Jim Kollaer's blog

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

We have reported on the emergence of 3D printing in the construction industry several times.  Mostly the printers are being used to develop modeling for potential structures.  Sourceable, an Australian site, reported recently that a Chinese firm Yingchuang New Materials has begun to use industrial grade 3D printers to produce up to 10 single-room office buildings per day.

According to Marc Howe, a contributor to Sourceable:

“Yingchuang, which is headquartered in the Jiangsu-province city of Suhou, employed four giant 3D printers to create 10 one-room office buildings in just 24 hours, at a cost of only $5,000 per structure.

“The building materials were first printed and allowed to harden at the company’s own premises before being delivered to a Shanghai industrial park and assembled into offices on site.   Read more » about 3D Printers in the Construction Industry [VIDEO]

Our friends at Software Advice – a company that researches and reviews construction takeoff software – have completed a survey of 385 construction companies with gross revenues of $100 million or less to see how fast takeoff software is being integrated into the estimating and bidding process of those firms.

The market demand for new projects has increased as the economy continues to rebound from the recession.  With skilled labor demand high and supply not meeting that demand, many firms are turning to software to assist them in the estimating and bidding process, but that pace reflects the conservative nature of the industry.

Not too surprising, many of the companies surveyed are still using manual or spreadsheets for their takeoffs.  According to the survey, “63% of buyers are using manual methods alone, such as Excel spreadsheets.”   Read more » about Construction Industry Software Survey Yields Interesting Results

Mine is Taller than Yours. Why? Beats me!

That conversation is going on around the world as developers find the available financing to buy in the inner city and to satisfy the new and the ultra wealthy’s demand for high-rise living – not to mention the demand from the old and wealthy.

It is interesting, as we have noted previously, that engineering and technology have made it possible to build higher with faster elevators, sustainable systems, new wind technology, and new materials able to withstand the stresses.

It is interesting from a real estate viewpoint that the sites seem to be smaller and the buildings taller, especially in the inner-city environment. All the conveniences that we proposed in the last century have become a reality, and we have owners and tenants who are willing to build them.

Justin McGar writes in a recent issue of Sourceable.net about the 31 tall buildings under construction and the 43 proposed additional new skyscrapers recently approved in Melbourne, Australia. He writes about the ways that engineering is making it possible for developers to dream taller dreams for their new buildings.   Read more » about Mine is Taller than Yours

“A global jobs war is coming and there is no time to waste. Cities are crumbling for lack of good jobs. Nations are in revolt because their people can’t get good jobs. The cities and countries that act first—that focus everything they have on creating good jobs—are the ones that will win.”  - Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup and author of The Coming Jobs War.

Today’s shortage of skilled workers began in the last century when the focus on the need for high tech workers for the new industrial revolution became a vision of everyone getting a four-year college education. Technology was “the answer” and while it has proven a true driver for that sector of the economy, today we still see the shortages that were predicted in the late 90s in the engineering and high tech space. Now we are even seeing calls from many of the super successful entrepreneurs that claim that a college education is unnecessary. They just want to see “your code.” The world has changed. Today, we are in a major jobs shortage in all of the skilled trades, not just in the STEM arena. What happened?

Programs like “No Child Left Behind,” charter schools, STEM programs and magnet schools emerged to meet the need that was being unfulfilled by the public school systems that were essentially “dumbing down” our kids to the lowest common denominator of education, while simultaneously shouting that every child should go to college if they were to be successful in the “new economy.”    Read more » about Wake Up Call for Cities

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