Contributed by Justin Havre
The blockchain is a type of decentralized public ledger that makes it easier to organize, verify, and protect information. While it's mainly been associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, the technology has much more potential than that. It's been theoretically applied to almost every sector of the economy and is slowly transitioning from the possible to the practical.
Blockchain may be able to tighten up construction deadlines, prevent fraud, and cut out the middlemen all while encouraging new ideas and partnerships.
What the Blockchain Does
The blockchain is a revolutionary way to input information and secure it from anyone who shouldn't have access to it. Not only can it keep financial transactions safe from prying eyes, but it can also streamline construction projects with multiple moving parts. Between investors, developers, and construction workers, it's easy for information to slip through the cracks. But the blockchain isn't like any other project management tool anyone's ever used before.
Using Smart Contracts
A smart contract is a series of if/then statements that are set up according to the rules of each project. The blockchain is dominated by the logistics of the programmer, so it can be adapted to small and large projects alike. Construction companies can use these smart contracts to essentially control every aspect of the project. So, if a painter needs to wait for an inspector to first check the drywall before painting, there will be an unhackable log where they can plainly see whether or not an inspector has held up their end of the bargain.
The blockchain makes it easier than ever for construction crews to keep up with new technology on the scene. For example, Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools may have helped to improve precision during construction, but it's also led to a lot of confusion on the actual job site. When changes can be made faster than ever, workers need a single source to receive updates in real-time. The blockchain can update everyone that the developers want a new color of paint in the bathroom or slightly different dimensions in the master bathroom.
Finding the Right People
There is a lot of segregation in construction, which leads to the isolation of ideas and talent. This separation is (in part) due to the fact that it's difficult to both find and coordinate with the right partners. Much like with picking the right real estate agent to work with, if there isn't an easy way to assess a company's reputation, it can lead to undue competition. The blockchain can both facilitate coordination and inspire partnerships between companies with different specialties. This type of cross-pollination of skills can lead to some truly innovative results in the industry.
Contributed by Dean Moilanen
The finishing trades most often come into play at the end of the construction project. In many cases, the end result is decorative, ornamental, and breathes life into the vision of the finished project. The installation of ceramic tile and natural stone is a finishing trade which must deliver on an aesthetically pleasing expectation AND be a resilient, long lasting, wearing surface. Unfortunately, all too often, critical installation methods and standards are not followed, with the end result culminating in failure.
Ironically, this uptick in installation failure comes at a time when the combined forces of the tile and stone industry are proactively reaching out to offer training and certification for contractors and installers. The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) are just some of the organizations offering comprehensive education and training.
The downturn in the construction industry, which occurred during the last recession, saw a vast outflow of qualified installers from the industry. The challenge still remains to locate and train individuals to address the demands of a rebounding trade. This challenge has played a role in some of the nagging failure issues that continue to occur. These failures are based more on a lack of installer knowledge and competence, then deliberate shoddy practices.
Simply put, yes, you “really have to do that”, follow the ANSI or ASTM standard that is, if you want to steer clear of problems and failures. Listed below are just two of the concerns which need to be addressed in today’s ceramic tile and stone industry.
If there is one overwhelming area of concern when it comes to the success or failure of a tile or stone installation, it would be the adequate bonding of the tile or stone to the substrate. ANSI A108.5-2.2.2 outlines the process of achieving the coverage needed to bond tile or stone to the wall or floor substrate. Summarized, the adhesive used to bond the tile or stone must be applied uniformly and evenly to the substrate; no “rainbow arches of adhesive”, no “five spotting” or daubs of adhesive placed in irregular fashion on the substrate, serving as “targets” for bonding of tile.
Minimum coverage required (the amount of bonding agent affixed to the underside of the tile) can range from 80% in “dry” areas to 95% in wet areas. Wet area bonding has heightened concern, as any voids in the setting bed can serve to trap moisture and result in microbial growth (mold). The lack of adequate bond between the substrate and tile or stone finished surfaces is the culprit in all too many failures.
Wet area waterproofing concerns continue to plague tile and stone installations as well. Of growing concern is the need for tile and stone shower detail to withstand vapor migration, as steam/vapor (resulting from shower usage) migrates to behind the tiled shower wall. The moisture damages the interior wall details and oftentimes finds a food source that contributes to mold.
ASTM E96 Procedure E is a performance standard for waterproof membrane systems, which when called out in specifications ensures a “steam room” level of performance on the shower walls of these wet areas. Typically, the products meeting this standard are applied to the outer face of a suitable wall substrate in shower details, with the tile then bonded to the membrane. When assessing the viability of product to be used with regard to this ASTM standard, be sure to source independent third party testing for validating a product’s performance claims.
There is now language and documentation available to architects and specification writers which calls for qualified labor, and is available from the National Tile Contractors Association. Implementation of this language would aid industry efforts to improve installation quality.
^^ A very typical stock image for "construction" ^^
Contributed by Darren Lester
For as long as I’ve been involved in and around the construction industry, there’s been an underlying consensus that we need to clean up the public's perception of the industry.
Disasters like Grenfell Tower and scandals like the Carillion collapse tend to bring this into sharp focus and we see a renewed energy to show people the positive stuff in construction.
The legitimate worry is that all of the negativity, combined with the image of the stereotypical construction worker, complete with hard hat and hi-vis jacket, will limit our ability to attract younger, smarter, tech-savvy professionals and the must-needed next generation workforce.
So the logical conclusion is to try to push the good stuff even harder.
But perhaps this is the wrong approach.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the public image of the construction industry exists for a reason — it’s mostly accurate.
To portray anything else would be misleading.
Our industry has huge issues, from top to bottom.
