Jim Kollaer's blog

Software Advice, a Gartner company that connects buyers with software vendors in the construction industry, recently released the results of a study they conducted on the Impact of Job Roles on Construction Software Purchasing Decisions.  Software Advice surveyed over 800 owners, project managers and IT professionals about their software buying habits in the face of pressure from the construction market to get it done “faster, cheaper, and with fewer change orders and do-overs.”

The annual survey concludes that your reason for buying software depends on your position in the firm, especially in small and mid-sized construction firms.

According to the results of the survey, 36% of those owners were buying new software to increase accuracy in the systems that they deploy.   Read more » about Why Contractors Buy New Software

A recent study prepared by NRG Research for the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of British Columbia (ICBA) reveals that 59% of the respondents were unaware of how to get into the trades because of misperceptions of the construction trades.  The study also showed that less than 50% of the respondents saw the construction trades as a long-term career.

Most of the respondents (British Columbians aged 18-29 years old) ranked construction jobs and skilled trades at the bottom of the list of possible jobs.  The study concluded that the industry has not done a good job of defining a road map for careers in the skilled trades in construction.

The poll, according to Philip Hochstein, president of ICBA, also showed that the top factors for candidates in seeking a crafts trade as a career are: discovering that they love the work, making more money, having job security, and having the opportunity for career advancement.

In summarizing the task ahead, Hochstein said that, “As an industry, we have some work to do to change the way young people perceive skilled trades.  ICBA and the open shop construction industry are rolling up our sleeves to make sure we do.”   Read more » about Misperception of the Construction Trades as a Career is a Global Issue

A recent article in Equipment World called Eyes in the Sky: How drones and UAVs are already affecting construction jobsites is very revealing.  For those of us who built and flew model airplanes in our teen years, this new grown-up sophisticated model aircraft can be fun to fly, but more important, it has already proven its value by flying where no man or woman can go with survey crews, inspection teams, flying over toxic sites, pipelines and even nuclear disasters.

The article highlights the various models of drones being experimented with by three different companies.

First, Richard Evans of SpawGlass called the “Tinkerer” by the author, because he grew up building and flying model airplanes.  Today he uses drones to inspect and fly construction sites At SpawGlass in Houston.   Read more » about Drones Flying on to Construction Sites

A recent study by the National Women’s Law Center called Women In Construction: Still Breaking Ground examines the current state of women in construction and finds that the industry is sorely lacking in programs to bring women into the industry and that women continue to suffer harassment and bullying on the jobsite.

The study, underwritten by the Ford Foundation, Morningstar Foundation, New Morning Foundation and the Irene B. Wolt Lifetime Trust, states that, “The share of women in construction has remained shockingly low – under 3 percent – for decades due in large part to the discrimination that blocks women from entering and staying in the field.”

This is interesting in that the study compares construction to other fields and finds that women’s roles in the other professions have grown to levels of 50% – far outstripping the approximately 3% of women in our industry.  Currently, the report states that, “There are about 7,615,000 male construction workers in the U.S. and only about 206,000 women.”

The study shares personal stories of women who are in the industry or were in the industry but left due to the conditions that they were subjected to on a daily basis.   Read more » about FBI – Friends, Brothers and In-Laws, but Few Women in Construction

Many contractors and sub contractors don’t pay much attention to the real estate cycle until it impacts their business and then it gets really personal for them, owners and employees.  When we are in the middle of a recovery and our workload consumes our every waking hour and a few of those sleep hours as well, we rarely step back to take a look at the bigger picture and can overlook major opportunities for business.

We thought that it might make a little sense to take a quick look at the overall market and offer an opportunity that you might want to consider.

The economic recovery has “thrown a wrench” into the markets, especially that part of the cycle that I call “Perk Up and Trickle Down.”  There are so many generational, tech, and social forces at play today that many building owners, tenants and even construction folks whose leases are expiring are confused.   Read more » about Perk up or Trickle Down? Opportunities for New Business

Workforce shortages have been predicted for decades.  I recall a sociology professor talking about the “snake eating a pig” theory of demographics and how that would be a problem in the workforce in the early 21st century.  That talk took place 50 years ago and today those predictions are a reality.

Despite the early warnings and the facts pointing to potential shortages, many firms in the construction industry are still ill-prepared to deal with issues surrounding the possibility that they would experience shortages in skilled workers until recently.  The response from some in the industry is to deny that the shortages exist on their projects.  Some recognize the problems but don’t know what to do about them; some recognize the problems and are looking for solutions; and some are even leading the industry in solving those issues.   Read more » about Workforce Shortages in Green Building

In a September 2014 study entitled Sinking Underground: The Growing Informal Economy in California Construction, misclassification of more than 39,800 construction workers is a key reason that the underground economy in construction is contributing to the low wages, difficulty in recruiting qualified craft workers and loss of wages and taxes in the State of California.

According to the study, released by the Economic Roundtable, a non profit research organization based in Los Angeles, in 2011 more than 143,900 construction jobs in the state were “informal” – code for off the books, misclassified as independent contractors or unreported by employers.

The study looked at wages and construction jobs from 1972 to 2012 and found that the number of construction workers that were unreported or misclassified increased by 400% during that period.   Read more » about New Misclassification Study Shows Impact in California

On September 11, OSHA released new reporting rules for workers injured on projects that fall (no pun intended) under federal OSHA jurisdiction.  The new record keeping rules will go into effect on January 1, 2015.  This rule will likely impact a number of contractors and subs that were operating under the old rules or skirting the rules entirely.

The new reporting rules require that employers notify OSHA when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.  The American Subcontractors Association newsletter said that “The rule tightens the reporting rules significantly.  The current rules required employers to report work related fatalities or in-patient hospitalizations for three or more employees.”  Reporting of single person hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye were not required under the existing rules, but that has changed.

Now any single severe injury, illness or death requires the employer to notify OSHA.   Read more » about New OSHA Reporting Rules for Injured Workers

Occasionally we take a look out to the horizon to satisfy our curiosity about what might be headed our way and what might be a major disruptor to the construction business as we do it today.  We have introduced you to BIM, robots on the job, driverless dump trucks, driverless cars, driverless concrete trucks, drones of all kinds and more recently 3D printing.

Today we show you some conceptual thinking about the use of some of those tools in the military of the next 30 years as seen through the eyes of the scientists, engineers and designers at BAE Systems, the large UK aviation company with operations in Virginia, Houston, Austin and other cities in the United States.   Read more » about Signpost for the Future of Construction [VIDEO]

The following article was originally published in the Houston Chronicle.  Reprinted with permission.

Trade is at the very heart of economic success in Texas.  Every year, Texas companies export hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services to foreign markets.  In fact, Texas has ranked as the nation's number one exporting state for 12 years in a row.  Trade funnels hundreds of billions of dollars back home to support Texas jobs, families, and our state's much-envied economic might.  But for all of our exporting success in Texas, federal trade policies are holding the whole country back from its economic potential.  It's critical that Congress act quickly to expand our foreign trade if we hope to get our national economy back on track again.

The positive economic impact of trade is undeniable, for Texas and for the United States.  Here in Texas, of our total annual $1.4 trillion Gross State Product, or GSP, more than $250 billion comes from exports.   Read more » about Expand Trade, Expand the Economy

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