Blog

1Call2Build—Our Blog

Here are some thoughts and insight on our business and the construction industry in general. We update our blog regularly to keep you informed and entertained.

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February 28, 2017

What Price Trends are you Seeing in Commercial Construction?

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Q. What price trends are you seeing in commercial construction?

A. On the heels of oil, many construction-related commodities have experienced significant declines in price over the past two years, including at times up to a 30% decrease for asphalt and No. 2 diesel, and nearly 15% decrease for iron and steel. These decreases don’t reflect construction material price trends across the board – other products such as glass, cement and construction sand, gravel and stone are experiencing modest increases in price – however on average, we remain at historically low material price levels.

That said, materials are only one component of overall construction costs. Subcontractors still have difficulty finding skilled labor, affecting wages and ultimately fueling increases in overall construction costs year over year. While we’ve become accustomed to labor shortages in our region, this lack of skilled construction labor is now prevalent throughout the U.S., and reflects an overall migration from technical education and an increase in more sophisticated projects. Work is now more complex due to sustainability measures, expanding building codes, and technology. Aging plumbers, electricians, framers and HVAC subcontractors are all in demand, without sufficient apprentices in the ranks to take over soon.

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December 16, 2016

What’s the Difference Between an Architect and a Designer/Draftsman?

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Q: What’s the difference between an architect and a designer/draftsman?

A: There is a place and context for both architects and designers (or draftsmen). Both can design aesthetically, and both can create a workable vision from your concepts. However, while a designer may have some education and training as an architect, they have not taken or passed the Architect Registration Exam and completed state licensing to legally call themselves an architect. It’s similar to passing the Bar examination for the legal profession, with fairly low passing rates (around 65%) that weed out those who haven’t thoroughly prepared to take on legal responsibility for their work.

What’s in a credential? From a purely economic standpoint, architects are trained to maximize the programming of your new surroundings, making your design investment more profitable in the long run. They ensure structural integrity and code compliance, and are trained to maximize energy and operational efficiency. Architects recommend the best materials and methods for construction, and monitor construction practices throughout the life of the project – keeping an eye on your capital investment.

Architectural designers can be an invaluable resource when working side-by-side with a licensed architect, but ultimately there are significant reasons why architects have earned the right to officially sign and seal their plans.

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November 7, 2016

What’s the Difference Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control?

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Q.  What’s the difference between Quality Assurance and Quality Control?

A.  Preventing mistakes and poor workmanship is more time and cost effective than correcting them. With that in mind, Quality Assurance identifies weaknesses and threats, and mitigates issues before they arise. Quality Assurance is setting standards, programs and processes.

Consolidated has developed two comprehensive Quality Assurance programs: Safety, Quality, Production (SQP) and Warranty. With SQP, metrics have been identified, and all trade foremen on our project sites hold daily morning goal setting meetings per these metrics. Hazards are identified and the stage is set for a synchronized team to perform at its highest level. Additionally, Consolidated’s full service Warranty Program provides objective guidance and constant feedback on areas of improvement. Where other warranty programs are an afterthought of the project, Consolidated’s program turns the tables on warranty, making it proactive. Through internal warranty bulletins and presentations, the warranty manager highlights real-world experience and challenges with new products and methods. Pre-installation meetings with subcontractors allow him to “begin with the end in mind” by setting quality expectations and discussing areas of concern.

On the other hand, but equally important, Quality Control is the activity which monitors and verifies adherence to pre-defined standards and corrects defects. Quality Control is the inspection, the report, and the corrective action. In construction, continuous Quality Control measures are critical in identifying a sub-standard final product. The interconnectedness of the structure, mechanical systems and finishes means that poor quality in one area can affect the quality and outcome of all subsequent trades.

Consolidated’s project superintendents are expected to check all subcontractors’ work early, while corrections in quality are easy to fix. Then, quality checks continue daily throughout the life of the project. Our superintendents also complete phased punch lists in addition to a final project punch list. Phased punch lists ensure quality checks immediately after each subcontractor’s portion of the work is complete – before they leave the site, when corrections are simpler. To an even higher degree of critical review, our Safety and Construction Operations leaders personally visit project sites, unannounced, to audit site operations and inspect quality.

Quality Control is only as good as the Quality Assurance program that defines it. A commitment to quality at the organizational level, project design and estimate level, and work site level must all be in place, with expectations set and resources available to implement the program. Builders committed to proactive quality and cost effectiveness will illustrate their Quality Control measures and their Quality Assurance program.

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November 3, 2016

What’s The Best Way to Prevent Buyer’s Remorse When Building?

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Q.  What’s the best way to prevent buyer’s remorse when building?

A.  If you’ve been the decision maker for a building project, you know there are seemingly endless decisions to be made. When choices are difficult, people often revisit decisions and ponder alternatives which, research indicates, can ultimately lower overall satisfaction. Buyer’s remorse is incredibly common in new construction.

Without the benefit of being able to physically experience a building, its design can be difficult to grasp. Because you can’t touch and feel the final product until it’s built, how can you be confident you’ve identified your options and made educated decisions?

Among its many benefits, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is one of the tools architects use to help our clients better understand the building we are designing. By producing a three-dimensional, virtual model of your building, the physical experience is closely replicated. Consumers can then be confident in the choices they’ve made and eliminate second-guessing.

Behavioral science indicates that the additional act of seeing and virtually feeling the final product increases satisfaction, not only during a process, but more importantly at its conclusion. In architecture, BIM is the link between the abstract and physical that consumers need to feel confident in their decision-making.

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July 20, 2016

Three Keys to Gaining Community Support for School Referendums

1. Space Needs as Driven by Your Educational Program

Many school districts in the United States are facing facility challenges which impair their ability to provide quality educational programs to students. The most prevalent problem is the overcrowding of classrooms and facilities. Although the majority of overcrowding is seen in inner city school districts, there are other areas in the Midwest which face the same issue as well, such as North Dakota.

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When facilities become overcrowded, it is difficult for students to learn and teachers to teach. Some school districts are using portable classrooms and leasing other facilities in order to provide enough space for students, which creates parking problems, safety concerns, pressure on core facilities like kitchens and restrooms, and increases operating costs.

2. Condition and Expected Useful Life of Existing Facilities

Many Schools are outdated and reaching the end of their expected useful life. The need for building assessments has become crucial, in order to plan for capital maintenance needs, and evaluate whether it makes sense to keep investing in aging facilities.. According to the US Department of Education, “Many school systems, particularly those in urban and high-poverty areas, are plagued by decaying buildings that threaten the health, safety, and learning opportunities of students.” Several studies show there is a significant relationship between school building conditions and student achievement and behavior. In fact, students tend to score lower on standardized tests in schools which have poor facilities than those who don’t.

3. Community Listening and Determining What They Will Support

Community listening is essential when making local decisions, especially those involving tax payer dollars to fund educational projects. Consolidated Construction thrives on a 7 habits culture, which drives us to reach consensus. We believe that success is achieved through the desire to first listen while seeking to understand the other person’s point of view. We start with a Community listening process in order to gain an understanding of their needs, then tailor design and construction solutions towards what the Community supports.

Visit our Education Page for more information.

Jim Perras_2014 Jim Perras is a Principal with Consolidated Construction, and has successfully delivered over $900 million worth of projects in 8 states throughout his 30 year career. Jim was the first Certified Construction Manager (CCM) in the State of Wisconsin. He plays a leadership role in project planning, specializing in industrial, non-profit, church, and educational, clients. To contact Jim directly, call: 920-450-7397.