6 Ways to Level the Construction Bidding Playing Field

Level the Consteuction Bidding Playing Field

The bidding process can feel one-sided. You submit something. You never hear back. The construction bid goes into a black hole of project management and construction runaround.

We hear a lot of feedback from our subcontractors about what to do, most recently from J.W. Denney at Binswanger Glass.

Here are six things you can do to level the bidding playing field.

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Overcoming the Challenges of Winter Construction

Some may think construction companies shut down business in the cold winter months.

Like the birds, they fly south to work in warmer climates. But this isn’t the case. Why?

Because of budgetary planning, many decisions regarding construction projects are made in September, at the close of the second quarter. This peak decision-making time, however, could lead to projects being scheduled for cooler-weather months. And for those in northern climates, project owners have two options: go ahead with the project in the coldest weather of the year or wait until the spring thaw.

As construction professionals, we may face these less-than-perfect conditions at some point in our career, so it is crucial to know what problems or additional costs could arise ahead of time and plan for the worst (while, of course, hoping for the best).

Perhaps the greatest challenge for winter-weather construction is frozen ground. When the ground is frozen, a number of problems can arise. Concrete footings cannot be placed, only so much digging can be done on frozen ground, and melting frosts can lead to more mud and water in the construction site.

Schedule and budget construction projects in the winter

No matter what measures you take, sometimes these issues cannot be solved with anything but patience. If your business is contracted to begin a construction project in the cold winter months, it’s important to encourage patience among your project team and with your client. Although the waiting game can be difficult (and sometimes costly), it is a possibility that should be addressed during the planning phases of your project, in an effort to reduce the impact on overall project budget and schedule.

Another challenge of winter construction is fuel costs.

During the winter months, fuel usage can increase dramatically in certain kinds of equipment including concrete mixers (as it will take more fuel to run the boiler to heat the water, etc.), on-site heaters, and more. It is imperative to not only plan ahead for these increased costs before the project begins. If the costs are greater than the benefits of completing a project on time, the project owner and contractor may want to discuss closing shop during especially cold weather.

Get tight ASAP

If time allows, you can also try to reach project milestones, such as having the structure completed and tight to the weather before the cold sets in. If you can have the building ready for internal project completion, you can use the permanent heat system inside the building for construction site heat, saving a considerable amount of money over using temporary heating systems.

Finally, take all the challenges of winter construction into consideration during the project bid

When negotiating a contract with the owner, make sure to fully explain all the implications and costs association with winter building. If the timeline can be adjusted to complete a project before winter or after the spring thaw, that may be the best way to avoid costs from winter construction.

No matter your situation, two key factors are vital to winter construction: patience and flexibility. If you can encourage both and have adequate planning, construction projects in winter months can be possible and profitable.

8 Tips To Building A Stellar Safety Program

8 Tips To Building A Stellar Construction Safety Program

Top Priority in Construction Business: Safety

Ask any construction business owner, regardless of the size of their firm, what their top priority is and we’re guessing you’ll get the same response every time: worker safety. The real question owners should constantly be asking themselves is whether or not their safety program is robust enough to meet their commitment to protecting their workers.

One out of every five worker deaths occurs in construction. The total number of construction fatalities has been on the rise over the past several years. Creating an effective safety program and promoting a culture of safety throughout your organization can go a long way helping you achieve your goal of zero accidents, zero injuries and zero fatalities on every project you undertake.

We’ve put together the following eight tips for building a stellar construction safety program:

A Commitment to Construction Safety Starts at the Top

Getting your employees to buy into your safety program begins with buy-in from your leadership team. Prove your commitment to safety by providing training and personal protective equipment to all your employees. Make sure your tools and equipment are inspected regularly and are in good working order. If equipment is faulty or in disrepair, make sure it is taken out of service until it can be repaired or replaced.

Have a written safety policy and make it available to all employees. At a minimum, it should cover procedures for injury reporting, basic safety rules, preventative measures, emergency procedures and all policies and rules that promote and enforce a safe working environment. Each employee should be responsible for reading and acknowledging that they fully understand and agree to comply with the safety policy.

Have a Plan for Every Construction Project

There’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ safety plan. Every project is different and every jobsite is unique. Before any work begins on a new project, identify all existing and potential hazards that could crop up throughout the duration of the project. Determine what controls need to be instituted to mitigate or eliminate those hazards.

