Jim Kollaer's blog

The debate over whether we will have driverless cars rages on to little or no avail, but likely for naught. Driverless or autonomous cars will be the norm for the future and many semi-driverless cars are on the roads today. Tesla today has a system called “Summon” that allows for some of its cars to drop off its passengers at the front of the building and then go park itself, either in a nearby garage or maybe return home to your own garage and wait until you “summon” it again to pick you up at the office.

Why would we be writing about that subject today on a construction website? One, because it is fascinating that the technology is moving so fast and two, because of the impact that autonomous cars and trucks will have on the future of construction of new roadways and parking spaces necessary for office buildings of the future.   Read more » about Summon, It's Comin’!

In the construction industry, productivity and profit are always doing a dance. They are always partners no matter whether your firm is a global giant or a local sub. Whether productivity and profit perform well enough to make it onto the professional stage or just at the local club depends on both productivity and profit doing a well-choreographed performance. If the productivity on the jobsite is good, then your profit is likely better. If your work crews are not performing and productive, then your profits are likely not performing well either.

McKinsey & Company recently did a study authored by members of their team titled “Beating the low-productivity trap: How to transform construction operations” that focuses on 30 major UK infrastructure engineering and construction firms over the decade from 2005-2015 to measure their growth and to determine whether they either performed or underperformed in their markets.

Even though this study was about infrastructure engineering and construction firms centered in the UK, the points made and the tips offered can apply to every company doing the productivity-profit dance, no matter what your size, should “read and heed.”   Read more » about The Productivity and Profit Dance

The Department of Labor has issued their enforcement rules for joint employment status of contract employees as part of their enhanced Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) enforcement in industries where misclassification has become rampant as companies move to avoid paying overtime, benefits and unemployment insurance.

The rules define both “Horizontal and Vertical” joint employment conditions, and these definitions are being used as guidelines for legal cases that are in the courts today. The Administrator’s Interpretation No.2016-1 spells out the requirements for the aggregation of hours, definitions and applicability for enforcement.

Anyone in the construction industry in this low bid and worker shortage environment had better take a really close look at the rules in this interpretation, especially if you are using third parties for staffing on your projects.    Read more » about Joint Employer Enforcement

Happy 4th of July
to all of
our readers!
Read more » about Happy Fourth of July!

What many call “ghost towns” in China, one photographer calls “unborn” cities.

Chicago based photographer Kai Caemmerer traveled to China to photograph a series of new town projects that are part of a Chinese national plan to house 250 million residents. He captured their images in a series that he named “Unborn Cities.”

The name is the result of his photographing the projects before sunrise and after sunset to further echo both their vastness and their emptiness at the time in their development before the buildings were commissioned and people are moved in to them. The result is a series of extraordinary images.

Many world-wide observers wonder whether these cities are Ghost Cities or merely at that place of “being unborn.”    Read more » about Unborn Chinese Cities

Some sources believe that there were one million drones sold last year. According to those sources, up to 40% of those drones are being used in the construction and infrastructure industries.

According to a recent post on Construction Dive, the long awaited FAA drone rules for the commercial use of drones weighing up to 55 pounds aimed at bringing some order to the “pre Jetson” skies have been released.

The construction and infrastructure industries are the largest commercial users of these drones. The commercial use of drones for surveying, remote sensing, progress photos, pipeline inspection, site and emergency inspections in hazardous areas has already proven that drones can provide a much needed tool and that they will be around for years to come. Read more » about Drones Rule? Nope, Just Drone Rules

The climate and construction codes are changing in a drastic way. We are beginning to hear about building codes around the world that demand that all buildings built by a certain date, whether that is 2025 or 2030, be zero carbon or have zero carbon emissions. This is critical in China where the air quality is questionable on even the best days. Japan is also instituting those rules to provide for the future of their countrymen.

The United Arab Emirates, however, got what they thought was a jump on the world when, in 2006, the government commissioned Lord Norman Foster and his team to build the first pilot “Zero Carbon Emission” city to be known as Masdar or “Source.” It was designed and planned to create a leading edge city for 50,000 in the desert on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi near the airport. Lord Foster planned for it to become a template for other “Zero Carbon” cities around the world.    Read more » about Green Ghost Town

Those sounds you hear are the screams of agony emanating from the labor unions in the construction industry in New York City. For the first time in recent history, three major contractors, Turner, Tishman and Plaza Construction have joined with several lesser-known companies to open their private sector sites to non-union labor.

This is a move that, in the recent past, would not have been considered on commercial and residential projects in New York, long a hotbed of union labor in the construction unions. This is an especially critical change in a market like New York City where densities and construction rules for both public and private sector projects have long mandated that construction workers on the major sites must have apprentice training in order to be employed.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Construction Unions’ Grip on New York Begins to Show Cracks” states that the major construction firms have declined “to renew collective bargaining agreements with unions, opening the door for more non-union workers and sending the clearest signal yet that once mighty construction trade groups are losing their grip on private-sector construction work.”   Read more » about Wowee Batman!

It was noted just the other day in The Guardian that in London, home to many major multinationals and a key player in the European Union, there are 436 planned buildings that will be over 20 stories tall. Eighty-nine are currently under construction and the 233 approved proposed buildings in the pipeline have more than doubled in the last year.

In the overall London approval process that is similarly economically driven like Houston, but still at least 10 times tougher, only 3 buildings have been denied approval for construction. There are on-going debates about the clustering of the towers, sight lines to St. Paul’s Cathedral, shadow patterns on nearby buildings, and wind tunnels created by the buildings. However, once a building has been approved, its development is dependent on the financing of the scheme.    Read more » about 436 New High Rise Buildings in the Works for London

Recently, Builtworlds, one of our favorite sites, hosted a Con Tech Forum in Chicago bringing together “national industry thought leaders and change agents for a high-impact, collaborative event that will deepen attendees’ understanding of the unprecedented power and possibilities now available to those who design, build, operate, maintain, plan and trade in our vital, evolving $7-trillion industry.”

The “C suite” only conference held at the Chicago Athletic Association was 48 hours of jam-packed “forward looking information” for executives in construction. The conference speakers touched on a wide variety of lively subjects and hands on experiences that included:

    • Wearables (headsets, helmets, armbands, etc.);
    • Robotics;
    • Modular Construction;
    • Apps for Safety, Reporting, Documentation, Collaboration;
    • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones);
    •    Read more » about Construction Tech Forum


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