We’re embarrassingly inefficient. Rarely deliver as promised. We overspend. We’re huge polluters. We're wasteful with resources. We put people’s physical health and lives at risk on a daily basis. We have a terrible record of mental ill health amongst workers. We’re rife with corruption and 'old boys' clubs. We treat women unfairly. We lack any sort of competent leadership. And we’re pretty much the worst of laggards in adopting digital technology.
I could go on.
If we continue to try to put a positive spin on things, or suppress these issues in order to exemplify the glimmers of hope there are within the industry (and don't get me wrong, they do exist), then we’ll end up with another generation of workers who simply knuckle down and accept that this is as good as it gets.
Ironically, shining a light on these shortcomings, by making them painfully transparent to the whole world and by holding our hands up to say “sorry, things aren’t great”, perhaps we can give ourselves the best chance of driving change.
Because all of the sh*t that’s wrong with our industry is actually what could attract the smartest, most ambitious young professionals and entrepreneurs (and the capital to back them), who see an opportunity to really disrupt and rebuild a huge industry.
Yes, we should continue to educate young professionals about the industry, and show them that there are more options to a career in construction than working on a cold, wet building site. But all industries have their stereotypes - that in itself isn't holding us back from change.
But perhaps we should also share with them our biggest failings, and present them as rewarding opportunities for those willing to challenge the status quo.
Not an easy thing to do, but maybe we'd end up with real change, rather than a slightly improved public image.
Contributed by Joe Schiavone
(Editor's note: While addressed to glaziers, this article is ideal for any building product representative or manufacturer)
Substitution Requests are prevalent in construction projects of all scales. They offer several benefits to glazing contractors, such as helping them win a job; however, there is a right way and a wrong way to submit them.
A firm understanding of the procedures involved in Substitution Requests can increase the likelihood of the product being accepted, and of repeat business as a result of building a favorable reputation. With architects facing increasingly tight schedules, the submitter should be aware that the odds of success often depend on how clear and concise the Substitution Request is.
Substitution Requests are simply proposed changes in products, equipment, and/or methods of construction from those that are specified by the architect. Nearly every project—regardless of project delivery method—encounters product substitutions so opportunities are abundant.
The most opportune time in the project lifecycle to submit a Substitution Request is during the bid phase when the general contractor is seeking out a glazing contractor. This creates a level playing field amongst bidders. It's possible to submit a Substitution Request during construction, but the process can be more complicated and should only be pursued when certain issues arise such as material unavailability, excessive lead times, or a change in code requirements.
There are several scenarios where substitutions are practical and feasible. CSI's Construction Contract Administration Practice Guide identifies key areas in which a Substitution Request should be reviewed. They include:
The substitution should add value and present clear advantages to the architect, and ultimately the owner, if it's to be approved. It must also be equal or superior to the specified product, and cannot adversely impact the project cost or schedule.
When submitting a Substitution Request, glazing contractors and product manufacturers should work directly with the bidding general contractor. Not doing so can be detrimental to the team dynamic and slow the project's progress. Although contacting the architect is possible, you risk immediate rejection. You also risk building a detrimental reputation for not following established protocol, which can cost you future work.
In some cases, a designer without formal Contract Document training writes the specifications. They may also be written in haste because of rushed schedules. This means that an experienced glazing contractor has more opportunities to spot potential conflicts that are overlooked, and suggest substitutions that will improve quality or reduce risk.
Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
(Editor's Note: Please make sure you've read Part 1 of this article here)
5. The Actual Specification Section for your Work: At our workshops and presentations, the general feedback from Subcontractors has been that they only look at the sections specific to their work, if they look at the specifications at all. This is a mistake and you are exposing yourself to added risk if that is how you operate.
Part 1 GENERAL of the Section is the third layer of Administrative Requirements on the project. These requirements are specific to your product. Part 1 will include things like submittals, warranty, pre-installation meetings, codes, closeout procedures, samples, mock-ups, testing, etc. SPECIFIC TO YOUR PRODUCT/INSTALLATION. These requirements are IN ADDITION TO the General Conditions (Broad Project Requirements) and the Division 01 Requirements (Specific Project Wide Requirements). Basically, you have three places to look to understand what you are required to do and provide.
Part 2 PRODUCTS is everything you need to know about the products you are to provide for your work. Manufacturer, type, style, size, color, transitions, accessories, etc. You will also find things like factory testing requirements.
Part 3 EXECUTION includes all of the information and requirements for the installation of your product. This can include things like pre-installation testing, limits on substitutions, performance criteria, operation and controls, shop fabrication, assembly, finishing methods, installation instructions, preparation, site quality control, cleaning, closeout activities, training and maintenance.
The bottom line is that there is very important information in the full drawings and specifications of which you need to be aware. Having full knowledge of these items will help you spot conflicts between the drawings and specifications, understand what work is expected of you and help you reduce risk from the very beginning. If you are awarded the project, this early knowledge of the requirements will help you ask the right questions, plan your work efficiently, proactively address issues and save you time.
This article represents only a portion of the knowledge you should have if you work in any discipline in Architecture, Engineering or Construction. The good news is, there are places you can get this knowledge with programs that are well rounded and affordable.
The Construction Specifications Institute offers cradle-to-grave education in Project Delivery through the CDT (Construction Documents Technologist) Education Program. You can find out more here: https://www.csiresources.org/certification/cdt
The FCICA (The Flooring Contractors Association) offers the CIM (Certified Installation Manager) Program which also offers education in Construction Documents. Information on that program is located here: https://www.fcica.com/CIM
We hope you join us at the table for better coordination and collaboration with less risk!
(This article was previously published in the Flooring Contractor Magazine, Volume 13 No. 3, which you can read here. )
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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