This is also the time to identify and inspect the tools and equipment that will be needed for the job.  The safety manager should work with the project manager to discuss the schedule of work in order to plan out the weekly safety meetings. An emergency response plan and a jobsite specific first aid program should be developed for each new project. The safety plan should be shared with everyone setting foot on the jobsite.

Construction Safety Training Never Stops

All new employees should be provided with in-depth training on safe work practices and all applicable OSHA standards. Employees should be able to recognize hazards and unsafe working conditions. Train workers on the safe operation of machinery and equipment regardless of their skill level. Employees should not be allowed to operate any equipment or machinery unless they can prove that they can do so safely and proficiently.

Safety training shouldn’t start and stop with new employees.  Repeated and ongoing training not only reinforces your company’s commitment to safety to your workers, it keeps it on the top the minds of your employees. Be sure to use site inspections as teaching moments when safety procedures are not being followed. This can be done as one-on-one training for isolated events or to the whole team if it appears the issue is more pervasive.

Basic first aid training should be taught to all employees. Even if you have a trained medical person on the jobsite every day, they can’t be everywhere all the time. The sooner first aid can be administered to an injured worker, the better, even if it’s just basic care.

Corrective measure such as retraining should be a part of any disciplinary action taken when someone is caught not obeying the rules or for any unsafe or reckless behavior. It’s always a good idea to do a little research before handing down punishment. Was the behavior a result of a blatant disregard of the rules or did the employee not receive proper training? Your training program should be evaluated regularly and adjustments should be made as needed to make sure your employees are receiving the best possible instruction.

Stay on Top of the Rules

OSHA is constantly issuing new rules and making changes to existing rules with the intent of helping owners provide the safest work environments possible. In 2016, OSHA is expected issue a final rule on occupational exposure to crystalline silica as well as final rules to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses and to update eye and face protection to meet current consensus standards from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). In addition to those final rules, OSHA is also planning to issue a proposed rule for crane operator qualifications in construction as well as a proposed rule to make some clerical corrections to the crane and derricks in construction standards. Not to mention the fact that OSHA fines are set to increase by more than 70% at some point in 2016.

In order to remain compliant with OSHA standards, you need to stay up to date with all the rulemaking changes that will impact your business. There is always a window of time for the public to respond to any proposed rulemaking with written arguments or evidence for or against a proposed rule as well as request a public hearing if one isn’t already scheduled. This is an opportunity to make your voice heard if a possible rule could negatively impact your business.

Go Above and Beyond the Construction Standards

Think of adhering to OSHA standards as the bare minimum to stay compliant. Just doing enough to stay compliant can lead to complacency. To truly have an effective safety program you should be going above and beyond the rules laid out by OSHA.

This doesn’t mean you have to make sweeping changes to your existing safety program or policy. Take a look at what you are currently doing and determine if there are measures or procedures you can implement to improve worker safety. Repeated accidents involving the same type of work activity is probably an indicator that your safety program needs some improvement.

Hold Everyone Accountable

Jobsite safety is the responsibility of every worker, not just your safety managers. Again, this starts at the top and goes all the way down to your project managers and site supervisors to skilled workers and your laborers. Empower your employees to speak up if they notice an unsafe work environment or hazard. Employees shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell a superior or a coworker to put their hard hat on or to quit using the power tool with the frayed power cord.

If you are a general contractor this means holding your subs accountable for following your safety requirements. Reviewing a subcontractor’s safety policies and procedures along with their safety record should be a part of your prequalification process. Make it clear to everyone working on the project that they will be held to the same high safety standards that you hold your own employees to.

Conduct Regular Inspections and Create a Culture of Construction Safety

Frequent, regular inspections of the jobsite are vital to ensuring your safety plan and program is effective. Create a safety audit checklist for each job and make notes as you perform the inspection. Spend some time observing workers to make sure they are working safely and productively.

Have a camera or smartphone on hand to document any areas that may require additional safeguards or controls. Take time to chat with employees to discuss any safety concerns they may and address them accordingly. Regular safety inspections reinforces your company’s commitment to safety and along with the other tips allow you to create a culture of safety.

When accidents do occur, be sure to conduct a thorough investigation so you can uncover the root of the problem. Typically when an accident occurs the cause is either inadequate training or where an employee didn’t retain the information they were taught.

Never Stop Improving Your Construction Safety Program

Your company may already have a top-notch safety program in place, but there’s always room for improvement. The first of the year is the perfect time to evaluate your current program. Take stock of what’s working well as well as areas that may need some revision. Be sure to get all your employees involved in the process. Your workers are the ones on the jobsite day in and day out and are probably the best suited to help identify deficiencies in your safety program and offer suggestions for improvement.

