t have. We’re often working on sites without power or permanent amenities, so keeping warm can be a challenge.

One of the obvious solutions to this problem is to use portable heaters. So, we’ve put together a brief guide to the types of heaters you can install, as well as how effective they are, and how much they cost. Read More

Where to Leave a Comment and Win Some Boots

Here’s a simple way to maybe win a pair of work boots by Wolverine valued at $333. Go to this site and leave a comment that answers the question: “Where Do You Wear Your Workboots.” Entries close on January 20 with a winner announced on January 23. If you win, you’ll get a boot called the Wolverine Northman and they have some interesting features like genuine Horween Leather.

While many people might read that phrase in the product’s description and simply skip over it, I was curious just what Horween Leather is. Come to find out it refers to the products of the only remaining tannery in Chicago and it is run by a member of the fourth generation of Horweens who have been in the tanning business there since 1905. The company claims to make high grade and exacting leather that is used in an array of products from sporting goods and bags to, you guessed it, shoes and boots. Other features of the Northman include Gore-Tex waterproof lining, Vibram outsoles and Thinsulate insulation.

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Construction Export Opportunities Not Just for the Big Guys

Just because your line of construction might be slow in the U.S. it doesn’t mean that’s the case across the globe. In fact, many countries are not only busily building things but they are also importing construction products and services from companies in the U.S. These companies are not only the large, multinational construction firms, but include small businesses as well. Here’s a case in point.

SteelMaster Buildings, a company in Virginia Beach, Va., that designs and builds prefabricated steel buildings for a variety of industries, exports those buildings and its expertise at erecting them across the globe. The company recently won an export video promotion contest co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration and VISA. SteelMaster received a $12,000 award, including cash and travel costs to participate in the awards ceremony, and a Department of Commerce Gold Key matching service. Learn more about SteelMaster’s exporting story by watching the video below. Then, check out all the helpful tools at the SBA, right here, that could jumpstart your very own exporting effort.

Habits of Wildly Unsuccessful Construction Managers

There is all kinds of advice on how to manage the right way, but every now and then by looking at the topic from another angle we can get a new perspective of the process.

So here my short list of things to do if you want to be continually and wildly unsuccessful at managing any construction project.

  • When things don’t fit, ignore the plans. This will ensure that what is supposed to be getting built will not get built and will earn you exceptional notice along with a place in the Dumb Idiot Hall of Fame.
  • Act like you know absolutely everything about everything and make sure co-workers and subordinates know that you know, you know. By doing this those incorrect decisions you make about how to do things will be magnified because nobody will question them and will execute them exactly as instructed in all their glorious incorrected-ness. This probably explains how things like windows end up being where doors ought to be.
  • Resist the temptation to tell your boss in a timely manner what’s really going on. That way when the owner is on the final walk-through and 45 telephone jacks haven’t been installed yet you can look shocked and say something memorable like, "Geez, those were supposed to have telephone jacks installed! I don’t think they were on the plans."
  • Ask the building inspector where in the hell he learned how to build.

Maybe you have some tips that you’d like to share. Comments are always welcome.

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.

Buy Lunch For Your Building Inspector

On second thought maybe you should just go to lunch together, and each of you buys your own. This is Building Safety Week, as advanced by the International Code Council, and it says some of the credit for safer buildings goes to all those people who ensure construction goes according to code. This includes not only building inspectors but also structural engineers, plan reviewers, and fire officials. Another idea would be to have a pizza party Wednesday afternoon and invite them all. The ICC offers a series of Top 5 building safety tips here, and a list of events for the week including a fireside chat and tools you can use to promote building safety in your community.

I’m a history buff so what I also discovered at this site fueled my thirst for answers about building code origins. Apparently there are some records that show codes, and the penalties for not following them, go back a long way. According to the ICC’s publication "Building Technology-Then and Now:"

…more than 4,000 years ago, the Code of Hammurabi, circa 2200–1800 B.C.E., prescribed the execution of any builder whose faulty construction of a house caused the death of its owner.

Early codes in the U.S., circa. 1625-1630, dealt with fire safety relative to roof coverings while another outlawed wooden chimneys, (scary thought) and thatched roofs. I suppose if you had a building with both a thatched roof and a wooden chimney you might call it…a torch?

Then in 1788 the first formal code was established in what we now know as Winston-Salem, NC, and was entirely in German. Interestingly it was New Orleans that became the first city in the country to require inspections of public buildings.

So there is your Monday morning primer on building codes and if people were really daring enough to use wooden chimneys once upon a time then we ought to be thankful for building codes.

Tapping the Power of Heartfelt Green

As the drumbeat of “green” continues at a frenetic pace, and businesses all over the globe contemplate ways to make money on green, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at simple ways construction companies can do green things without the appearance that they are just riding the wave to better profits. Simply promoting and using green products is only part of the process.

So, here are ways to be green for real if you are in construction. 

  • Find ways to decrease the waste generated at your construction sites;
  • Find alternative uses and recycling opportunities for the waste generated at your job sites;
  • Adopt processes that reduce your reliance on gasoline and diesel fuel;
  • Look for and adopt all the ways you can to eliminate printing things on paper;
  • Stop traveling and commuting when web conferencing, conference calls, telecommuting and other forms of remote communication are really all that’s necessary;
  • Set up policies, or install electrical and mechanical devices, that prevent energy from being used when it isn’t needed;
  • Ask your employees, partners, clients and suppliers how they think you can operate in a more energy efficient fashion, and then take those suggestions to heart.

There is something more though to consider. Words and actions that aren’t heartfelt, (that don’t spring from a place inside you that makes them meaningful), can be seen by others as insincere. It seems it would be far better to say you don’t buy into all the green rhetoric and then just don’t participate, than it is to say you do but then only participate when it is profitable. If you really “feel” green then let it show. If you don’t then why not use other ways to improve your bottom line.

Looking back we can see the dawn of the awakening to green, and at that time it was just about energy. In the aftermath of the very first energy crises in 1973 the U.S., and the world, had its first wake-up call. There was a flurry of activity aimed at fixing the problem and they all focused on government and business efforts. Today, we see those earlier efforts by those entities changed very little the ways people create, acquire and use energy. Some may question when we will finally realize this is about individuals and the choices that individuals make. When individuals in business and government act from a heartfelt place of green then their actions will begin to have the most positive long term effects.

There are about 304 million people in the U.S. today, and a little more than 6.5 billion people in the world. A tree planted for every one of them this year might have an interestingly nice effect for all earthly inhabitants.

System and Data Integration Offers New Efficiencies

In this podcast I talk with Jim Upton, a specialist in AEC and facilities management software, about the role of integrating business data and functions. As companies continue to seek out efficiencies the process of bridging disparate networks so that information is shared by contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and others is a key focal point.
Jim highlights reasons why companies are sharing more and more data. He talks about strategies and issues and he offers some advice about what to focus on and when to consider getting your business linked up with others.
Jim’s company, JCU Services LLC helps companies to select software and make it work optimally for them. They also work with software vendors helping them to understand the needs of the AEC and facilities management industries and how to market software to these industries. Send email to Jim.

Podcast-Interview with Jim Upton

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