Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
On July 26th, my company finished installing a flooring project that sparked a trilogy of blog posts, "Not Quite Ready Yet", "Project Compaction: Not Just for Soil" and (I thought) concluding with “It’s Just a Matter of Time” on July 29th.
This was a non-prevailing wage, privately funded project in one of the Boroughs of Manhattan where our standard credit terms were negotiated with us by the General Contractor. We typically request a 50% deposit at the time of the contract award, a 30% balance due on the day materials arrive on the project and then collect the 20% balance on the final day on site. On this particular project, they agreed to our 50% deposit, but asked to pay us down to 10% retainage within 30 days of completion. We reluctantly agreed and even though it was change ordered immediately, we didn’t insist on collecting additional money up front on the change order work. We eventually collected our 50% deposit on the base bid, despite it taking multiple payments to tally.
I won’t rehash many of the particulars that were outlined in my previous three posts, but this project did not go smoothly from award. We fought tooth and nail to have the space ready, then to have it solely to ourselves, to not have our in-place work damaged (by workers, inspectors or Acts of God) and then to complete within their requested window. The final brush stroke was on Friday, July 26th. I submitted all billing and paperwork in a timely fashion, and we did what many do to receive payment on a construction project: we waited.
At about a week before our Net 30 term approached, I started reminding the contractor that our money was due. We received immediate pushback from the GC that they had not been funded by the owner. Our response was easy: our payment terms were not paid when paid, as per your negotiation.
Back and forth we went. We waited. More back and forth. More waiting. As day 60 approached with no further money received, we decided to protect ourselves the best we could by filing a mechanic’s lien on the project.
Useless Search Bar Results
Contributed by Elias Saltz
Like it or not, the architectural product library is a thing of the past. No longer do firms set aside rooms dedicated to shelves covered with hefty binders. The parade of product reps schlepping suitcases filled with paper updates has mostly stopped. Architects' and specifiers' need for up-to-date information, on the other hand, has not abated. My job writing specifications requires me to research multiple products and systems every single day. Product data is now almost exclusively available electronically, and manufacturers are figuring out the best way to present and distribute that information. Many consolidate the information on thumb drives and hand them to architects and specifiers at meetings and product shows. But how useful is that when those thumb drives end up tossed in a box, gathering dust?
Also, it's recognized now that thumb drives are a major cyber security risk; any one of them can be a malware or espionage vector and the product manufacturer may not even know it (every single thumb drive is made in China, and who knows what's hidden in them?!). Also, the data on the drives is current as of the date the drive is made, but quickly gets obsolete. So thumb drives aren't the answer.
The only feasible on-demand information source we have, other than old-fashioned picking up the phone or meeting reps in person, is manufacturer websites. I visit dozens of sites for every project I write, and often I struggle to find the information I need. This might be because the sites are poorly designed, require registration, or simply don't have the information. The search bars return useless results. The guide specifications, when available, aren't editable. There are no details. There are no tools to find local reps.
Most sites actually contain very thorough information, but there's frequently a learning curve to finding it efficiently because they do counterintuitive things. Often, for example, clicking "I'm an Architect" displays only CEUs, not product information.
The time is ripe, I believe, for the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), a national association most famous for publishing formats adopted by the entire construction industry, to jump into solving this problem. WebFormat (or whatever it would be named) is an idea that has been floating around for a long time, but hasn't yet been implemented. Given the investment CSI has been making in upgrading its technological footprint, the time is ripe to develop this product.
What would WebFormat contain? I imagine a single hyperlink on each manufacturer's homepage that would bring us to an index of the available products, perhaps organized in multiple ways (how about drop down options for sorting by MasterFormat number, UniFormat category, and OmniClass table), with a very brief description of the product within the index. The main index page would also have a way to search for local reps and senior technical reps. Upon visiting a specific product, we could immediately find details, product data sheets, photographs, available colors/finishes, guide specs (in MS Word), warranty information, HPD's and EPD's, installer qualifications, and installation instructions. All the information will be organized by every manufacturer in a uniform way.
Let's end the endless, frustrating, fruitless web searches, and learn from how MasterFormat and SectionFormat have transformed AEC. CSI needs to begin working on WebFormat, now.
Contributed by Nick Carrillo
(Editor's Note: October is Careers in Construction Month. Please feel free to delve into our previous posts, "Don't Just Look for Employees, Attract Them" and "Changing the Public's Perception")
We’ve done it, we’ve written enough articles to know that the construction industry is facing a workforce shortage, and that shortage isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The problem is very clearly identified.
If you ask older generations, the reason for our workforce shortage is the lack of desire to work in the trades from the younger generation(s). Or, to put it bluntly, the millennials don’t want to work hard and get dirty.
I can hear it now, “millennials are the ‘everybody gets a trophy’ generation and are entitled!” Those type of casual statements are broadly painting an entire generation as lazy and entitled based on the few. Does that mean that everyone born in the 60’s is a pot-smoking hippie? Or everyone in the 70’s is a disco party maniac? No, it doesn’t.
A quick Google search will show a list of the largest companies in the world run, or founded by, millennials. Facebook, The Honest Company, AirBnB, Lyft and many more companies that we all rely on and that undoubtedly take a lot of hard work to maintain.
Baby boomers may not be outright saying these younger generations are worthless and hopeless when they said, ‘lazy and entitled’. However, I’ve often heard the phrase, “How do we change the mindset of an entire generation?” Hearing it enough, without back story or explanation, it leads the audience to believe that the people being referenced are wrong, and the person saying it is right.
I know, after working so many years alongside baby boomers, the comments are not malicious. I know that when a frustrated owner, manager or supervisor makes these statements, they simply are trying to express the desired change in the way we communicate; a change in the way we perceive the information that one generation has to offer the other.
So, how do we change the mindset of an entire generation? YOU DON’T
Changing the Public's Perception
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
I've been saying it for years now. The public's perception of just what is a construction worker has to change.
Sure, the hardhat and overalls wearing carpenter, working outdoors and swinging a hammer does indeed exist. But construction is SO MUCH MORE.
Construction is the process, art, or manner of constructing something.
Using that definition, if you work within the construction industry you could hold one of well over a hundred different job roles or titles. Due to our heavy involvement in the Construction Specifications Institute and CSI's diversified membership base of ALL players within the built environment, when Let's Fix Construction was founded we chose to view the construction industry as this more encompassing whole. We chose AEC - Architecture, Engineering & Construction - as our definition, a term that is more widely recognized and accepted today.
So whether that is more of a skilled tradesman position, such as a flooring installer, cement mason, painter, welder, ironworker or boilermaker, or perhaps it may be on the design end, such as an architect or engineer (or one of dozens of roles within an office), construction is so far beyond our hammer-swinging carpenter that has become the unfortunate public face.
During this Careers in Construction Month, it’s important that we not only talk to, but inform the younger generation on not just what construction is, but what construction can be.
Today, Monday October 7th, is Careers in Construction Day. Meant to be a day of action on social media for those working within construction, please take a moment to share a picture of yourself on the job and post it to social media with the tag #CICDAY2019 in order to give people a true glimpse into our daily lives. While you're at it, feel free to use our hashtag #FixConstruction
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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