Once you have a rock solid safety program in place you’ll start to reap additional benefits other than just protecting you top commodity: your employees. Companies with great safety programs also tend to see lower insurance premiums, better quality of work from employees and fewer injuries. Your company’s reputation will also grow with your commitment to safety which can lead to more contracting opportunities as well as establishing your firm as an employer of choice among jobseekers.                            

Construction Advice For Entrepreneurs

Construction Advice Courtesy of Ken

Today’s post comes from Ken Y, Training & Development Manager. He shares words of wisdom that every new entrepreneur should read.

As a young man starting my own millwork company, I had all the confidence in the world. I had access to tools that weren’t exactly new, but were capable and dependable. I found a great facility that gave me space to do complicated projects while streamlining the process for production boxes. And perhaps most importantly, I had several talented builders coming to work for me. I had the tools and talent to produce high-end millwork and install it as well as anyone in the industry.

I had a solid business plan and I knew enough people that would feed me consistent work. I got the proper insurance and workman’s comp. coverage, an accountant, and a bank account and I was ready to go. Or so I thought.

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10 Tips for Submitting Better Bids

Putting together a winning bid proposal, or even a competitive one, takes knowledge and skill. It’s a bit more complicated than just putting some numbers together and hoping for the best. Good bid preparation for general contractors requires a lot of time and effort and involves everything from reading and fully understanding the plans and specifications to accurately estimating costs for labor, materials and equipment. Making even the smallest mistake can mean the difference between submitting a winning bid and missing out on a coveted and profitable project. We’ve put together our top 10 tips for submitting better bids and win more construction jobs.

Select the Right Projects to Bid

You don’t have to bid on every job you come across. Winning jobs your company can’t adequately perform can be just as costly as not winning them. Remember, it is never too late to abandon a bid you are working on. For example, let’s say you have purchased plans, attended the prebid meeting, done your takeoffs and started taking subcontractor pricing. Once you start crunching the numbers you realize that your company won’t make a reasonable profit if you were to win the contract. The best thing to do is dump it and move on to the next project.

If at any time during your bid preparation you realize that your company cannot adequately handle the scope and requirements of the project, you need to make the smart business decision to walk away from the bid. Finding the right balance between bidding and winning enough jobs can be difficult. On the one hand, you don’t want to bid and win so much work that you can’t properly manage and complete the projects you’ve been awarded. You also don’t want too little work that you aren’t making any money and your workers aren’t staying busy. Selecting the right work to bid is vital to maintaining a profitable business.

Visit the Site and Attend Prebid Meetings

Having a good understanding of the existing site conditions can eliminate problems down the line should you be awarded a project. Unique site conditions like limited accessibility or a location that would require additional costs on items like transportation, equipment, material storage and labor could exist. Failing to visit the site would leave you unaware that these conditions exist and that additional costs need to be factored into your bid which would cut into your profitability.

Many times a prebid meeting will be held at the construction site or a site visit will be held directly following a prebid meeting. Prebid meetings are held to in order for the project team to answer questions regarding plans and specifications, site conditions and specific project details. Failing to attend a prebid meeting means you miss out on the best opportunity to get clarification on the requirements of the project. It could be the only chance you get to walk around the site and get a better understanding of exactly what you will be dealing with. If the prebid meeting is mandatory, failing to attend would result in not being able to even bid on the project.  When preparing a bid proposal you want to have as much information as possible in order to submit a competitive bid and refusing to attend a prebid meeting or a site visit will put you at a severe disadvantage.

Seek Clarification

When preparing a bid you need to do your due diligence to ensure that you have all the pertinent information, that the information is accurate and that you have a complete understanding of this information. This means fully reviewing the plans and specifications to determine everything required to bid the project and complete the work. This includes knowing everything from what bonds are required to whether or not there are participation goals for minority business enterprises (MBEs) or if material substitutions are allowed in the bid. If you are unsure of any aspect of the project when preparing your bid, you need to seek clarification the architect, owner or owner’s representative.

Be aware that there are typically cut-off dates in place for questions to be submitted. This allows for any changes to the plans or specifications to be made and for any addenda to be issued to the bidders. If you are unclear on any aspect of the project the onus is on you to get clarification. Making assumptions is no way to submit a winning bid. If you aren’t able to get your questions answered to your satisfaction, you might want to reconsider bidding the project.

