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The team at Software Advice, a construction management software advisory firm, has sent along the results of their 2014 survey of potential buyers of construction software who contacted them for advice during the year. While not a scientific survey, the anecdotal results are revealing.

According to Forrest Burnson at Software Advice, "The most important thing that construction professionals need to realize is that the software they use is a tool; like any other tool, it's better to invest in something that adequately suits the user's needs and is well-made and reliable. I think a lot of construction firm owners experience a degree of sticker shock when they're looking to deploy specialized construction software, and that's understandable—if they're graduating from using QuickBooks or Microsoft Office, then the cost can seem excessive at first. But once they see how that specialized software not only saves them time, but also improves their bids and estimates and keeps them more organized, then it's easier for them to justify the investment. To put it another way: Few construction firms who deploy specialized software solutions ever go back to doing things the old-fashioned way."    Read more » about Construction Software Survey Update

The USW press release states, “The United Steelworkers (USW) announced today (March 12) that it has reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract with Shell Oil as a pattern agreement for the rest of the industry. The agreement accomplishes the major goals as directed by the USW’s oil conference in October of last year, and has been approved by union’s lead negotiators and National Oil Bargaining Policy (NOBP) Committee.

This tentative “national agreement” to end the six week strike action between the union and the energy industry was a response to the expiration of last wage agreement and the break down of talks. The strike was called on Feb 1, 2015 for workers at 15 union plants, including 12 refineries.    Read more » about It’s Not Over Until The Fat Man Signs

If you get motion sickness, don’t go to the 108-story Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago on a windy day. The building sways so much that, not only will you get motion sickness, the elevator that you are riding in might get shut down or stuck in the shaft until the wind subsides. This, according to Justin McGar in a recent posting in Sourceable, is but an indicator of the design and engineering issues related to tall towers and the elements.

There are a wide variety of solutions that engineers apply to the newer designs for motion damping, including the use of stiffening or core design or mass and tuned liquid dampers that quiet the motion by acting as a counter balance to the pressures and motion of the wind.

Other buildings can induce added motion for buildings by creating a vortex that increases the speed of the wind as it hits the buildings around it. Proximity becomes a factor especially when tall buildings are clustered in cities like Chicago where wind is a constant.

One of the most important professionals involved in the design team for tall buildings has become the wind engineer. For the tall buildings being built these days, wind-engineers work side-by-side with the architects to tweak designs in order to counter the wind effects and reduce the sway, and ultimately, reduce the cost of those systems and the core and shell of the buildings.    Read more » about Designing the Wind Away!

I remember the first time I crossed a strike picket line. It was at a construction site for a Holly Sugar Beet processing plant in Hereford, Texas. The electricians union who wanted higher pay for their workers called the strike. The picket line was comprised of my neighbors who I carpooled the 90 miles to the construction site with most days. Once they struck, they refused to give me a ride and were suddenly calling me a scab even though I worked in the engineer’s office on the drafting board. Serious stuff for them. Scary for me. Shut down the site for a week. That was then, this is now.

Today, members of the United Steel Workers (USW) are on a five-week strike at several of the major refineries in the country while the negotiators work to replace the “three year collective bargaining agreement that expired at the beginning of February”. The strike action is over what the unions call unfair labor practices (ULP) claiming that the industry has neglected the “health and safety” of their workers.   Read more » about Steelworkers Still on Strike

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Google Away!

by Jim Kollaer on Fri, 03/06/2015 - 7:30am

One of the coolest things afoot in Silicon Valley is the new Google headquarters building, if you can call it a building; it's more a living environment. The company has announced it is venturing into robotics, and the new headquarters will use robots, no, “Crabots” to be able to reconfigure the spaces over night once the original buildings are complete.

Nathan Donato-Weinstein, a Real Estate reporter for the Silicon Valley Business Journal, is tracking the progress of all things real estate in the valley. He recently penned an article for the SVBJ about the “Crabots” as well as several other articles about the leading edge design of the new facilities, a la the morphed geodesic domes of Buckminster Fuller. These articles show some of the design features of the new buildings, but also chronicle several interviews that he has had with the designers and engineers of the facility.    Read more » about Google Away!

We hear that question a lot on the Internet these days, but my question refers to the picture of a class of students who attend the Career Pathways Institute in Grand Island, Nebraska finishing concrete for a townhouse project for Ryan Bartels Construction Company.

The story chronicles the way that one of those students, Caleb Wardyn, a senior at Central Catholic high school found a part-time job with Bartels. It also talks about how Bartels, a staunch supporter of the CPI construction pathway, brought Caleb and 11 other students who are in the construction pathway at CPI to work on a project where they get “hands-on” experience while they are still in school.    Read more » about What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Ever stop and wonder who builds those tall towers around the world? Sure, we hear about the engineers or the “starchitects” but we seldom hear about the skilled work force that makes the designs a reality for the rest of us.

We have followed the series of articles by Tom Curwen in the LA Times about the new Wilshire Grand Center in downtown LA. Curwen has written an article that is particularly interesting to me, and I thought that you might learn something from it as well.

In the fifth part of the story of the 73-story tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi, Curwen focuses on the craft workers; the iron workers, tile and stone setters, the “rod busters”, concrete finishers, plumbers, electricians, glaziers and carpenters needed to build the core and shell of the Center. The article even has an interactive chart to show the number of people it takes for each month by trade to create the building. Just a snapshot of the skills needed to be able to build any building large or small.    Read more » about How Many Ironworkers Does it Take to Build the Tallest Building in LA?

Known for his unusually creative designs that have been built at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Frank Gehry’s latest design, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, is about to open at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Some critics have already said that the crumpled paper bag design will become a landmark that will rival the Sydney Opera House.

The building is an unusual shape with new and different forms and shapes that will not only create a landmark on the UTS campus, it will also create a unique learning environment for the students who study there.   Read more » about The Crumpled Paper Bag Design from Frank Gehry

Archimedes once said, “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” In the world of new things, the saying might be, “Give me a large enough 3d printer and I can print a city.”

Not quite yet, but in the quest for bigger 3D printing, the Chinese company Winsun that last year claimed to have printed ten houses in 24 hours, recently printed a five-story apartment building and a 11,000 square foot mansion. Granted, they were printed in pieces and then assembled on site with appropriate reinforcing and foundations. However, this represents a step forward in the 3D manufacturing of housing in a part of the world that is sorely in need of low cost housing for a burgeoning population.

According to an article published on CNET, the 3D printing process for construction can drastically reduce production costs by 50-70%, reduce construction waste by 30-60%, and reduce labor costs by 50-80%.    Read more » about Chinese Design Company Creates the Largest “Printed” Structure

What goes into the structural design of the skyscrapers being built around the world today? A better question might be, “Who designs the structure of those skyscrapers to withstand the heat, winds, earthquakes and hurricanes that pummel those towers we live and work in every day?” The answer is that there are some really talented engineers who study, design, test and retest the possible solutions to meet those challenges.

Tom Curwen and his team of reporters are tracking the design and construction of the Wilshire Grand Center in LA in a series of amazing articles that documents some of the unsung design, engineering and construction heroes responsible for the 900 room hotel and office building at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Figeroa Street.    Read more » about Wilshire Grand Center – Being Built to Survive the Next Big LA Earthquake

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