Jim Kollaer's blog

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

According to the NBC Nightly News, a recent report by the global search firm ManpowerGroup shows that skilled labor jobs are the hardest to fill both in the US and around the globe.  Projections, as we have discussed, show that the supply will shrink for the foreseeable future as the demand increases in the current construction recovery.

While that is good news for the existing workers looking for jobs around the US and the globe, owners, contractors and subcontractors will be scrambling to keep their top folks and frantically searching for additional workers.  That will likely put pressure on labor rates and construction costs as well.

According to the NBC report:

“Four in 10 American employers are struggling to fill open positions, according to the annual Talent Shortage Survey by human resources firm Manpower.

For the fifth consecutive year, the jobs that are hardest to fill fall into the category of skilled trades, which covers manufacturing, construction and other positions that require professional training or apprenticeship.   Read more » about Forty Percent of Firms Report Trouble Filling Skilled Labor Jobs

This week of June 2-6 has been designated National Fall Prevention Safety Stand-Down week by OSHA to help prevent injuries and deaths due to falls on the job.

According to the Department of Labor blog site and OSHA statistics, there were 806 lives lost in construction in 2012 and 300 of them were due to falls on the job.

The current plan is for as many as 25,000 businesses to host “stand-downs” and educational events for over 1 million workers.  These events and the safety standards taught in the “stand-downs” will definitely save workers lives across the entire country.  During the “stand-down” on the construction sites, the companies will describe fall hazards and show ways to prevent those reportable falls on the job sites.

Please urge your companies and your team members to participate in this important OSHA event.  It could save your life.   Read more » about National Safety Stand-Down

The future of the next phase of construction for the proposed headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC has once again become a political football, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.  The project originally proposed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks was intended to consolidate the departments that are now housed in over 50 buildings around the capitol area into one location.  During the period following the attacks and subsequent disasters, teams were required to move from one facility to another to coordinate, and that was not workable, according to the Post article.   Read more » about Homeland Security Headquarters Completion Revised to 2026

The Associated General Contractors of America is working through its local chapters to find ways to address the catch-22 of older workers retiring while fewer graduating students are entering the industry.  AGC is starting chartered schools to teach interested kids about the construction industry.

They have partnered to establish charter schools such as the ACE Leadership High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico; OBC Academy for Architecture, Construction and Engineering in Portland, Oregon; Construction Careers Center in St. Louis, Missouri; and Academy of Career Education in Sparks, Nevada.

Recently, AGC economist Ken Simonson spoke to the Denver Chapter of AGC.  In pointing out the looming shortages, he pointed to the recently published AGC report Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: a Workforce Development Plan for the 21st Century.  The plan outlines what federal, state and local officials can do to create construction training programs and fill the pipeline for jobs.

An article in the Denver Business Journal by Cathy Proctor outlines some key points from the AGC report:   Read more » about Solving the Skilled Worker Shortage in Construction


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