Perform Accurate Takeoffs and Measurements

Take the time to fully review the plans and specifications to determine accurate measurements and takeoffs. This will result in correct construction costs when calculating your construction bid. Takeoff software can ensure that correct measurements are obtained in order to submit an accurate bid. Inaccurate measurements will cause you to miscalculate the amount of building materials and labor needed to complete the job which in turn will lead to either over- or underestimating your construction costs. Using the right units of measure is also important when calculating your bid. Using square feet when you should have used square yards or vice versa can drastically affect your estimated costs.

Make sure that you are taking measurements from the right place. Often the plans will instruct you not to scale the drawings or direct you to use the written or calculated dimensions provided in the specifications. This often occurs when electronic documents are used because enlarging or shrinking the size of a drawing to in order to print them can result in the scale being incorrect.  If there is ever any doubt as to where to take your measurements from you should contact the architect for clarification.

Avoid Arithmetic Errors

Errors with your math can have a devastating impact on your construction bid. Arithmetic errors can result in your bid being under or over the actual cost of completing the job. Manual calculations can easily result in arithmetic errors. Always use a calculator or some type of construction bid software to ensure that your calculations are accurate. If you are using bid software or a calculator errors can typically be attributed to not inputting your numbers correctly. If you are using a spreadsheet like Excel to calculate costs check that your formulas are correct. Always double-check your math to make sure that all you numbers and calculations are correct. This is another one of those instances where having another set of eyes to look over your figures and calculation can help prevent costly mistakes.

Evaluate Subcontractors & Subcontractor Pricing

Getting subcontractor pricing can be complicated. You want competitive prices from your subcontractors but you also want some assurance that they can perform the work required. This is true whether it is a subcontractor you are using for the first time or one that you have worked with for years. One solution is to set up a prequalification process for subcontractors who wish to work with you. This allows you to have a better understanding of the type of work they are capable of performing by evaluating their quality and performance on past projects.

At a minimum, you should get bids from at least three different companies for each trade you will need to subcontract out work for to ensure you are getting competitive prices. Carefully review and evaluate every subcontractor bid to make sure that the prices quoted are complete and accurate. When requesting bids from subcontractors, clearly define the scope of work that the subcontractor is expected to perform. Failing to do this can result in unnecessary costs being added to your bid from an overlap of work being bid by both you and your subcontractor.

Identify and Manage Risks

Every construction project comes with its own unique set of risks. Identifying and managing risks is probably the most overlooked aspect of preparing a bid. Once you’ve identified the potential risks, you need to analyze and evaluate each one individually so that they can be properly managed and mitigated. Take into account the probability of each identified risk and the impact it can have on the project. A low probability risk with a low impact might be easy to mitigate, but a high probability risk with a high impact that you can’t effectively manage could be detrimental to the profitability of the project. Identifying and evaluating possible risks associated with a project when preparing a bid will make you better prepared to handle a situation when something goes wrong.

Labor Costs

Accurately estimating labor costs can be one of the most difficult aspects to preparing your bid. To determine your labor costs you have to factor in hourly wage rates with the number of man-hours a specific task will take to complete. You also have to take into account the productivity and experience of your workers. Employee turnover, absences and injuries can all affect your actual labor costs. More experienced workers may be able to complete tasks quickly which would reduce the number of man-hours needed, but you will have to pay a higher rate for their services. Workers with less experience will require more man-hours to complete a job but you can pay those workers a lower wage.

Wage rates can vary greatly from state to state and even from county to county. It is important to understand what, if any, wage rates apply to the project you are bidding in order to incorporate those rates into calculating your labor costs. Wage rate determination is required on all federal government construction projects as mandated by the Davis-Bacon Act. Wage rates are determined by the location of the project and the type of construction being performed. Many states also have prevailing wage laws for public construction projects. Always check the current prevailing wage rates where the construction is taking place so you can accurately determine your labor costs. When determining your labor costs remember to factor any projected overtime needs as the wage rates for overtime hours worked can be as much as double the prevailing wage rate.

Materials and Equipment Costs

Costs for building materials and supplies can change rapidly and can vary greatly in different parts of the country. If specialty materials are required that you aren’t familiar with you shouldn’t assume that the cost is comparable to similar items. Your best bet is to call around to local suppliers to get up-to-date costs for materials and delivery. You also need to make sure that the building materials and supplies required in the specifications are clearly defined so your pricing is correct. If you are uncertain of the materials being requested in the specifications you should always get clarification from the architect, owner or owner’s representative.

When putting a bid together you need to make sure that you have all the necessary equipment needed to perform the work. This may mean you have to rent or purchase additional equipment. Even if your company owns all the equipment needed you need to make sure that it isn’t already allocated for use at another jobsite and that no major maintenance or repairs are scheduled that would take the equipment offline for an extended amount of time.

Make sure that the equipment is in good working order and operating at peak performance which might otherwise cause delays in your construction schedule. Equipment that isn’t optimally performing can increase the time it takes to complete certain tasks. Unexpectedly having to rent additional equipment or face delays can negatively affect the bottom line on a project. Remember to factor in fuel costs to operate the machinery and to transport the equipment to the jobsite.

Incomplete Bid Forms and Documents

Failing to fully complete the bid form and submit all required documents is a surefire way to get what might otherwise be a winning bid rejected. Required documents and paperwork can be anything from bid bonds to acknowledging receipt of any addenda. A good way to ensure that you have all the required paperwork for your construction bid is to use a checklist as you prepare your bid and then go back and double-check to make sure that everything is included. It never hurts to get another set of eyes to look over the bid proposal to make sure nothing has been forgotten before you submit your bid.

There are a few other requirements that go along with preparing your bid that can get your bid rejected if you don’t comply with them or simply overlook them. The first is to get prequalified to bid a project when it is required. The second is to attend all mandatory prebid meeting and site visits. The third and most important of these is submitting your bid by the due date and time. All of these requirements will be clearly stated in the bid.

Construction Bid Proposal: Not an Easy Task

Preparing a construction bid proposal is no easy task. A competitive and winning bid proposal requires a lot of time and attention to detail. Making mistakes can lead to submitting a lot of overpriced, uncompetitive bids or worse a lot of underpriced bids that you win but make no profit on.  The key to winning more bids is being able to accurately estimate all costs required to complete the job while factoring in a reasonable profit for you company.

Top 10 Commercial Construction Books

Top 10 Commercial Construction Books

We admit that the best way to learn construction of any kind is to get out in the field, but a little reference material never hurt.

Here are our top 10 commercial construction books.

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9 Quotes on Construction to Inspire You

The buildings we create inspire us, reflect who we are as a society, and stand tall against everything we throw at them. They protect us against the elements, hold us up, and we admire their beauty and strength. When you work in the construction industry, you see evidence of your job every day, from the site you worked on last week, to the project you’re hoping to get next month. You’re out there, creating something, each and every single day. I don’t know about you, but it’s my favorite part of being in this industry.

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Effective Communication = Better Construction Management

Effective communication is vital to the successful completion of any construction project. Good communication can improve teamwork and lead to better project collaboration. Poor communication can result in misunderstandings, delays and issues down the road.

Better Construction Management With Communication

Communication is simply the exchange of information in order to convey a message and good communication involves being able to transmit your message so it is received and understood by the intended recipients. Seems simple enough, right? If you’ve ever played the Telephone Game you know it’s not always that easy. The game involves communicating a message to a large group of people. The trick to the game is that the message must be passed by whispering it into the ear of the next person in line who whispers it into the next person’s ear, and so on until everyone has heard it. The messenger cannot repeat the message and the last person in line must say aloud what they heard.  The message usually gets misheard a few times so by the time it gets around the room, “I like lazy Sunday afternoons the best” gets turned into something like “I saw an alien walking my neighbor’s dog yesterday”.

The Telephone Game is a great way to demonstrate how poor and ineffective communication can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. Being a good communicator is a skill that can be improved upon with practice and training. Here are some simple tips to improving your communication skills:

Establish a communication chain of command.

It’s important to determine a chain of command for communication on a construction project. These are typically spelled out in the contract documents and usually require the owner and general contractor to communicate with each other through the architect. The architect is responsible for communicating with its consultants and the general contractor is responsible for communicating information to the suppliers and subcontractors. The superintendent on a project is typically the main point of contact for the general contractor.

The contract documents, including the drawings, specifications, change order forms and requests for information establish the basis for all construction communication. It is important that any direct communication not outlined in the contract documents receives proper authorization and any changes to the scope or schedule that need to be made are documented and reported through the proper channels.

I overheard a conversation a while back between a superintendent and a subcontractor. Apparently, the subcontractor was not going to be able to start work on a construction project the following week as scheduled.  Some issue or another had arisen and it would probably be a month before they could start on that project, and insisted they had told “someone” at the general contractor’s office.

The superintendent was understandably upset by this news, not only would this cause a major delay in the project, but the subcontractor had not followed the established communication chain of command.  I don’t know what the final outcome of the conversation was, but it’s probably safe to assume that the superintendent had to scramble around to find another subcontractor to do the work and that the initial subcontractor probably won’t be invited to work with the contractor again.

Establishing a clear line of communication that includes identifying points of contact with contact information for key team members is vital to ensuring that information is getting to the right people in a timely manner.

Choose the right communication method for the message.

We communicate in a number of ways every day, both verbally and nonverbally and construction communication is no different. We text, we talk on the phone and in person, we send emails and some of us in this digital age inexplicably still use the old fax machine. On the construction site, we communicate through signs, drawings, hand signals and meetings. We compile daily reports, take photos, create requests for information (RFIs) and review change orders.

All methods of communication have their advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right method of communication can expedite and simplify the exchange of information. Sometimes a quick email is all that’s necessary while other instances may call for a meeting of all key personnel on the project. Items like RFIs, change orders and daily reports are usually laid out in the contract documents with their own specific forms and submittal procedures that have to be followed. For example, if you can’t communicate your email message in one or two short paragraphs, or if there ends up being a lot of back and forth, it may be time to pick up the phone or schedule a quick face-to-face meeting.

There is also a host of project collaboration software solutions available that will allow you to quickly share and disseminate information to all stakeholders on a project. All changes and project documentation can easily be stored and updated so everyone has access to the most up to date information. These construction software solutions and mobile applications can be a great tool for effective communication as long as all stakeholders have access to it, have been properly trained and are committed to using it.

Methods of communication for specific tasks and information sharing should be established early on in the project and agreed upon by all stakeholders. Any deviations from the prescribed methods of communication could result in messages not being received by the intended parties in a timely manner causing delays in the project.

Be an active listener.

When you engage in oral communication, whether in person or over the phone, you want to be an active listener. Don’t just sit there and absorb the information like a digital recorder, that’s passive listening at best. Try to understand what the speaker is trying to communicate from their point of view. Take notes on key points, don’t just transcribe every word they utter and make notes on details you may need clarification on. Make eye contact and provide nonverbal signals such as head nods to show that you are actively listening.

Don’t interrupt the speaker or try to talk over them. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying and avoid forming a response in your mind until they are through. You could miss a vital piece of information that answers your question if you are focusing solely on what you are going to say when it’s your turn to speak. Once the speaker has finished is the time to ask questions and get clarification on any points that remain unclear. Try and rephrase what you’ve heard and understood in order to verify the information provided.

If in a meeting, seek feedback and ask questions when you have the floor. The whole point of project meetings is to communicate and make sure everyone has a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Don’t wait until you’ve gotten back to the office or jobsite to send out an email requesting clarification on some aspect of the project because you didn’t feel comfortable asking it at the meeting.

Avoid confusion, be clear and concise.

When communicating in construction you want to make every effort to have your message understood the first time you send it. Avoid using jargon or terms that the people you are communicating with might not understand. Your message should be focused and to the point. Keep it short and simple as much as possible. If you are working on multiple projects with the same owner or architect, focus on only one project at a time to avoid confusion.  The real challenge is trying to be as detailed as possible while using as few words as necessary. Being brief but comprehensive in your construction communication takes practice. Proofread all written message before sending to see if you can edit it down without altering the meaning or leaving out any critical information.

Keep written communication professional at all times.

Avoid using foul language or allowing your emotions to impact your message. If emotions are running high, take 24 hours before sending that email so you can review and make any changes to your message before sending. If a more immediate response is required, read the message aloud to yourself or have someone else take a look at it to get a second opinion. Break large chunks of data up into smaller paragraphs. People tend to scan instead of reading emails so breaking the information up into smaller chunks makes it easier to process. Use numbered or bulleted list when providing lots of information or asking questions.

Stick to the facts.

Basically, you want to be the Sergeant Joe Friday of the construction industry. You should only be interested in providing or getting the facts. Don’t overelaborate or include extraneous information in your communications. Unless asked, keep your personal opinions or feelings about a project to yourself. It is, however, important that you share your professional opinions on a project when you feel they could be beneficial to the successful completion of a project. Your company’s expertise is part of what landed you the project, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

In addition to establishing a clear chain of command for communication and determining the best methods of communication to use, you should also discuss how often you should be updating and communicating with the owner and architect on the progress of the project. You may be required to file daily reports, but the owner may only want to be updated every other week.

Another good tip is to document and record all communication you have on a construction project. This is easy to do with written communication and should be filed away for later reference in case there are any disputes or need for clarification later. For all oral communication, make notes of what was discussed along with dates and times of these conversations. If you feel the need to document this, send out a quick email to everyone involved that briefly summarizes what was discussed.

Flow of Communication and Construction Projects

The flow of communication affects the flow of a construction project. Problems and delays start to occur when people stop communicating or responding to inquiries. When everyone is collaborating and communicating effectively and efficiently, projects tend to run smoother and be completed on time and budget.

Top 20 Construction Books for Children

Maybe you’re a parent or maybe you just have kids in your life. Maybe you just really like the pictures. Hey, we don’t judge.

Compiled List Of Children’s Construction Books

We’ve compiled a list of our top 20 construction books for children so the little girl in your life can have a book about bulldozers to match her toy and the little boy in your life can have a book about architects to match his future dream of creating big buildings one day.

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Five High-Tech Ways To Control Construction Site Theft

Jobsite thefts of tools, equipment and materials continues to be an issue plaguing the construction industry. Unattended construction sites are easy targets for thieves, especially those lacking adequate security measures. Heavy equipment, power and hand tools and materials such as copper are the most targeted items. According to the National Equipment Register (NER), heavy equipment theft has been on the rise the past couple of years with 11,625 thefts being reported to law enforcement in 2014.

The Cost Of Construction Site Theft

The cost of being the victim of construction theft runs deeper than just the value of the items stolen. You also have to factor in the delays in work, the cost to replace materials and supplies, renting or replacing equipment and tools along with the increased insurance premiums you’ll have to pay going forward.

Check out these five high-tech ways to help combat and control theft at your jobsite. Implementing these systems into your security plan and antitheft programs can go a long way in deterring thieves from targeting your jobsite.

Geo-fencing & GPS Tracking 

The ability to receive text or email alerts the moment a piece of equipment is moved off the jobsite or if the engine started up outside of work hours is a good way to thwart theft of your construction fleet. If your equipment already has a telematics system installed you should be using the features available to control theft.

Telematics systems uses GPS technology, monitoring sensors and onboard diagnostics to track location, performance and operation of equipment and report specific data points like working hours, fuel consumption, engine temperatures and idle times. The real-time data collected is sent via satellite or cell signal and can be accessed through a website or be sent to your smartphone as a text message.

Geo-fencing allows you to create a virtual perimeter around your construction site or within a specified area on the jobsite. During working hours geo-fences can be used as a safety feature, shutting down the engine if a piece of equipment is operated outside a designated area. After hours it can act as a security feature to notify you of unauthorized movement like when a thief is trying to make off with your equipment. GPS tracking allows you to easily locate and recover your stolen equipment.

More and more manufacturers are installing telematics systems as standard equipment on new machines. Most offer access to the data on their websites free for the first few years after purchasing new equipment. You should already be using telematics to better manage your fleet, improve job costing, reduce operating costs and better maintain your equipment. It makes sense to use the system for theft prevention since it can act as a deterrent by shutting down the engine when thieves try to drive your equipment offsite and as a recovery tool to locate stolen machines.

Security Cameras at Construction Sites

Highly visible security cameras act as a strong deterrent to would-be thieves at your construction site. Solar powered units with battery backups offer the flexibility of placing cameras wherever you need them without having to time them into an additional power source. You typically have the option to record continuous video or take time-lapse photos at scheduled intervals. Motion detection and infrared sensors, which measures changes in thermal activity, can be used to activate idle cameras and begin recording.

Security cameras can be equipped with Wi-Fi or cellular communication to transmit the video or images for cloud storage or for live monitoring through a web portal. The benefit of an internet connected camera means you can also get text alerts when a camera is activated by the motion or infrared sensors. This allows you to immediately notify the authorities when unauthorized access to your jobsite is detected. Internet enabled cameras also give you the freedom of accessing live feeds from virtually anywhere. Some models even allow to control the camera so you can pan, tilt and zoom in on different areas you are monitoring.

Camera technology continues to improve while prices continue to drop meaning you can find security camera systems that capture high resolution images for a reasonable price.

Jobsite security cameras can also serve a dual purpose. Sure, they’re great for keeping an eye on the site when everyone’s gone home for the day, but you can also use them during working hours. They are a great tool for monitoring workers for safety and productivity and also for recording progress on a project. Time-lapse videos can edited and used as to market your construction company. Solar powered cameras equipped with infrared sensors and built in Wi-Fi or cellular are great options for construction firms because they are self-contained units that can be easily deployed and mounted throughout the jobsite.

RFID Tracking at Jobsites

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology can help you manage assets and reduce theft at construction sites. RFID systems consist of a reader that transmits a signal to an RFID tag. Tags contain a microchip that can store and process information along with an antenna that receives the signal from the read and transmits data back. RFID readers emit electromagnetic waves to power the tags, allowing them to transmit data back to the reader.

A number of RFID systems have been developed over the past few years for the construction industry. RFID technology was primarily used for supply chain management initially, but is now being used in construction to keep track of tools and equipment as well as a replacement for timecards, since attendance can be recorded when an employee walks onto a jobsite.

RFID systems can be used to combat your company’s tools from magically growing legs and walking off the jobsite. RFID solutions are an ideal of keeping track of which tools were checked out and by which employee and when they were returned. Handheld and vehicle mounted readers can help you located missing tools on the site.

These systems can be completely automated, eliminating the need for manual processes. This will create better accountability among your employees and lead to better inventory control.

Here’s how it works: Workers are issued badges with RFID tags. When a worker passes through a reader into a tool crib trailer the system registers and records his entrance. The tools are embedded with RFID tags so when the worker exits the trailer the reader logs and records which tools he checked out and when. When the employee returns the tools to the trailer at the end of his shift, the systems acknowledges the items that were checked back in. At the end of the day a report can be run to identify any items that were not returned and who was responsible for checking them out.

Keyless Ignition/Transponder Chip Keys

Equipment manufacturers tend to use the same ignition across their entire product line meaning all the keys are cut the exact same way, creating a one key fits all system. The benefit is that owners can operate all their equipment from the same manufacturer with the same key. It makes it easier to get replacements when keys are lost or missing and owners tend to accumulate lots of spares to avoid downtime by operators not being able to start up equipment. The downside to this is that it is very easy for would-be thieves to get their hands on duplicate keys to steal your equipment. A quick search on Amazon and eBay reveals a number of vendors selling sets of keys for every major manufacturer of construction equipment.

The solution to this is to replace the factory installed ignition with either a keyless ignition system or a more secure ignition lock. Keyless ignition systems require an operator to input a PIN in order to start the machine. Owners can program PINs to expire after a certain number of days or delete them when an employee leaves the company or is terminated. Keyless ignitions can be equipped with wireless relays in the ignition or fuel pump circuit to prevent the system from being circumvented and hotwired. These systems can deter theft and also prohibit unauthorized use of equipment.

Caterpillar (CAT) created a Machine Security System that works the same way that your transponder, or chip, key works on your car or truck and another example of how RFID technology is being used. Each security key has a unique ID number which is read by an electronic control module and only keys that have been programmed into that particular machine can start it. Individual keys can be programmed into multiple machines. The system can also be unarmed so that any CAT ignition key can be used during working hours and then rearmed at the end of the day to prevent theft.

Drone Surveillance at Construction Sites

In an earlier post, Construction Industry Gears Up For The Drone Revolution, we discussed how construction firms are currently benefiting from the use of drones to handle tasks like mapping and surveying of construction sites. We briefly touched on the fact to drones could one day be used to patrol construction sites at night equipped with motion sensors and infrared or night vision cameras. They could be automatically deployed from a charging station and fly along a preprogrammed route at regular intervals.

It’s uncertain if this type of use would be allowed by the FAA. Currently their proposed rules for commercial use would require a visual line-of-sight (VLOS) be maintained between the operator and the drone. It’s possible that exemptions would be allowed in instances like this since the drone would be operated at a pretty low altitude over a fixed area.

None of the systems and devices we covered should be used as your sole means of preventing theft. A solid security plan should involve multiple layers of theft deterrents and measures. A well-lit site encircled by security fencing topped with razor wire should be your first line of defense. Put up warning signs to discourage thieves and trespassers.

The harder it is to access your site, the less likely it is thieves will target it. When feasible, lock up all tools, equipment and supplies inside buildings or trailers. For heavy equipment, use wheel locks and other immobilization devices to prevent them from being driven off the site or winched onto a trailer and hauled off.

Wrap Up: Construction Job Site Safety

Contact the local authorities and ask them increase their patrols or consider hiring security guards to monitor the site on weekends or holidays when the site is unattended. Make sure you involve as many workers as possible in helping maintain a secure jobsite. Remember, no system is 100% effective, but incorporating multiple security measures will help to minimize your losses.